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Thursday, June 6, 2013



  • 18 Waterloo projects receive CFI funding
  • Startups ask: should I stay or should I go?
  • Seeing is believing for United Way volunteers
  • Quest downtime cancelled and other notes


  • Editor:
  • Brandon Sweet
  • Communications and Public Affairs


18 Waterloo projects receive CFI funding

Research projects that will investigate new techniques of analyzing Big Data are among the 18 projects from the University of Waterloo that received more than $1.6 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Leaders Opportunity Fund.

"Cluster Computing Infrastructure for Scalable Big Data Management and Analysis," is the project of Professors Tamer Özsu, Ian Munro and Khuzaima Daudjee of the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. They received $215,414 to purchase the computing infrastructure to develop the software for analyzing graphs that represent many real-life applications such as social networks and web data. This technology could be valuable to social scientists, marketers or others interested in understanding the interconnections between different pieces of data.

Professor Ashraf Aboulnaga and Professor Hans De Sterck, both also from the Faculty of Mathematics, received $159,158 for their project entitled, "Research Infrastructure for Computational Analytics on Big Data in the Cloud." The funding enables them to acquire essential infrastructure to analyze and improve Hadoop, an open source software system that is used widely in business, academia and science to analyze large data sets. The results could lead to insights into how our online social networks evolve, or if used in a business setting, recommend people for specific jobs or marketing opportunities.


Funding from the CFI, an initiative of the federal government, helps pay for equipment, building additions and other infrastructure associated with research. Grants to Waterloo in this round of CFI funding range from $34,740 to $215,414.


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Startups ask: should I stay or should I go?

by Angela Pause. This is an excerpt from a larger piece posted on the Waterloo Stratford campus website.

Imagine you’re a young, hungry Waterloo Region startup and you’ve managed, against all odds, to be accepted in the legendary Y Combinator (YC) startup funding program in Silicon Valley. Here, based on the strength of your idea and your ability to execute, you are given between $14,000-$20,000 in seed funding and asked to move to the Bay Area for three months, where they give you a place to live and intensive access to some of the top startup business minds. The goal “is to get into the best shape possible” for Demo Day, which is where your team will present an impressive prototype to an audience that happens to include most of the world’s top startup investors.

Now imagine the illustrious partners at YC advising you and your cofounders to stay in Silicon Valley to establish your promising startup and gain ready access to further funding and talent. But you choose to return home to Waterloo Region instead. That takes “something” to ignore advice from the world’s leading startup mentors and few people have the guts (or insert other bodily part) to do it. Yet it happens.  

It turns out that this  “something” is a highly supportive local startup ecosystem, according to three buzz-worthy and successful Kitchener-Waterloo startups who formed the panel at Canada 3.0’s session, “I went to Y Combinator and came back to Canada to grow my business, and here’s why.” As graduates of YC (all three attended different cycles) from the last three years, each one of co-founders of BufferBox, Vidyard and Thalmic Labs, chose to come back to Kitchener-Waterloo instead of staying in Silicon Valley. Even though they were warned if they returned home “they would die up here”, each “ran the numbers” and assessed the technology community of Waterloo Region. For them, it made good business sense to stick close to home where they had established family, friends and startup roots – as well as easy access to dependable, tier one talent at affordable salaries.

Stephen Lake, co-founder of Thalmic Labs, which now has 30,000 pre orders for its “MYO,” a muscle-stimulated gesture control armband, graduated from YC in March 2013 and despite urging from the YC advisors to stay in the Bay Area, Lake chose to make Kitchener home base. Since he had already established the startup here and had people working for them, Lake would travel back and forth to Silicon Valley 18 times over those three months so he could gain the YC connections and wisdom while simultaneously running the company with his co founders. But the reason they kept Thalmic Labs in Kitchener was because they knew they had ready access to world class local engineering talent with a much lower engineering employee turnover rate compared to Silicon Valley (5% vs. 25%) and the salaries for these key employees are 40% less than in the Bay Area.  Adding it all up meant that Thalmic Labs had a good business case for staying in Kitchener.

