Digital Media People to Watch in Quebec in 2011

For 2011 Techvibes is adding a Quebec list to our popular Digital Media People to Watch series. We’ve done a pretty good job tracking the movers and shakers in Alberta, BC, and Ontario over the last couple of years, so Quebec and its dynamic Montreal startup scene seemed like an obvious addition.

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 Quebec this year.

Chris Arsenault and John Elton – iNovia Capital – Montreal-headquarted iNovia Capital provides venture capital to entrepreneurs who transform innovations into successful companies. Their team comprises sector experts focused on Mobile, Consumer Internet, Internet Communications, Software and Digital Media. 

With $165 Million under management across two seed and early stage IT and Life Sciences funds, iNovia has been doing their share to support entrepreneurs in Quebec and across Canada. In 2010 iNovia led an investment round in tween virtual world Woozworld and cashed in on their investment in Airborne Mobile with its acquisition by Cellfish Media. Look for iNovia to remain very active in Montreal in 2011.

Eric Brassard – Woozworld – In late 2009 Montreal-based virtual world developer Tribal Nova launched Woozworld – a massive multi-player virtual world for tweens. By mid 2010 Woozworld had spun off from its parent raising a $3 Million in Series A financing round led by iNovia Capital and Telesystems Ventures.

CEO Brassard and his 25 person team have grown their world to over 1.7 Million user accounts and 2.5 Million virtual spaces with users in 140 countries. Look for Woozworld to raise more capital in 2011 and continue adding users at a fast clip.

Sylvain Carle – NeediumWhen you ask a question on Twitter, do you expect an answer in return? Probably not. But Carle just might change that. Carle noticed that consumers use Twitter to find all kinds of things; restaurants, salons, clubs, you name it. So, Carle created Needium, which searches out queries on behalf of client businesses, and then engages the searchers with recommendations and promotions for those clients.

Better known by his Twitter audience as A Frog in the Valley, Carle presented parent company Praized Media’s newest venture at the prestigious Le Web conference in Paris in December. Needium was one of 16 companies chosen to present as part of Le Web’s startup competition and was the only North American company selected.

Marc Gingras – Tungle – Tungle has grown to a team of 23 headquartered in Montreal with a research and development office in Waterloo. They’re venture backed to the tune of $6 Million by Commonwealth Capital Ventures, JLA Ventures and Desjardins Venture Capital.

Tungle users include 40% of Fortune 1000 companies, people from over 150 countries worldwide, and professors, administrators and students from over 800 universities around the world. CEO and Founder Gingras had a huge year in 2010 with a slew of partnership and integration announcements including one with LinkedIn. Look for Gingras to schedule more news in 2011.

Alan MacIntosh, JS Cournoyer, John Stokes, and Mark MacLeod – Real Ventures – Real Ventures is a seed stage venture capital firm that invests in software based internet, mobile, digital media, social and casual gaming startups. Real Ventures began life as Montreal Start Up, a $5 Million seed fund that invested in 15 great companies.

In October “StartupCFO” Mark MacLeod joined the team and they’re back at it. Real Ventures’ list of portfolio companies includes mConcierge, Vanilla Forums, StatusNet, and Beyond the Rack.

Mark O’Sullivan – Vanilla Forums – Vanilla Forums provides open-source, standards-compliant, customizable discussion forums and are currently power forums for over 400,000 websites. In early 2010 the Montreal-based startup announced that they raised a $500K Series A round led by Montreal Startup, with participation by eonBusiness, Norseman Capital and Klein Venture Partners. That’s impressive for a startup that graduatd from TechStars in the summer of 2009.

O’Sullivan’s blog post on Vanilla’s first six months is worth a read as well as his Don’t Go It Alone advice in the recently published Do More Faster book by TechStars’ founders David Cohen and Brad Feld.

Yona Shtern – Beyond the Rack – Launched in March 2009, Beyond the Rack is a private online shopping club (similar to the popular Gilt Groupe) for women and men who want designer brand fashions and accessories at up to 70% off retail. In July 2010 they raised a $12 Million round from Highland Capital Partners and BDC Venture Capital bringing their total funding to $16.5 Million (Montreal Startup was already in).

Beyond the Rack reached the 1 Million member mark after only one year in operation and word on the street is that they hit  $100 Million in sales in 2010. Beyond the Rack has offices in Montreal and New York, a staff of 120+ full-time employees and has single-handedly made Montreal a player in ‘online’ fashion.

Ben Yoskovitz, Raymond Luk, Alistair Croll & Ian Rae – Year One Labs – The Montreal startup community got a boost in 2010 with its very own seed accelerator in Year One Labs. The four founders are taking a hands-on approach to advising and are focused on co-creating startups with entrepreneurs in the program while being true to Lean Startup methodology.

Year One Labs mentors at launch include Flowtown co-founder Dan Martell and Shopify creator Tobias Lutke. They announced their first investment in a location-based social gaming platform startup Endloop X in November. Look for them to add more to their portfolio as they wrap up year one in 2011.