How many times have you heard or read the phrase "student startup" in the past year?
Since Facebook established a reputation for being started in a dorm, this phrase has consistently become more and more common.
University and entrepreneurship are starting to go hand in hand, and this is especially true at the University of Waterloo. The University of Waterloo promotes entrepreneurship as one of its six foundation pillars and stresses experiential learning as one of the key components of education.
The most driven students are picking up on this and taking advantage of the various opportunities provided by the university - they're beginning to see the value of education through more than just textbooks and lectures.
To encourage and support this hunger for entrepreneurship, the University of Waterloo built the VeloCity program. Starting with the VeloCity residence, launched in fall 2008 by University of Waterloo alum, Sean Van Koughnett, VeloCity strived to make resources available to entrepreneurially inclined students on campus.
Over the past few years, the VeloCity residence has evolved into what it is today: one of the most promising residence incubators in Canada. Every school term, 72 students live and collaborate in the residence, located right on the university's campus. These students come from all faculties and have a multitude of expertise, from marketing to programming to design to finance.
During the term, students are encouraged to get into teams and build businesses. They have weekly dinners where they're given the opportunity to learn from experts, access to collaborative spaces, meeting rooms, devices for app testing and more. This model of living and working together while at school has proven to be successful; the VeloCity residence has an impressive list of alumni: the founders of Kik, Pair, Pebble and MappedIn all lived there.
The success of the VeloCity residence spurred the creation of the VeloCity Garage in February 2012. The VeloCity Garage is a 6,500 square foot space, free for University of Waterloo students and alumni with startups to work in. They get everything you would expect from a professional office setting including desks, access to meeting rooms, technical resources, and an office mailing address. Even better, the space is open, creative, and extremely collaborative.
All of the entrepreneurs there are encouraged to ask each other for advice and share what they've learned, which is something that makes the garage invaluable. You can imagine how easy it is to find someone who has had the same roadblock as you in a space with more than 20 tech startups, all at different stages in their businesses.
The VeloCity Residence and Garage supplement the standard university education with a layer of experiential learning through entrepreneurship. They act as a springboard for successful companies that are being started by highly ambitious students. These students benefit greatly from the access to mentors and resources that VeloCity provides, which would be difficult for them to discover on their own.
Starting a startup is hard, especially while in school, but the VeloCity program makes it a little easier.