Vidyard’s co-founder, Michael Litt, took his startup, which provides enterprise video distribution and analytics for customers, to Y Combinator and back home again in the summer of 2011 for many of the same reasons that Lake would do a couple of years later.  In 2011, with some revenue success and a solid team to show YC, Litt was also balancing family commitments: his father was undergoing cancer surgeries in Ontario during Litt’s three-month cycle in Silicon Valley. Staying in the Bay Area was not part of Litt’s plan.  Paul Graham, one of Y Combinator's founders and much admired mentor, warned that Litt was “making the biggest mistake of his life” by not staying in Silicon Valley to grow Vidyard. Yet Litt stuck to his vision of making Vidyard successful in Canada.  Just recently, Litt told the audience, Graham emailed him to soften that warning – perhaps in light of Vidyard’s first round of institutional funding to the tune of $6 million back in March 2013.

Mike McCauley, BufferBox’s co-founder, also left his successful stint at Y Combinator to come back home to Waterloo Region where his company was already in the early stages of manufacturing the physical kiosks that customers use as “delivery stations” for online purchases. Google, recognizing a good thing, acquired BufferBox in November 2012. McCauley cites the same reasons as both Lake and Litt for returning; it’s the access to affordable talent and positive community that embraces tech startups, plus the top notch manufacturing capacity that is available in the region. McCauley says that YC’s Graham wants to know “what’s in the water in Waterloo” that allows for such an explosion of startup talent.

Read the rest of the article on the Waterloo Stratford Campus site.

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Seeing is believing for United Way volunteers

by the United Way Communications Team.

The United Way in Kitchener Waterloo works with multiple organizations in the area to help community members and act as a catalyst for social change. It’s difficult to put this kind of work into words though; seeing really is believing.

The uWaterloo United Way team would like to invite you to the Seeing is Believing tour on Friday, June 21. During the tour you will have the opportunity to learn about the work the United Way KW is doing in their three focus areas by visiting program sites and directly seeing the impact that your donations are making.

“We went on the Seeing is Believing tour last year and it was inspiring  to see our donations at work in our community,” said Alex Lippert, United Way co-chair.  “You feel good about the role you've played when you see firsthand the people who benefit from the United Way funded programs. If you can spare the time, I encourage you to go on the tour.”

The Seeing is Believing tour is from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and includes lunch. Please contact Melissa McNown-Smith by June 12 if you would like to attend.


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Quest downtime cancelled and other notes

Due to "ongoing technical problems" the scheduled upgrade of Quest this weekend is being postponed, according to a message sent out over the quest-announce email list. Once the issues have been resolved, the upgrade will be rescheduled and notice will be given.

The CHIP, located in MC 1052, will be closing at 3:30 p.m. today for a staff retirement party. Normal hours will resume on Friday.

Canadian astronomer David H. Levy - one of the most successful comet discoverers in history – will give a public lecture on his experiences and observations in astronomy today. Levy is famous for his 1993 co-discovery of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 which collided with Jupiter in 1994. The event will take place at 7:00 p.m. in Mathematics 3, room 1006. Register online. Levy will join a star-gazing party following the lecture, weather permitting. The lecture tour is sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Looks like the construction crew at the Science Teaching Complex will have to dig deep: "We are required to excavate an additional 3 meters down for the footings and foundation (once dewatering is completed)," writes Don Haffner. "This will start again on June 17 with an approximate timeline of 3 weeks, (weather dependent)."

Workers will be on the scene to direct vehicles and pedestrians due to the presence of digging equipment and dump trucks during the extra excavation.

Student governor Sean Hunt will be hosting what's called an "Ask Me Anything" or AMA on Reddit today at 4:00 p.m. AMAs are a sort of online Q&A session, and Hunt will be answering questions about the tuition fee increases approved by the Board of Governors on Tuesday, including their rationale and impact.

The Registrar’s Office and Student Awards & Financial Aid will be closed on Friday, June 7th from 11:30 am until 1:30 p.m. for a campus event. Our apologies for the inconvenience. That campus event, of course, is the Keystone picnic. Don't miss it!


