As a “newbie”, it’s been a thrill to witness our entrepreneurs land and evolve here on planet MaRS.
A couple of highlights from my first couple of months here will give you a good sense of what you might expect.
1. Experiencing a MAP (Market Advisory Panel): aka, The “Dragon’s Den” of MaRS
MAPs are a real thrill to watch as a newbie. Over the course of an afternoon, three companies pitch their companies to senior execs of various backgrounds for feedback in a ‘friendly environment’ to prepare clients for pitches to the investment community. I was humbled by the level of experience around the table (“been there, done that and got the t-shirt” kinda folks). The level of questioning is extraordinary and helps our entrepreneurs get to the bottom of their business models and go-to-market strategies. I learned there is really no right answer in going-t0-market, but you do need a solid business model, realistic forecasts supported by data, an excellent presentation (and presenting skills) and a solid founding team. Two of those clients have since launched into market with great initial success:
2. The Entrepreneur’s Evolution
The second highlight for me is witnessing clients at various stages of development. Entrepreneurs land on MaRS via our discovery process, which starts by completing the MaRS Discovery Document . Next, they move on to a meeting in which the advisory team gets to know the entrepreneur and their business and assigns the client some next steps (homework). I’m always moved by the passion demonstrated by the entrepreneurs. Some have even left their jobs and are pouring every possible resource into their business. (A motivating read which gets at the heart of the entrepreneur’s passion is The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.)
When we meet them, some entrepreneurs have fully developed prototypes and business models and some don’t. Regardless, critical at this point is vision and passion, a clearly defined idea (either a solution to an existing consumer problem or something new), a prosperity plan/business model and a working demo (not necessary, but a huge asset). Key resources we provide entrepreneurs at this point are connections within the MaRS network, recommendation to attend MaRS events and guidance from the tools located in the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit.
As companies progress, we connect them to an array of MaRS services in legal, PR and market intelligence. In these later stages, companies are usually looking for capital, pitching to angel investors or venture capitalists and obtaining funding. A good resource is our funding documents which reside on MaRSDD.com.
Most importantly, it’s great to be part of the information technology, communications and entertainment (ICE) start-up community (that’s my practice, but we also have cleantech, life sciences and social innovation practices). The level of innovation here in Ontario is amazing. We truly are spawning and utilizing revolutionary technology which impacts Ontario and global economies.