Digtial Media People to Watch in BC in 2009

One of the benefits of blogging about technology in BC is the opportunity to meet and interact with innovative technology leaders and evangelists every day. During 2008, we had the pleasure of covering some great people, startups, and events and – even with our troubled economy – are excited about what 2009 promises. Techvibes put together a list of British Columbians in the Digital Media space this time last year that we thought were worth watching in 2008 and it was a hit – so we’re doing it again for 2009.

Andre Charland – Nitobi – Charland’s Nitobi Software has been providing enterprise web solutions and web-based software components since 1997 and were an early proponent of Ajax. Charland has spoken widely on Ajax, blogging, and web usability and had a seat on the Adobe On AIR Bus Tour in 2007 and again in 2008 when Adobe took to the tracks across Europe. On top of client work, Nitobi has been pushing the envelope with their own projects. Robot Replay is a web analytics tool that records how your visitors use your site and PhoneGap is a development tool that allows web developers to write apps for mobile devices with limited time and resources.

Michael Cole – Vivity Labs’ Fit Brains – Cole laid a solid foundation for Fit Brains and their online brain games in 2008. They kicked off the year with a successful Angel round of over $1 Million and got working on phase 1 of their commercial platform. Fit Brains now has 15 free games online and a slew of tools and features to keep players coming back – brain metric tools, an achievement system, community games, and leader boards. Thanks to agreements with a handful of leading US media companies (MSN, Lifetime TV, Viacom, and more); Fit Brains will be building on solid revenue numbers in 2009. What’s next for Cole & Fit Brains? More free games, platform improvements, and a serious look at international opportunities.

Rick Goossen – MakeGood – Entrepreneurial strategist and author Goossen has combined his passion for social responsibility with his knowledge of crowd sourcing and is due to launch MakeGood in early 2009. The MakeGood platform will allow companies to show-off their commitment to their community, the environment, and the world. Goossen’s goal is for MakeGood to be the Web’s #1 trustmark for Social Responsibility at a price point that is a fraction of what is being offering by old-school accreditations. Sounds disruptive – not surprising considering Calgary’s Cambrian House is a strategic partner.

Steve Hnatiuk – Yaletown Venture Partners – As a Co-Founder and General Partner, Hnatiuk will be heavily involved in deciding where their $65 Million (and counting) of new money in Yaletown Ventures II gets invested. Venture Capital money has been scarce locally and the timing of the initial closing of this second fund couldn’t be better. Yaletown Venture Partners has a history of making smart clean-tech and IT investments in Western Canada and with startup valuations low they have the opportunity to make a huge splash in 2009.

Ken Kwasnicki – Middlespot – Kwasnicki was a partner with Columbus Group back in 2001 when they were acquired by Telus. This time around, Kwasnicki has partnered up with Columbus Co-Founder Scott Brownlee to create Middlespot – a visual search interface. Middlespot launched in October and has already received some great coverage thanks to its intuitive search results that integrate traditional text results with screenshots and the ability to create shareable ‘workpads’. Check out their tutorial and look out for Middlespot in 2009.

Amielle Lake – Tagga – CEO and Co-founder Lake launched Tagga in July allowing anyone to create their own free SMS campaign. Since launch Lake has tweaked the business model and repackaged the technology into a hosted software solution for ad agencies and media publishers. While in private beta, the new platform has been pre-sold to agencies (such as Fjord – Cossette’s digital arm) that will be able to offer mobile marketing solutions directly to their clients. An accomplished author, Lake used her deal-making experience to raise a healthy seed round for Tagga last spring and convince the former VP of Yahoo’s Global Mobile Group to join Tagga’s Board of Advisors.

Paul Lee – VanEdge Capital – The Ex-Electronic Arts Senior Exec is heading a new multimillion-dollar venture capital fund focused on the digital game development space. Along with EA Alumni Glenn Entis and Jason Chein, Lee plans to pick and choose investments from all facets of the digital media sphere with a focus on Vancouver. With startup valuations dramatically lowers compliments to the recent economic downturn, VanEdge General Partner Lee believes that now is the time to invest and is looking for individual and institutional investors to get into the game.

Colleen Nystedt – MovieSet –  MovieSet is an Internet portal that provides movie fans with “behind-the-scenes” access to the filmmaking experience and Nystedt is calling the shots as President & CEO. Nystedt’s startup had a blockbuster summer picking up awards and finding success at the venture capital box office.  Awards included being selected by AlwaysOn for their OnHollywood Top 100 Private Company award and being selected for a KPMG PICK 20 award as one of Canada’s Up & Coming Web 2.0 companies. Nystedt capped the summer off by raising $3.5 Million of a $5 Million financing round that included the Canadian arm of New York’s Rho Capital Partners and the BC Discovery Fund locally.

Danny Robinson – Bootup Labs –  In 2008, Robinson was singled out for his much anticipated launch of Strutta, which is now generating revenue with its new online competition platform and being run by co-founder Maura Rodgers. This upcoming year, Robinson will be focused on startup accelerator & fund Bootup Labs. The $5 Million VCC fund secured $1.3 Million of committed capital in the first month of fundraising and Robinson is on track to close the first $2 Million by end of February. There are currently 4 companies in the Lab – LayerBoom, LetsGoForDinner, AdHack, and QCDocs – and they plan on taking in 6 companies every 4 months. High quality digital media deal flow, here we come.

Todd Tessier – BC Renaissance Capital Fund –  In an effort to spark early stage innovation, the BC government set up the BC Renaissance Capital Fund in April 2008 and Tessier is at the helm. Tessier has secured six top-tier institutional venture capital fund managers to help attract market expertise and venture capital investment to BC. Tessier’s $90 Million Fund, along with Hnatiuk’s $65+ Million and Lee’s $100-200 Million, will go a long way to help early stage innovation in Vancouver in a tough economy.

Obviously this list could go on and on as there is a tonne of talent and cool projects going on in BC, so if you think we’ve missed someone that deserves some attention, please add them to the comments.