The volunteer advisor program at MaRS significantly enhances our ability to serve the dynamic and ever-changing needs of our startups. Our advisors are experienced entrepreneurs, successful businesspeople and industry thought leaders.

At MaRS we work with over 1,000 startups and early-stage technology companies, each with its own innovative technology and unique set of challenges and questions. We would not be able to provide the type of support or help as many companies as we do without our volunteer advisors. Their pragmatism, knowledge and vast networks help startups grow.

This week is National Volunteer Week and I want to thank all of our volunteer advisors for their dedication to both MaRS and the startup ecosystem in Ontario.

We look to our advisors for a number of things and they routinely exceed our expectations. On any given week our volunteer advisors are:

  • reviewing business plans;
  • brainstorming new business models or new ways to improve current ones;
  • meticulously reviewing financial projects, questioning and poking holes into assumptions;
  • kick-starting a company’s brand, setting the tone and feel of that company going forward;
  • reaching into their Rolodexes for connections to capital and/or customers;
  • sharing war stories to convince startups that shareholder agreements are important from the get-go;
  • soliciting candidates from their networks to fill talent needs;
  • providing reassurance that entrepreneurs are on the right track;
  • sharing personal experiences with backend systems to evaluate the best options;
  • writing recommendation letters for award nominations; and
  • reviewing pitches in advance of investment meetings.

We also call upon our volunteer advisors to lecture at MaRS entrepreneurship education programs and to represent MaRS at conferences, seminars and other events, as well as to act as MaRS ambassadors within their networks.

“I believe that we should never stop learning, but I also believe that we should share what we learn.” -Richard Ford, MaRS volunteer advisor

MaRS’ volunteer advisors seem to share their time with us for a variety of reasons. When asked why he volunteers with MaRS, Derek Lim Soo said: “I enjoy working with early-stage entrepreneurs and helping them to take their innovative ideas and translate them into strategic plans.”

Asked the same question, Richard Ford, a new advisor, responded: “I believe that we should never stop learning, but I also believe that we should share what we learn. MaRS provides a valuable and unique forum for companies to exchange knowledge between themselves and with MaRS advisors. I am looking forward to participating in the MaRS conversation, sharing my own experiences while also continuing to learn.”

I want to thank each of our advisors for taking the time out of their busy schedules to volunteer with MaRS. Your knowledge, patience and networks help our ventures and the broader ecosystem each and every day.

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Jennifer Minelli

Jennifer manages the accelerating ventures program at MaRS, supporting high-growth ventures in the cleantech, health and information & communications technology (ICT) sectors.See more…