Waterloo continues to flourish in tech

 

University and community resources available for students interested in million dollar industry

University and community resources available for students interested in million dollar industry | Graphic by Samantha Chow

The end of 2015 marked a year of growth for Waterloo’s start-up community, which was ranked by Inc. magazine as the top emerging start-up ecosystem to watch in 2016.

As the home of the smartphone and the touchscreen display, Waterloo now houses thousands of start-up companies and is raising around $650 million in investments.

In addition, Inc. mentioned 864 of the employers that Silicon Valley employs are recruited out of the engineering programs at University of Waterloo.

There are a number of opportunities available to students who are interested in growing their own business in tech. The engineering programs at UW offer co-operative education, which allow students to experience first-hand the necessary hard work to get an idea off the ground. Other than co-op, University of Waterloo also offers an entrepreneurship program, Velocity, to guide students by offering funding and space to finish their work.

Waterloo Region’s own start-up incubator, Communitech, continues to house start-ups from students and recent graduates yearly as well as tech companies of all sizes whether it’s is a start-up, medium business or an enterprise.*

Wilfrid Laurier University offers the same program, Laurier LaunchPad, which offers support, mentorship and resources to promising start-up ideas.

Cole Jones, WLU alumnus, started Local Line in his third year and used Laurier LaunchPad for guidance. Local Line is a company that enables the sourcing of ingredients to local farms, distributors and wholesalers.

Jones said the LaunchPad allowed him and his co-founder to test the idea as the program gives a methodology of what it’s really like to build a business. The general theme of the program is customer discovery or customer validation.

“It operates under a general premise that you have an idea, and you think it’s good, but it’s probably shit. So you should go and validate it with as many potential customers and base suppliers as you possibly can,” Jones explained.

For students interested in working in the tech or start-up field, Jones explained building a business is easy, but building a company is hard. The best way to start is to start small.

“Figuring out what you can do to add some type of value to the world in exchange for money — that’s not super difficult but that is the best way to get started.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article was unclear about Communitech’s relationship to Waterloo Region, WLU and UW.  

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