I was invited by Catarina von Maydell, formerly of the Toronto Angel Group, to attend a gathering of investors (mostly angel) at ISCM, the Innovation Synergy Centre in Markham north of Toronto. Investors learned about the services that this hub of so-called “4th pillar” organizations offers to small-medium sized growth companies. The invited investors had an opportunity to learn about and meet with some of the companies that ISCM helps prepare for investment.
This “one-stop shopping” non-profit innovation hub in Markham’s tech office heartland puts the ISCM’s own staff together with partners like NRC/IRAP, Ontario Centres of Excellence, the Health Technology Exchange, York University and Seneca College. It provides mentors, access to a number of business and technology advisory resources and access to an investor network intended to facilitate deal-flow that appears particularly catered to angels.
Those familiar with Mars in downtown Toronto will be familiar with the basic model. Interestingly, some companies in the 416 apparently make the trip up the Don Valley Parkway to work with them. The scale, however, is smaller and the investment side seems more angel than VC focused.
I was struck by the experienced team and the attitude of CEO Bob Glandfield and Director of Operations Rod Graham that was very supportive of the grassroots realities of the small-medium sized technology growth company. Bootstrapping garage web startups may be a little too small for ISCM to help, but they are worth getting to know for the high quality of the advisors they have available.
Ron Smith is a Mentor at ISCM who is beyond the stage where he needs to be working for a living, but who clearly has a passionate connection to the companies he mentors. His low-key, almost folksy, tone and approach was palpable and left me with the impression of a place that had a human touch that is critical to working with businesses that are ultimately very personal.
What is your experience with ISCM or other similar “innovation hubs”? What are others of note across Canada? Leave your thoughts in the comments.