Q & A: Meet John Cappuccitti, new director of UW Velocity Incubator
John Cappuccitti is a former entrepreneur and business advisor with the incubator
Former entrepreneur and management consultant John Cappuccitti is taking the reigns at the University of Waterloo's Velocity Incubator, following the departure of Jay Shah.
Cappuccitti is a familiar face at Velocity, having worked as a business advisor with the incubator before taking on his new role as director.
He told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo about his plans for Velocity amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CBC Kitchener-Waterloo: What is your vision for Velocity in these unusual times?
John Cappuccitti: I'm quite fortunate, because one of Velocity's strengths is that we've created quite a nimble organization. We actually brought a lot of our early-stage advisory services online as of this January. As we were required to close down the incubator out of responsibility to the community, we didn't miss any timing or advisory services with any of the companies we have.
One of the unique features we have is lab space within our incubator. Our team worked diligently to have our infrastructure deemed critical by the province and we now have a number of teams working on COVID-related solutions, working out of the incubator. Obviously, [they are] following strict social distancing guidelines.
In terms of outlook, I actually think we'll be stronger than ever coming out of this situation.
CBC K-W: How many of your companies are working on COVID-related projects?
John Cappuccitti: As of right now we have 11 teams.
We're very fortunate to have companies working, not just on the diagnostic and therapeutic sides of this pandemic, but we also have companies springing up in the logistics sector. Helping to move goods directly from manufacturers to hospitals and other points of need.
In terms of the actual output and focus of Velocity companies, we're not just focused on driving output that can have an impact today, it really is for every stage that our economy and our region is going to go through in the next 12 to 18 months.
CBC K-W: You've said that you want to Velocity to "become recognized as North America's most successful pre-seed incubator with respect to company outcomes." What does that mean?
As of now our companies have already raised more than $1.3 billion in private investment and they've created 2,600 jobs both regionally and internationally. So the goal for Velocity moving forward is to really step up onto that more global stage and have people recognize the tremendous work we're able to do, not just because of our association with the University of Waterloo, but also because of the founders and entrepreneurs we've been getting hrough the programming at the University of Waterloo.
Given our early successes now, we're able to tap into even bigger opportunities and better markets both nationally and globally. So my focus now is to really make sure we build the infrastructure around program to help companies become as successful as they possibly can.
CBC K-W: Do you think our region could become a permanent centre for health technology?
John Cappuccitti: There's definitely appetite for it. The one proxy I can give to back that up, is with Velocity's new health tech fund that was launched at the end of February, beginning of March, the reason we approached the idea of doing it in general is that a number of local healthcare practitioners were excited about getting involved with early stage companies out of Velocity given the impact they are making in the healthcare space.
The investors in that fund are all local healthcare practitioners. So if we have the stakeholders around that program that are really bullish on that kind of technology in the region, and then we have the University of Waterloo producing incredible engineering students that are all able to tackle these multidisciplinary problems from many different angles, it's entirely possible that the Waterloo region can really hit above its weight class in terms of health tech and health tech impact.
As good community members, our goal is to help flatten the curve as much as possible and we're fortunate to have access to a wealth of expertise through our connection to the University of Waterloo to help us accomplish just that.