Velocity opened the new Velocity Science Lab, located in ESC 319, Tuesday July 12. Velocity Science is a subsection of the Velocity organization, based on nurturing science-oriented startups. The program is in partnership with the University of Waterloo science faculty and “is intended to help any student at [UW] to build science based startups,” Marc Gibson, the science lead at Velocity, said.
The Velocity Lab is a place for students with ideas to experiment, as both space and supplies are provided. “We found that a lot of the times, the difference between starting or not is just having a place to call home and that’s why we created this program,” Gibson said.
Generally, teams will have a designated space in the lab, but the resources and equipment are communal. Once teams have advanced in their product research, they may begin pitching their company in the Velocity Fund competitions to achieve financial independence from Velocity Science. At this point, teams will supply their own resources. “That’s where they really start to pick up momentum,” Gibson stated.
Some of the teams present at the grand opening of Velocity Science included SunCayr, Sweat Free, and Avro Life Science.
The largest startup present was Vitameter, a company aiming to develop a household device that would read vitamin levels, similar to a diabetic blood sample. Once teams get too big, they will often move to Velocity Garage.
“The whole idea is that you would start here and once your team reaches a point when they’re graduating, they’re alumni, they then move out,” Gibson said.
Acorn Cryotech, present at the opening, is a startup that specializes in cell preservation for future use, such as gene therapy or organ regeneration. Elizabeth Tam, representative for Acorn, said in her pitch, “Wouldn’t it be ideal if you could use your young cells in order to help yourself in the future?”
Acorn started in late October, early November 2015 and currently has a team of five. When asked how Velocity Science has aided them, Tam said, “Obviously they provide us space and materials to do the work we need and it’s really great because a lot of the things we need cost a lot of money. Velocity is there to fund us and just provide the support we need to do the experiments and test viability and streamline processes.”
The newest startup, Astareh, was also present at the opening, but did not have a display. Setareh Astaraki, co-founder, said, “I’m hoping to develop a spray that can act as a barrier on sensitive skin, cuts … [protecting them from] unwanted chemical products, dirt, and water when it shouldn’t be in contact with the skin.”
Astaraki approached Velocity Science after hearing positive word of mouth in her program. Astaraki said, “I saw this place a year before, but I didn’t have my own ideas so I started thinking about that. [I] thought about what’s important to me and talked to people in Velocity and they were super supportive and it was just how it went from there.”
Astareh is still in the research phase, but hopes to start development by the end of spring 2016 or fall 2016.
The application process for join Velocity Science can be as short as a half hour interview. Gibson said, “As long as it takes to meet with me, Jessica [O’Connor] (Velocity Science co-ordinator), and the rest of the team.”