Eigenspace and the Waterloo focus
Waterloo is a people and a place.
As startup ecosystems go, Waterloo is remarkable in the volume of founders and companies that spend time here. One the largest computer science and engineering undergraduate schools globally, the University of Waterloo is ranked number one in Canada for producing entrepreneurs according to Pitchbook with 494 founders of 406 companies that have raised $19.4B.
Given that ranking, something unexpected has been happening in Waterloo. The investment in early stage in Canada and Waterloo seems to be dropping or slowing or at the very least it isn’t growing. This not about the pandemic, early stage investment has likely been slowing for more than 5 years. The attention of support organizations shifted away from fast moving founders to later stage and/or R&D heavy verticals that take a long time to get ready for an investment path.
At Eigenspace we see that as an opportunity to do some good — the future founders are going to school there, the current founders that are alumni are building companies (like Substack or Applyboard) and then there are generations of successful founders all over the world.
We think students and alumni need a community. That community is not constrained by a city or geographic location. It is focused on the people, wherever they are now, helping those in the community find success.
The co-op advantage
Waterloo is placed above the University of Toronto who has more grad students than Waterloo has undergrads and McGill which is also a lot bigger. Just outside the top 20 overall as well.
Since its inception in the 1950’s, Waterloo has focused on technical education and real work experience that has a modern label of experiential learning but all the alumni know it simply as co-op. Which is simply a paid internship. What is special about Waterloo, in my mind, is that alumni are usually the ones doing the hiring of co-op students and in turn give students key roles at emerging companies.
They do that because they know that the cadence of Waterloo (3 terms, 4 months long) trains students to work hard and efficiently. You learn how do a lot in very little time and under the pressure of finding a job, moving, etc. Alumni know that students have a lot of capacity and maturity, investing their trust in them will result in a great return.
Students need co-op for startups
Building a company is at the extreme end of ‘applied education’ but the best way to learn is to do it. The advantage Waterloo students have is that there are well over 500 alumni in founder/co-founder/head of… roles at the most exciting companies that exist today. Students can learn by doing as intern with an alumni that opens the door.
Some students figure this out on their own and do it quickly, some take a little longer. The challenge students face in the co-op system is that it makes it very difficult to stand out and it find the roles that provide them the opportunity to build their network and learn. Remote roles have made this even harder.
We can both increase the number of students starting companies and the quality by connecting the right alumni to the students by hacking the system. Our intital focus is on the alumni that followed this path 10 years ago, with well over half having established themselves in California or New York, and mixing them with students that want to build something.
Investing in Waterloo… the people.
Eigenspace believes that investing in founders requires more than just capital in order to help them find their path to success. We know that a high quality community can make all the difference when you are getting started.
As alumni of Waterloo we have been seeking this community since we graduated… and we are going to build it ourselves.
We are starting with the Eigenspace co-op term starting in winter 2023 with 10 students. With only a couple spots left, you should apply now! We left some spots open to students that are graduating in the spring and don’t have a co-op term in the winter but want to be part of the programming. If that is you, apply!
Alumni and students are also welcome to come to our next event on November 10th!
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