Happy Canada Day weekend!
This long weekend I think we’ve all been reflecting on how lucky we are to live in this great country. I want to thank the men and women who risk their lives everyday so that we can enjoy our lives securely. I’m grateful to live in Canada, and grateful to live in KW too.
My wife & I love Kitchener Waterloo, Ontario. We moved here in 2005 and quickly fell in love with the region – you hear that a lot from people who’ve moved to KW. I came from downtown Toronto, and I much prefer KW to TO.
I wonder why? Here are just a couple of reasons it’s awesome to live here:
Kitchener Waterloo is Pretty Cool
Yesterday we had lunch with old friends. She lives in New York and Florida, and he owns a cutting edge marketing firm & ad agency in Toronto. They were in town for a wedding.
She’s been a speaker at TED [that means she’s super smart], and he creates campaigns for National corporations. They’re ‘big city’ people and weren’t sure what to expect from our ‘small town.’
We met at the Bauer Kitchen in Waterloo’s new Bauer Lofts condo development, and enjoyed the wonderful patio they had. Our friends were impressed with the quality of food, but also how cool the space was (it is in an old converted factory and has a ‘lofty’ feel).
We speculated about how much more a terrific meal at a posh restaurant would cost in NY and Toronto [answer: lots].
They had taken a quick drive through downtown Kitchener and Uptown Waterloo, and both commented on how vibrant the cities felt. There was a lot more business here than they thought.
The most impressive was yet to come though.
Dining about ten feet away from our table was Stephen Hawking and a young family. Stephen Hawking is perhaps the smartest person alive today – a theoretical physicist who strives to help us understand how the universe works – and holds a Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo (in addition to being a Fellow at a college in Cambridge, England, and having recently retired from the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, England).
Stephen has been in town for a few weeks now, and apparently he’s a big fan of the Bauer Kitchen; he’s been there twice in the last week for lunch.
When our friend realized that Stephen Hawking was near us, she was immediately starstruck. She is also a renowned scientific researcher (remember, she presented at TED, which has welcomed the likes of Bill Gates, Tony Robbins and other top minds], and he’s sort of a movie star for her. In fact, she once met Cameron Diaz, and was thoroughly unimpressed (and didn’t recognize her). She recognized Hawking!
She had to leave New York City for and visit Waterloo, Ontario to dine near a real celebrity – an irony that wasn’t lost on the big city dweller.
World Class Eats
Kitchener Waterloo has some great restaurants.
Whether you want a classy delicious [and mostly local when available] dinner out at The Forty One (tell Peter or Darryl that I sent you!) or a more casual but still delicious lunch at Bauer Kitchen’s patio, there are great eats in KW. And not just normal stuff. We have places that make my favorite – green juice.
After lunch, we took our friends across the way to Thrive Juice Bar (@thrivejuice on twitter) for some healthy liquid dessert – a healthier version of coffee, if you will.
Thrive Juice opened a couple months ago, also in the Bauer Marketplace at the lofts (191 King Street South in Waterloo) and makes the most delicious drinks you can imagine. All very healthy too.
I ordered off the menu (naturally, as my wife would say) for all of us – a round of Kale Mojito’s (virgin – they don’t serve alcohol), and they were a delicious green drink of yum.
It’s made fresh from coconut water (a super healthy sweet water straight from the inside of a coconut), mint, raw sugar, raw agave, juice from a lime, freshly juiced Kale, and ice; absolutely amazing. Our friends were incredibly surprised. They weren’t really sure what I ordered for them (the drink is vibrant green from the Kale – not normally associated with yummy).
Ask them for a kale mojito, you’ll be impressed!
Another reason our region is so vibrant are the incredible minds that come out of, or work at our Universities and Research Institutes (like Mr Hawking).
The Financial Post has a spotlight on three University of Waterloo grads that are making a big impact on the world stage (and none of them are the RIM guys, who clearly have made a huge impact in the world, recently shiping the 100 millionth Blackberry):
One is a venture capitalist who just pocketed $30-million from Google for one of his startups. Another is a Microsoft senior technology advisor, picking out tomorrow’s big products. A third is a Facebook guru on the cutting edge of social networking.
Meet the Class of ’99 from the University of Waterloo’s engineering program. Restless and overachievers, they rode the crest of the dot-com wave. Then they crashed with the tech bust.
But today, they are making an indelible mark on the information-technology world in Canada, Silicon Valley and beyond.
Indeed, two of the grads, George Roter and Parker Mitchell, founded the non-governmental agency Engineers Without Borders. Some have penetrated the top ranks of global tech firms. Chamath Palihapitya is vice-president of growth at Facebook Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif. Mark Gilbert is senior technology head at Microsoft Corp., and is based in
Shanghai. Arjun Moorthy is vice-president of infrastructure at software powerhouse SunGard in Wayne, Pa. Others, like Sanjay Beri, now in Sunnyvale, Calif., have ferried startups, including Ingrian Networks, to fruition.
“When I look at all those I went to school with, it’s amazing where they are now,” says Amar Varma, also from that special class and now a successful venture capitalist in Toronto. It was one of his startups, BumpTop, that Google recently swallowed.
“There are so many outliers from our class,” he says.
What made the Class of ’99 so special? Was it the institution? The times? Or was it a perfect storm of brains and ambition, incubated in era of major technology upheaval?
Sujeet Chaudhuri, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering faculty at the University of Waterloo, remembers the “aggressive” and “ambitious” crop of co-op students from the graduating Class of ’99. “They set a trend,” he says.
Prof. Chaudhuri has watched many graduating classes enter the workforce. But none was like this one, he recalls.
He attributes the success of this particular group to something other than the fact they were all bright kids with diverse interests beyond engineering. “They were also in the right place at the right time,” he says.
In 1994, when what would become a tight-knit group of students arrived on campus in Kitchener-Waterloo in southern Ontario, the city was underwhelming and today’s anchor corporation, Research In Motion, was just taking off. But even then, the University of Waterloo’s electrical and computer engineering program was ranked No. 1 in the country. It was tough to get in, with only the best and brightest accepted.
Still, the university was just coming of age, Mr. Roter says. “I often wonder if it was this very interesting set of circumstances that [instilled] the entrepreneurial spirit in us.”
Kitchener Waterloo is an amazing place to live, work, go to school, and invest. We’re really grateful to live here, and to be surrounded by beautiful countrysides (and great trails for running, hiking and biking).
What are some of your favorite restaurants here?
What are a few of the reasons you love living in Waterloo region?
Let us know in the comments!