Ilse Treurnicht announced today that she is stepping down from her role as MaRS CEO at the next annual general meeting in June 2017. Treurnicht has led the organization for the past 12 years.
“MaRS is entering its next phase of growth and the momentum is palpable,” said Treurnicht in a statement to BetaKit. “Our beautiful centre has doubled in size and is thriving. We are working with an outstanding group of fast-growing companies and we are seeing strong results from our proudly Canadian approach to innovation that focuses on both economic results and societal impact.”
Treurnicht added that after a “monumental effort by a small army of dedicated people to get here, now is the right time for me to explore other opportunities and for a new leader to take the helm.”
When asked if there was any specific reasons why she is stepping down, Treurnicht said that she was asked by John Evans, founder of the MaRS Discovery District, to make the vision of MaRS into a reality when she took the role.
“We have now built the foundation of that vision, creating a unique urban innovation hub that combines economic results with societal impact. Now that we are through the launch phase of this ambitious project, it is time for a new leadership team to take MaRS through its next stage of growth.”
The board has appointed a special committee to direct the search process. The committee is co-chaired by Gord Nixon, Chair of the MaRS Board of Directors, and Richard Ivey, Vice Chair and Chair of the Governance and HR Committee. The committee will select a search firm in the coming weeks and will consider both internal and external candidates.
“I’ve never ever met anyone like Ilse. Without a doubt, the most capable leader I’ve ever met.”
– Aron Solomon, Head of LegalX at MaRS
“Over the past decade, MaRS has grown from a big idea into a flourishing urban innovation hub that is viewed as a model by leading cities around the world. Ilse’s vision, leadership, and unwavering commitment has transformed MaRS into an organization that plays a critical role in fostering innovation and scaling it for impact in Canada and beyond,” said Nixon.
Aron Solomon, head of LegalX at MaRS, reinforced that Treurnicht was instrumental to building up MaRS into the internationally-recognized tech hub that it is today. Over the years, MaRS has attracted industry heavyweights like Johnson & Johnson and partnered with companies like Square, and has attracted the hundreds of startups working in its specialized clusters such as work & learning and legal. Recently, the federal government committed $40 million to the creation of a MaRS cell regeneration research facility.
“I have traveled over three million miles in the business of innovation. I’ve been lucky enough to meet with leaders of massive corporations and governments,” said Solomon. “I’ve never ever met anyone like Ilse. Without a doubt, the most capable leader I’ve ever met. I came to MaRS because of her and I know many others did as well. She is simply amazing; seriously a joy to be in her presence.”
Treurnicht stressed that, over the next year, she remains committed to setting a strong foundation for her successor.
“Job one is getting our new tenants settled in the West Tower and privately refinancing the bulk of the provincial loan that enabled us to expand the project,” she said. “I expect that to be completed soon.”
Before joining MaRS, Treurnicht was president and CEO of Primaxis Technology, a venture capital fund focused on the advanced technologies sector. She’s served as Chair of the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance in 2010, and is also a member of the federal government’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC).