24 companies. 12 workshops. 12 weeks. 1,200 total hours of instruction.

November 29 marked the end of the first Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Workshops Fall Intensive Program at MaRS and the beginning of new opportunities and insights for 24 hard-working early-stage companies.

For the past 12 weeks, entrepreneurs from various sectors and of differing stages converged at MaRS every Friday to build business components and strategies with their peers in our new Intensive Program, a fast-moving program involving all five of our Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Workshops running consecutively for the first time.

Some of the participants of the Fall Intensive ProgramSome of the participants of the Entrepreneur's Toolkit Fall Intensive Program
Some of the participants of the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Fall Intensive Program

The program gives participants a chance to take a business proposition from ideation to sales in a very short period of time and in a collaborative environment. Participants leave with a portfolio full of deliverables that are specific to their company and industry. This includes a solid value proposition, a workable business model and marketing and sales techniques to effectively articulate their business to customers and potential investors.

A room full of innovation

Although the majority of participants attended from the education innovation and information technology, communications and entertainment spaces, cleantech and physical sciences and life sciences and healthcare were also well represented in the program. There were also participants from MaRS’ partner organizations Communitech and Innovation Guelph.

Here are profiles of three companies that participated in the program.

Abacus Uxbridge

Headquartered in the Durham Region, Abacus Uxbridge Inc. offers a unique mental training program that provides brain stimulation for seniors and people who have cognitive impairments, helping them to improve their memory, concentration and information processing.

“I loved what I was able to learn and implement in such a short period of time during the program,” says Annie Hardock, president of Abacus Uxbridge. “I feel I benefitted greatly because my business was running almost in parallel with the sessions and material being covered.”

With an initial business focus set primarily on children and mathematics capabilities in education, Annie and her team—along with the help of MaRS Market Intelligence—have more recently shifted their attention to the large market potential for seniors.


Orhan Kalayci and Peter Monkhouse participated in the program to work on their company, ZOOMtoLearn, which develops dynamic knowledge maps that can be used as quick reference guides to visualize both the big picture and specific details of a project.

The ZOOMtoLearn team selected project managers as the first target segment for developing a product that they hope will establish the next generation of learning.

“I chose to participate in the Intensive Program in order to identify a scalable and repeatable sales model. After participating, I have a clearer view of how to achieve these goals,” says Orhan, co-founder of the company.


Irene Katzela, CEO of Looxright, says she signed up for the program to interact with other entrepreneurs, advisors and like-minded people. She was also searching for the perfect product-market fix. Looxright is an online service that provides educational test reporting and analytics for all types of learning communities. It works as a global aggregator of digital test scores tagged with semantic, user and educational context annotations. Looxright uses this wealth of information to produce reports and analytics useful to learners, parents, educational institutions, publishers and content owners and providers.

“Over the last year we have seen a huge growth in the number of entrepreneurs working in the edtech space,” says Joseph Wilson, senior education strategist at MaRS. “The workshops have been great at pushing these entrepreneurs to focus on a single target market and to craft a value proposition that resonates.”

Ready to take on the challenge? Apply for our Winter Intensive Program!

MaRS will be offering a Winter Intensive Program starting in January. Applications are being accepted now until December 13, 2013. Regularly scheduled Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Workshops will also be available throughout the new year.

Conrad McDonald

Conrad was the Associate, Entrepreneurship Programs at MaRS specifically supporting workshops and experiential programs. He helped to co-ordinate the planning and execution of all workshops across the ONE network. See more…