Connectedness – MaRS Discovery District steps up to deliver a message


Originally posted February 16th 2011 for MRI blog

When I first heard of the MaRS Discovery District initiative to put together a delegation of Ontario digital media companies with the objective of storming down to New York to connect with the Madison Avenue influencers, I was somewhat sceptical of the true impact it could have: “How can a few Canadian tech companies take on the Big Apple and get results?”, I thought.

Surprise, I was impressed!

Peter Evans, a great entrepreneur who is now spending his time and energy as part of the MaRS Advisory Services, and his team, simply made it happen. The goal of gathering strong local New York coverage for a select group of Ontario based digital media companies was achieved in part because of Evan’s idea of inviting a group of active Canadian VCs along to join the delegation and participate in every aspect of the two and a half day event. This group of investors automatically called upon their New Yorker based co-investors and VC colleagues to join in. Furthermore, the idea of holding a “pre-conference” half day session the before the opening cocktail reception of the AlwaysOn New York OnMedia 2011 Conference, was well thought through. The selected companies had the unique opportunity to pitch their businesses to the privileged group of Canadian investors as well as the invited New York VC locals and industry colleagues. Even Tony Perkins, founder and editor of AlwaysOn attended the pre-conference sessions and met up with a few of the companies!

But it didn’t stop there. Peter organized two on-site visits and Q&A sessions with hot local digital media companies (AppNexus & Yodle) where both VCs and Entrepreneurs tagged along. Finally, the integration of our 6 Canadian digital media companies into the OnMedia 2011 Conference itself was well orchestrated. Each and every one of the selected companies had the opportunity to either present at the conference or be part of a panel. A lot of knowledge sharing and networking activities.
The select Ontario based digital media companies that attended were:

gShift Labs – search engine optimization
InGamer Sports – live event social gaming
OpenFile – user-generated online newspaper
PostRank – social engagement and influence ratings
Viafoura – online user engagement
Wave Accounting – free accounting application for small businesses

I really appreciated this initiative and meeting up with the selected startups, because it directly supports the message that we can be more successful by being better connected. I think Canada spawns a respectable number of technology startup companies across a broad range of industry sectors, but successful outcomes are still infrequent because they are not sufficiently “connected”. This initiative along-side many others such as: the CIX – Accelerate Program, the C100 48Hrs in the Valley and the GROW conferences are helping mind-the-gap and creates unique opportunities to build stronger relationships across the border and across industries.

We have some amazing tech entrepreneurs in Canada and we are seeing more and more of our tech and digital media companies hit the limelight. AlwaysOn 2011 OnMedia Top Private Companies included two Canadian companies this year:

Adenyo – Toronto, Ont., Canada (who has been acquired last week!)
Tynt – Calgary, Alb., Canada (who is one of iNovia Capital’s portfolio companies)

Being part of ground-breaking technology companies recognized for their contributions to marketing, branding, advertising, and publishing is a great way to showcase some of our best companies. But, I do think we should have 5 or even 10 on the list next year!

Like MaRS, we need to continue to showcase our top entrepreneurs, our companies, and further deploy efforts not only across the board but across the continents. We need to be connected, we need to support our entrepreneurs beyond capital.



2 Responses to “Connectedness – MaRS Discovery District steps up to deliver a message”

  1. Chris, great post… MaRS does some great things that go un-acknowledged too often… particularly Peter Evans, who is a treasure for all digital media start-ups in T.O.

  1. 1 Tweets that mention Connectedness – MaRS Discovery District steps up to deliver a message « Chris Arsenault’s Blog --

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