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Help your colleagues make a splash!

Check out who’s braving the dunk tank at the Keystone Picnic.


Link of the day

Sex and the City premiered 15 years ago? Really?

When and where

Campus Walk 2013, Tuesday, May 21 to Friday, June 14. Details.

Retirement celebration for Anna Gerard, Thursday, June 6, 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Health Services conference room. RSVP to Chris Strome.

The Library presents Find Books and More, Thursday, June 6, 2:00 p.m., FLEX Lab. Details.

Public Lecture featuring David Levy, "A Night Watchman's Journey," Thursday, June 6, 7:00 p.m., OPT 347. Details.

Keystone Picnic, Friday, June 7. Details.

Society of Technical Communication presents "Progress to Success," Saturday, June 8, 1:00 p.m., DC 1301. STC members $10, Non-STC members $20. Register online.

Public Lecture, "Black Holes: Into the Heart of Darkness," Monday, June 10, 7:00 p.m., OPT 347. Details.

Institutional Analysis & Planning (IAP) presents Alex Usher, president, Higher Education Strategy Associates, Tuesday, June 11, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., PAS 1241.

Career Exploration Workshop, "Leverage your strengths for career success," Tuesday, June 11, 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., TC 1112.Register online.

Spring 2013 convocation, Tuesday, June 11 to Saturday, June 15. Details.

Cheriton School of Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series featuring Frans Kaashoek, "The multicore evolution and operating systems," Tuesday, June 11, 3:30 p.m., DC 1302.

Child Vision Research Society Conference 2013, Monday, June 17 and Tuesday, June 18, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., School of Optometry and Vision Science. Details.

Senate meeting, Monday, June 17, 3:30 p.m., NH 3001.

Retirement celebration for Steve McColl, Tuesday, June 18, 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., LHS 1656 (fireplace lounge).

25-Year and 35-Year Club Recognition Reception, Tuesday, June 18, 6:00 p.m. Physical Activities Complex.

UWRC Book Club, "Waiting for Sunrise" by William Boyd, Wednesday, June 19, 12:00 p.m., LIB 407.

Cheriton School of Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series featuring David Sankoff, University of Ottawa, "Computational Genomics of Flowering Plant Evolution," Monday, June 24, 3:30 p.m., DC 1302.

Town Hall meeting, Tuesday, June 25, 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Humanities Theatre.


PhD Oral Defences

Civil & Environmental Engineering. Martin Noel, "Flexural Behaviour of Post-Tensioned SCC Slab Bridges with FRP reinforcement under Monotonic and Fatigue Loading." Supervisor, Khaled Soudki. On deposit in the Engineering Graduate Office, PHY 3004. Oral defence Friday, June 14, 10:00 a.m., E2 3324.

Mechanical & Mechatronics Engineering. "Nanostructured Light Metal Hydrides Based on Li, AI, Na, B and N for Solid State Hydrogen Storage." Supervisor, Robert Varin. On deposit in the Engineering Graduate Office, PHY 3004. Oral defence Friday, June 14, 1:30 p.m., ERC 3012.

Systems Design Engineering. Joydeep Banerjee, "Graph-theoretic Sensitivity Analysis of Dynamic Systems." Supervisor, John McPhee. On deposit in the Engineering Graduate Office, PHY 3004. Oral defence Friday, June 14, 12:30 p.m., MC 2009.

Accounting. Travis Chow, "Tax Aggressiveness and Shareholder Wealth: Evidence from Mergers and Acquisitions." Supervisor, Kenneth Klassen. On deposit in the Arts Graduate Office, PAS 2434. Oral defence Tuesday, June 18, 1:30 p.m., HH 373.

Sociology and Legal Studies. Laura Van Dongen, "Missing Persons and Social Exclusion." Supervisor, Peter Carrington. On deposit in the Arts Graduate Office, PAS 2434. Oral defence Wednesday, June 19, 10:00 a.m., PAS 2030.


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