Digital Media People to Watch in Ontario in 2011

It’s that time of year again where Techvibes singles out 10 Digital Media People to Watch in Ontario in the coming year. We did a pretty good job in 2010 with Facebook Managing Director Jordan Banks and’s Ali Asaria leading the way.

The following list is by no means a complete list of who to watch in 2011 but rather a compilation of some of the folks on our immediate radar that we think will be play a role is shaping tech in Ontario in 2011.

Robin Axon and Duncan Hill – Mantella Venture Partners MVP is a Toronto-based $20 Million investment fund that was launched in March 2010 to support early stage technology ventures in Ontario. MVP is a collaboration between Basecamp Labs, a private early stage technology accelerator, and Mantella Corporation, a family-owned commercial and residential real estate developer in Toronto.

Axon and Hill are MVP’s General Partners. To date MVP has invested in mobile entertainment startup Pushlife and search marketing platform Chango but that’s only makes a small dent in their $20 Million fund.

David Crow – Influitive – In September Toronto’s Crow left his position at Microsoft Canada as Platform Strategy Evangelist to co-found startup Influitive. As the organizer of DemoCamp Toronto, Founders & Funders, and StartupEmpire and an author, noisemaker, attention grabber at StartupNorth, Crow knows a thing or two about startups. Keep on an eye on Crow and look for Influitive to launch in 2011.

Daniel Debow & David Stein – RyppleRypple Co-Founders & Co-CEOs Debow and Stein both hail from Workbrain, a $100 Million workforce management software company that sold for $227 Million in 2007. In 2008 Debow and Stein decided to start Rypple which provides web-based feedback software. Users can give colleagues public recognition, set goals, and give anonymous feedback. 

Business at Toronto-based Rypple is booming with a client list that includes Mozilla and a recent round of funding worth $7 Million led by Bridgescale taking them to a total of $13 Million. Look for Rypple to make some great enhancements and announce some major partnerships in 2011.

Harley Finkelstein – Shopify – Finkelstein joined Ottawa-based startup Shopify earlier this year as their director of business development, after striking up a friendship with the company’s founder Tobias Lütke (who we singled out last year). Finkelstein is a serial entrepreneur and recently added lawyer to his resume.

Shopify recently closed a $7 million round of Series A funding that they will use to expand internationally. Shopify currently has customers in over 60 countries and processes more than $100 million in revenue for its over 10,000 clients. Look for more strategic partnerships from Finkestein and his team in 2011.

Michael Garrity – CommunityLendWhile this Toronto-based online peer-to-peer lending community has been in the works for years, it made its official debut in February 2010. Since then the CommunityLend has attracted over $8 Million in loan demand of which $1.1 Million has been accepted and funded.

This fall co-founder Garrity announced a partnership with that puts a CommunityLend financing option on every private auto listing on Canada’s largest used car marketplace. What else do Canadians borrow for? Home renovations. Garrity and his team have that covered as well with the launch of for home improvement loans.

Ted Livingston – Kik Interactive – Kik and its founder Livingston got some serious press in late 2010 thanks to explosive growth numbers for its Kik Messenger App and a patent infringement lawsuit from RIM alleging the Waterloo-based startup violated several of the BlackBerry maker’s patents and confidentiality agreements.

Despite that setback, the BBM-like Kik Messenger app that works across iPhone and Android phones was named one of Mashable’s 10 Apps to Watch in 2011 earlier this week and the company announced today that it now has 3 Million users and is growing by 10-15,000 users a day (without BlackBerry as a platform).

Michael Scissons – Syncapse – Syncapse President and CEO Scissons isn’t new to recognition. His three year-old Toronto-based social media technology venture picked up the Company of the Year Award at the 2010 Canadian New Media Awards in December and a coveted Companies-to-Watch Award at the 2010 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards. And he was singled out with an Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2010 Awards.

In 2010 Syncapse secured over $5 Million in private equity financing including $2 Million from BDC. The funds are earmarked to fuel Syncapse’s global expansion and invest in product development for their social media management software. Look for the 120 employee-strong company to get acquired in 2011.

Amar Varma and Sundeep Madra – Extreme Venture PartnersVarma and Madra are the Managing Partners and Co-Founders of EVP. EVP focuses on providing early stage venture capital and management expertise to startup businesses to help propel them into the big leagues. Toronto’s EVP has had great success over the past couple years with portfolio companies j2Play acquired by Electronic Arts in 2009 and BumpTop acquired by Google in 2010.

Their current portfolio includes Buzzd, Chango, Equentia, Fixmo, Kontagent, Locationary, Rypple, Uken Games, Unify4Life, Visibli, Vlane, and, of course, Xtreme Labs.

Ben Vinegar – Guestlist Toronto’s Guestlist provides tools for online event registration and ticket sales specifically designed for small to medium sized events. Sound familiar? San Francisco-based industry gorilla Eventbrite processed $200 Million in gross ticket sales in 2010 and has raised $30 Million in venture capital to date.

Vinegar and his two co-founders think there is room is this crowded space and intend to carve out a share for themselves with a clean, intuitive interface and a simple set-up process. Last July they celebrated their one-year anniversary with $500K in registration fees collected and 2/3rds of their team going full-time. I look forward to hearing how they fared in year two.

Sandy Ward – HomeZilla – Toronto-based HomeZilla launched in 2008 as “a one-stop shop for neighbourhood information for Canadian home buyers”. Two years later founder Ward has partnered with media giant Transcontinental to help them transform the real estate sections of their 26 newspapers online and off.

Transcontinental is aggressively moving into digital and their combination of print and web resources along with hyper-local data and targeting could be just what the real estate industry needs. Look out for the first of the HomeZilla-powered papers to go live later this month.