The University of Waterloo has the distinction of being the only Canadian university to have graduates who have created unicorns — start-up companies valued at more than $1 billion.
Six graduates have founded four start-up firms that have achieved unicorn status, so named because they are as uncommon as the spiral-horned creatures of fantasy and mythology.
Among the unicorns is Wish.com, a San Francisco-based company co-founded in 2011 by Peter Szulczewski (BMath ’05) and Danny Zhang (MMath ’05, BMath ’03).
Wish is a popular mobile shopping app that makes it easy to buy a range of inexpensive consumer goods, from clothing to watches to cameras to selfie-sticks. In 2016, Forbes named Szulczewski as the 21st richest entrepreneur in American under 40 years of age and valued Wish at more than $4.5 billion.
"We’re very proud of the graduates from the Cheriton School of Computer Science and their ability to create some of today’s leading software companies," said Mark Giesbrecht, director of the Cheriton School of Computer Science. "We continue to work with these and all alumni on the future of computer science research, education and innovation."
The other Waterloo graduates who have created unicorns are Ted Livingston and Chris Best, who founded Kik, an instant messaging platform; Apoorva Mehta, who founded Instacart, an online grocery shopping service; and Omid Aminfar, who founded Jasper, an artificial intelligence bot that recruits engineers.
Szulczewski and Zhang give back to the University through the Wish Scholarship, 10 of which, valued at $2,000 each, are awarded annually to outstanding full-time undergraduate students enrolled in the Faculties of Engineering and Mathematics.