University of Waterloo and Velocity, the entrepreneur ecosystem, are partnering with Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, high profile technology leaders, to create the first problem lab in Canada. Under the auspices of Larry Smith, University of Waterloo professor of economics, the lab’s goal is to identify and understand important problems, rather than addressing them randomly as they occur. With $300,000 of seed money already invested, the program boasts six staff members. Smith, its director, co-authored the “Entrepreneurial Infrastructure Project” report in 2013, which led to the Problem Lab.
While the lab is available for all students, it is part of Velocity Start and is featured on the second floor of South Campus Hall, on the main campus. Featured within are the Problem Lab Archives, with problem briefs, analyses, and “backgrounders“ — general information about important and central issues.
The Problem Lab, in conjunction with Velocity, will be offering two pitch competitions each term: an open problem pitch competition, and a problem-specific pitch contest for first-years. Sign ups for both have already closed for this term, but those interested are invited to come and watch. The open problem pitch competition will take place on Feb. 15, from 7-10 p.m. at Environment 2, room 2002.
The contest offers up to $1o,000 in grant-funding to the first-place winner, and up to $5000 for second-place. There is an additional people’s choice award which will be chosen by the audience.
At the time of publishing, the first-year problem-specific pitch competition will already have occurred.
Other grants and subsidies will be available to members of the Problem Lab in the future.