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Alex Ryan
28 February 2023

What I learned from 5 years on MaRS

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By Alex Ryan

In February 2017 I received a call from Joeri van den Steenhoven: “Alex, I have to go home to the Netherlands for family reasons, and I think you’re the only person in Canada who can do my job. You need to come to MaRS!” Having just founded my own social enterprise — Synthetikos — I was skeptical, but my wife Eleanor convinced me to give it a shot. I met with MaRS’ founding CEO Ilse Treurnicht, and she also convinced me to move to Toronto and take the role.

It’s now February 2023 and as I return to my own practice with Synthetikos I want to share some lessons from my experience. The work of shifting systems is always both an outer and an inner journey. That’s also how I’ve structured this post, by talking about some of the grand challenges my teams, colleagues, partners and I tackled, and what I learned from the experience. I led more than 100 innovation projects at MaRS, but for this post I’ve chosen to focus on just a few so I can write in more depth.

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