University of Waterloo stokes the fire for start-ups

Recipient: University of Waterloo
Region: Waterloo
Program: Scientists and Engineers in Business
Total funding received: $630,000

Honeybees now have a greater chance at survival thanks to NOD Apiary Product’s innovative product.
Thalmic Labs co-founders (from left to right) CEO, Stephen Lake, Aaron Grant and Matthew Bailey are University of Waterloo grads and successful entrepreneurs.

The University of Waterloo is well known for its leadership in entrepreneurship and innovation and recognizes the importance of supporting start-ups, many of which  have become essential to job creation and economic growth in southern Ontario. Because of this, the University of Waterloo partnered with FedDev Ontario to have a direct impact on the entrepreneurial success of the region’s most promising science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates.

The University received funding from FedDev Ontario’s Science and Engineers in Business (SEB) program to provide fellowship grants through the school’s commercialization office (WatCo). According to Gary Brock, Director of Strategic Initiatives in the University’s Office of Research, indentification of new commercial opportunities and the necessary support to help develop these highly promising new technologies would not have been possible otherwise.

“Under the direction and leadership of the University’s Office of Research, the SEB Commercialization Fellowship program filled an important gap by providing the funding, business guidance and encouragement for our start-ups to build their companies and engage with our local ecosystem and beyond into global market opportunities,” says Brock.

The SEB Commercialization Fellowship program resulted in  the launch of 17 new companies, including highly successful, Thalmic Labs, Nicoya Lifesciences Inc. and Intellijoint Surgical Inc.

This is great news not only for the southern Ontario economy, but also for the grads themselves—and the opportunity has been life-changing. For Thalmic Labs, the fellowship accelerated the development of the company’s Myo™ gesture-control armband, leading to multiple rounds of venture capital investment.

“Without this assistance, it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get Myo™ (our first product) and the company to where it needed to be to attract seed funding to keep the company afloat,” says Thalmic Labs CEO, Stephen Lake, whose first significant private investment amounted to $14.5 million, which is one of the largest in Canadian history given the age and stage of the company.

The University of Waterloo has made and continues to make start-up company creation and entrepreneurship an exciting, real option for STEM grads, which Brock says was the ultimate buisness goal.

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FedDev Ontario’s funding support enabled the University of Waterloo to play a strategic role in the commercialization of early stage technologies created by its new grads.
Gary Brock, Director of Strategic Initiatives, University of Waterloo