Attendees at Wearable Wednesdays TO at MaRS DD on March 26.

Published: March 27th, 2014

MaRS Discovery District is taking a new direction in how it helps startups get off the ground, changing how it works with early stage companies in its ICE Practice – which stands for IT, communications, and entertainment.

Instead of being more generalist in its approach to helping startups, its leadership team has opted to create six clusters of technologies – education, finance, digital health, media and entertainment, retail and digital commerce, and energy IT.

Not all of these clusters are up and running yet, but for startups working with MaRS to accelerate their businesses, this means they can get advice and help that is more specific to their fields. The new direction will also help MaRS match startups with the right investors, collaborators, and other people in their respective industries.

“We have limited resources … and we’ve only got so many bodies,” said Karen Schulman Dupuis, manager of business development at MaRS. This doesn’t mean the organization will be turning away startups that don’t fit neatly into these categories, but it helps narrow down the resources it can offer, she said.

Speaking from a wearable tech meetup event Wednesday night, she added the plan to divvy up MaRS’ ICE Practice into clusters stems from Salim Teja, who took the helm in May 2013.

“We often say, everyone’s worth an hour to come in the doors to say, I have an idea and I want to talk to somebody. And we do our best to support that,” Schulman Dupuis said. “This kind of model allows us to maximize the resources we have and put that value towards the startups.”

Moving forward, MaRS has also partnered with We Are Wearables, a monthly meetup of wearable technology enthusiasts.

Tom Emrich, co-organizer of We Are Wearables, at MaRS DD.
Tom Emrich, co-organizer of We Are Wearables, at MaRS DD.

Previously called Wearable Wednesdays Toronto, the group has undergone a rebrand and will now be offering more than just monthly meetups, said Tom Emrich, the group’s co-organizer. The goal is to provide a resource-rich website, more frequent events in Toronto and in other cities, aiming for lunch meetings, workshops, and industry sessions – and at some point, Emrich envisions getting a space for developers to come and borrow hardware they can use to develop more wearable tech.

“We wanted to expand beyond just a one-day event, once a month,” he said. “The movement was already created, so we wanted to echo that in our new brand … We Are Wearables is more of a community-focused organization.”

Although We Are Wearables is separate from MaRS, it will be holding its monthly Wednesday meetings with MaRS, promoting the events together, and using its space, he added.

The next wearable meetup will be held in April at MaRS Discovery District.

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