Update on BC’s Digital Media People to watch in 2009

Last year we compiled the second edition of our “Digital Media People” for British Columbia (the first was in 2008) and it’s that time of the year to look back at the individuals we singled out and take inventory of their accomplishments over the past 12 months.

Andre Charland – Nitobi – Charland’s PhoneGap development tool which allows web developers to write apps for mobile devices took off in 2009. In the Spring PhoneGap was chosen of one of five startups to present at the Web 2.0 Expo Launchpad event in San Francisco and ended up taking home the top prize.

In April Nitobi sold their RobotReplay product to Ann Arbour’s Foresee Results and turned around and invested in Vancouver-based publisher BookRiff Media the following month.

Michael Cole – Vivity Labs’ Fit Brains – Mainstream media continued to follow the brain fitness game trend in 2009 and FitBrains managed to get it’s fair share of time in the spotlight. Cole spent 2009 extending US Media partnerships, adding games & features to the FitBrains.com platform and building on solid revenue numbers from 2008.

In the Spring of 2009, Vivity Labs launched a complete redesign of the FitBrains.com, adding new features and tools for both free users and premium members. The free site now offers basic circuit training so that visitors can get a structured brain workout and a taste of what the premium version entails. Premium members activity on the new site is focused on enhanced circuits while rewarding in-game activity with trophies and awards.

Rick Goossen – MakeGood – Entrepreneurial strategist and author Goossen combined his passion for social responsibility with his knowledge of crowd sourcing and launched MakeGood in January. The MakeGood platform allows companies to show-off their commitment to their community, the environment, and the world.

Goossen spent a little time on the local pitch circuit with appearances at Ideas on Tap in January and Launch Party Vancouver 7 in May.

Strategic partnerships with Cisco and the United Way should help get Goossen to his goal of making MakeGood the Web’s #1 trustmark for Social Responsibility.

Steve Hnatiuk – Yaletown Venture Partners – While Hnatiuk’s predictions for 2009 were a little off, as a Co-Founder and General Partner of Yaletown Venture Partners he did his part to prove that Venture Capital is not broken in Canada.

Yaletown made follow-on investments with Mixpo, Zeugma Systems, and Genologics but more importantly made new investments in Vancouver-based Constructive Media (aka Partnerpedia) and Indicee. In the process Hnatiuk added a Board position with Constructive Media to his two other seats with Mixpo and Genologics.

Look for more out of Hnatiuk and Yaletown Venture Partners in 2010 as they recently officially grabbed $15 Million of the $55 Million of capital doled out by the B.C. Renaissance Capital Fund.

Ken Kwasnicki – Middlespot – Kwasnicki partnered up with fellow Columbus Group Alumni Scott Brownlee to create Middlespot – a visual search interface.

Middlespot launched in October 2008 to some great coverage heralding its intuitive search results that integrate traditional text results with screenshots and the ability to create shareable ‘workpads’.

Fast-forward one year and Middlespot has evolved from a search solution to a better way to visually discover, collect, and organize what you like with ‘mashtabs‘.

Amielle Lake – Tagga Media Inc. – In late 2008, Lake tweaked Tagga’s original business model and repackaged the technology into a hosted software solution for ad agencies and media publishers. Investors must have liked what they saw with the new Agency Platform as Lake was able to close a $400K funding round in June led by a number of independent investors out of Canada, the US, and the UK.

Lake admits that she learnt plenty in Year One of her startup and was kind enough to share it with the Techvibes audience. The guest blog post ended up being the most popular on Techvibes during 2009.

Shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as Lake is an accomplished writer and co-authored The Elephant Hunter – Chronicles of the Moneymen which was published in January.

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.

Lee has stated that the valuations of gaming companies is attractive right now, to date we haven’t heard of any official VanEdge investments.

While Vanedge is still looking for investors with a minimum of $2 Million to participate in the fund, they did get a huge vote of confidence in November with the lion’s share of the the B.C. Renaissance Fund’s recent fund manager allotment – $30 Million.

Colleen Nystedt – MovieSet – 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 in the summer of 2008 put MovieSet on Techvibes radar for 2009.

Last year couldn’t have started much better for Nystedt. MovieSet won the Forum Favorite Award for Best Company in the Information Technology stream at the 2009 Canadian Financing Forum.

MovieSet site traffic growth was significant during the first half of 2009 but has since slowed down.

Danny Robinson – Bootup Labs –  Managing Directors Robinson and Boris Mann spent most of 2009 raising funds for the Bootup Labs startup accelerator. In the process they were able to fund five companies in their Lab – LayerBoom, LetsGoForDinner, AdHack, Overinteractive Media and LexPublica.

Robinson is doing his best to reverse the brain-drain and is leading the charge for a Canadian Startup Visa that would encourage immigrant entrepreneurs who want to start a company in Canada to get fast-tracked if they can meet some basic requirements.

2010 promises to be a big year for Bootup Labs. Along with new office space in Gastown’s Flack Block, Bootup will be welcoming in six (or more?) startups in their January cohort with more coming in May.

Todd Tessier – BC Renaissance Capital Fund –  In an effort to spark early stage innovation, the BC government set up the B.C. Renaissance Capital Fund in April 2008 and made Tessier responsible for the Fund.

In the spring of 2009, Tessier issued an RFQ to identify experienced investment professionals to provide venture capital fund management services. Through this RFQ, the Renaissance Fund expected to select up to four fund managers to invest and manage a total of $55 Million of capital.

Fast-forward to August and the successful Fund Managers were leaked to Techvibes.  Three months later our sources were confirmed correct and the BCRCF announced that the $55 Million had been allocated to Wesley Clover ($5 Million), Tandem Expansion ($5 Million), Yaletown Venture Partners ($15 Million), and VanEdge Capital ($30 Million).