INNOVATING WITH IMPACT: TORONTO’S TECH ECOSYSTEM IS TACKLING THE WORLD’S GREATEST CHALLENGES
It’s invaluable to work at a place that never stops innovating — especially in the face of a generational pandemic. From the outset of the emergency, MaRS has remained open at reduced capacity to help in the fight. Public health workers testing COVID-19 cases day and night; hospitals using our auditorium as a vaccine clinic; startup workers continuing essential research in wet and dry labs. Walking through the building and seeing all this action has been an inspiring reminder: Toronto’s innovation sector has
everything it needs to come out of any crisis on top.
Toronto is my home because it embodies the cosmopolitan ideal. It is the most diverse city on the planet (more than half of the population is foreign-born), innovators from the arts to A.I. choose to build their careers here — and it’s a financial powerhouse. And because all sorts of people are welcome here, the city’s tech ecosystem excels at all sorts of things.
Toronto’s singular brand of inclusion is its unique strength. In 2021, the city ranked first in North America for tech-job growth; first in the world for working women; second in the world for safety; and sixth in the world for remote workers. It also had a record year for venture capital investment, and boasts the fastest-growing population on the continent.
But if you want to see the truest sign of Toronto’s worth, look to our top startups and scale-ups that are chasing both revenue and social progress within and beyond Toronto’s borders. Hydrostor, a climate-tech company headquartered on Bay Street, is developing utility-scale projects across North America, including two sites in California. When complete, they will become the world’s largest non-hydro energy storage facilities. League, an employee-benefits venture, is working with Loblaw to make healthcare services easier to access, navigate and purchase. And then there’s Ecopia, which has offices a few floors up from my own, creating the first complete, digital map of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The stories highlighted in this book showcase Toronto as a pillar of Canada’s innovation community and an agent of meaningful, measurable impact. Never has such work been so crucial — not just for our startups and our scientists, but for everyone. MaRS wants to help startups commercialize and scale, and these are also the companies that will help big manufacturers, banks, retailers and the rest of our economy become more competitive. Our innovation economy — our prosperity — depends on them becoming job creators, wealth drivers and global leaders.
As we prepare for a new way of business (and life) post-pandemic, I’m excited to see how Toronto’s ecosystem will take on our greatest challenges. And I’m excited to meet you: the new Torontonians moving here to build companies, make discoveries, attend conferences and — most importantly — join a community.
See you in the office.
Yung Wu is CEO of MaRS. A serial entrepreneur and investor, Wu has built scale-stage companies in sectors such as enterprise software, big data, and media and entertainment. He is co-founder of the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism and DifferentIsCool.