Why MaRS Toronto for an International Early Stage Investor Conference?

5 Apr

By Dennis Ford, Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series

There is a rich diversity of technology assets being developed in Toronto, as MaRS Discovery District and Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS have convened to create one of the most dynamic centers for life science technology innovation in North America. However, not to use an old cliché, Toronto’s real value in life science is in the people, from its visionary leaders to its extraordinary scientist-entrepreneurs, all striving (and succeeding) to move the needle and create the next generation of healthcare innovation.

When I first launched the Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) Conference in Toronto in 2016, my network of global early-stage investors were initially open to seeing what was up in the north country. Just two years and three Toronto RESI conferences later, I am witnessing unprecedented signups from the global investor community. Much to my amazement, this upcoming RESI conference (April 10th at MaRS Discovery Centre) has seen a 25% increase in investor and strategic partner registrations. We expect 300-350 qualified investors (all with vetted investment mandates) to peruse the lineup of hundreds of early-stage biotech, medtech, diagnostics and digital health startups. But one quite compelling factor is that we expect that almost 60% of the investors and partners will be from outside of Canada.

But I digress. Back to the people factor. What I learned from discussion with investors who have attended RESI on MaRS in the past was actually quite startling. The main takeaway from a majority of the investors I chatted with was that the caliber of the fundraising CEOs and scientist-entrepreneurs was the main differentiator. It was their genuineness and their lack of inflated value of their technology that impressed the investors. In contrast, the Boston, NYC and CA players had elevated expectations regarding the amount of time it takes to get a deal done, and the valuations of their assets were off the charts. The investors implied that if they find a deal they like in Toronto, the valuations and executive teams in Canada are much more realistic, which translates into getting contracts signed quicker. These perceptions impact and ignite the global investor community and have heightened interest in Toronto, which proves out the adage that if you build it, they will come!


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