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Why host an international early stage investor conference at MaRS in Toronto?

March 26, 2018 By: Dennis Ford

There is a rich diversity of technology assets being developed in Toronto, as MaRS Discovery District and Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS have created one of the most dynamic centres for life science technology innovation in North America. However, 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 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 was initially open to seeing what was going on in Canada. 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 10 at MaRS) 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 almost 60% of the investors and partners will be from outside of Canada.

What I learned from discussion with investors who have attended RESI on MaRS in the past was actually quite startling. The majority of the investors I chatted with commented that the calibre of the fundraising CEOs and scientist-entrepreneurs was the main differentiator — they were genuine and didn’t inflate the value of their technology. In contrast, the Boston, NYC and California players had elevated expectations regarding the 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. It proves the adage that if you build it, they will come!