Ontario’s MaRS Discovery District has hired a new CEO following a yearlong search, naming Toronto-based tech entrepreneur Yung Wu into the top post in a statement Thursday morning.
“I think it was a ballsy move by the board,” said Mr. Wu, a self-described serial entrepreneur who’s also on the Ryerson DMZ advisory board. “We are all about entrepreneurs and founders, that is what I have been doing most of my professional career.”
Mr. Wu states that MaRS, as the biggest innovation hub in Canada in terms of physical size (1.5 million square feet), houses several “unicorn course” startups with the “the ideal DNA to shoot out the lights on an international stage.” He says that he sees his primary role as helping the heart focus on commercialization of these startups, who occupy approximately 50 percent of website’s office space.
Mr. Wu replaces Ilse Treurnicht, who had been CEO for 12 years, also announced in June, 2016, that she would step down after a replacement was named. Originally the new CEO was set up in July, but Ms. Treurnicht extended her services. Mr. Wu says the search team approached him earlier in the year; he takes the reins on Nov. 1, 2017.
MaRS board of directors chairman Gord Nixon issued a statement that the board remains grateful to Ms. Treurnicht for her “vision, leadership and unwavering dedication to the organization through the years.”
In recent decades, MaRS, legally a charitable organization, was dogged by financing problems after a partnership with a U.S.-based property developer to construct another office tower on the website fell apart and roughly $400-million in provincial taxpayer money was lent to the company to complete construction. In early 2017, Mars paid back the taxpayer loans, taking on 290-million in debt, in the kind of 19-year bonds.
MaRS also declared in 2017 it’s fully rented the website’s office area to such tenants as AirBnB, Autodesk and Facebook, though as of 2015 rents represented only 26 percent of MaRS earnings, the majority — 44 percent — came from government grants to administer innovation programs.
Mr. Wu is famous for founding enterprise applications firm Castek Software, sold in 2007, mobile games firm Fuse Powered, sold in 2016, and Antibe Therapeutics, a biotech and medical equipment firm he remains invested in.
Courtesy: The Globe And Mail