Startup community putting Waterloo on the map

Lindsay Coulter and Taylor Jackson partnered up with the University of Waterloo, the City of Waterloo, City of Kitchener, David Johnson Research + Technology Park, and Velocity, among others, to create “Startup Community,” showcasing Waterloo’s vibrant startup tech cluster.

The documentary showcases some of the most successful and upcoming startup tech companies in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, such as Vidyard and Bufferbox.

The cost of production was around $6,000. According to their website, however, they fundraised $15,000 “to properly share the story of the Waterloo region.”

The documentary, submitted to the Toronto International Film Festival, was shown last Thursday night at the QNC, where the audience had a chance to ask Coulter and Jackson questions after the screening.

One of the hot topics during the Q&A session was improving connectivity to the GTA.

“I think you hit the nail on the head. As much as we don’t want to be the little brother or sister to the valley, when you look at Silicon Valley, they have a mega-city and then they have a smaller community,” said Coulter. “When you look at it in a comparison, we do have a mega-city [Toronto], and then we [Kitchener-Waterloo region] are the smaller community. We’re really efficient, we’re effective at what we do, and we also have the universities to back all the organizations coming out of here.”

She added, “One big thing would be to create a stronger tie to Toronto, geographically speaking, so maybe a train… Feel free to publish it; maybe somebody will hear me saying it.”

Coulter and Jackson also emphasized the need for more “irrational money.”

“We need more irrational money…The money that might turn out to be a bad investment could be what tips us into being a more impactful city.”

Coulter and Jackson both expressed the importance of creating incentives to sustain the growth of startups in the region, and prevent them from selling out to larger companies.

“As Michael Litt, co-founder of Vidyard, said, we need to grow more big companies… He [Litt] doesn’t want startups to see a Porsche or a million dollars as an exit, he wants to see those billion dollar companies and people sticking around to grow them even bigger,” Jackson explained.

“It’s in the DNA of guys who started RIM,” Coulter said. “Their goal, I’m sure they were approached to be acquired, but the goal is to have the DNA built into students at UW or at Laurier to want to make a huge company, instead of a smaller one.”

Howard Armitage, the special advisor to UW President on entrepreneurship, echoed the importance of improving transportation between Toronto and the KW area.

“We can’t start breathing our own fumes too much,” he said. “God, do we ever need a train. We’ve already started this kind of Toronto-Waterloo economic corridor. Before too long, I think you’ll see, like, a Mars hookup to Waterloo hookup … the ecosystem will gradually get bigger.”

Besides addressing transportation, and providing incentives and resources for startup companies to succeed and grow in the KW area, Coulter and Jackson mentioned the importance of trying to “close the gap” and the “disconnect” between arts students and students in the STEM fields in UW.

Entrepreneurship is not limited to the STEM fields and is most successful when both worlds come together, they emphasized.


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