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Eric Diep of A Thinking Ape (left); Stewart Butterfield of Tiny Speck (right) (Kris Krug/handout/Kris Krug)
Eric Diep of A Thinking Ape (left); Stewart Butterfield of Tiny Speck (right) (Kris Krug/handout/Kris Krug)

The people behind Canada's most promising tech start-ups Add to ...

For now, Glitch still has a few, well, glitches. The game officially launched last September, only to unlaunch in November after amassing roughly 150,000 users. Uniquely free of combat or bloodshed, Glitch proved so addictive (players were spending up to 40 hours a week navigating and co-operating to build its virtual universe) that users burned through years of programming in just months.

Today, inside Tiny Speck’s open-plan Yaletown office, a young designer with her hair in a ponytail works on freehand sketches for new game elements. Butterfield inspects one drawing, a house shaped like a frog with an uncoiled tongue for the doormat. “This is awesome,” he says, breaking into a big smile. —R.S.

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CRISTIAN STRAT Summify (Vancouver) Two years ago, when search engine designer Cristian Strat was 26, he left behind his native Romania for a unique boot camp on the west coast of Canada. At Vancouver’s Bootup Labs, he got a crash course in the heady world of Internet start-ups, in exchange for an equity stake in any future company he created.

Less than a year into the program, Strat and his Romanian associate Mircea Pasoi struck gold. “We were trying to keep up with tons of news sources—blogs, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook. It was frustrating to sift through hundreds of posts just to find a handful of interesting ones.” Their solution was Summify, a nifty tool that uses proprietary algorithms to identify only the most relevant, widely shared posts and deliver them directly to users.

Summify quickly attracted a loyal following, as well as attention from the company whose content it was sorting. In January, 2012, Twitter bought Strat’s company for an undisclosed but presumably handsome sum. Users, who had come to depend on Summify’s tidy daily digests, were crestfallen. Strat, who packed his bags to join the Twitter team in San Francisco, was not. —R.S.

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Show me the money

Fast and cheap to develop—that’s what these mobile-focused seed funds are looking for. The major players take an active role in their portfolio companies—and hope for a tidy profit when a bigger player swoops in. —Dawn Calleja

MANTELLA VENTURE PARTNERS (Vancouver) Who Backed in part by Toronto commercial real estate developer Robert Mantella, and run by Ventures West alums Robin Axon and Duncan Hill. Range Up to $500,000 Big hit PushLife, which manages iTunes libraries on non-Apple phones. Bought by Google in April, 2011, for a rumoured $25 million (U.S.).

GROWLAB ACCELERATOR (Vancouver) Who One of the four founding partners is Boris Wertz, who sold rare-books dealer Abebooks.com to Amazon in 2008 and runs W Media Ventures, an Internet-focused angel fund. Range Up to $25,000 Big hit None, yet. GrowLab’s next 12-week start-up session begins in May.

GOLDEN VENTURE PARTNERS (Toronto) Who A solo operation run by former BlackBerry Partners Fund exec Matt Golden. Range $50,000 to $500,000 Big hit Golden teamed up with Google Ventures to fund Yesware, which makes e-mail productivity software.

EXTREME VENTURE PARTNERS (Toronto) Who Amar Varma, former director at VenGrowth Capital, and Sundeep Madra,computer engineer and former Cisco Systems geek. Range Up to $200,000 Big hit BumpTop, acquired by Google in April, 2010, and J2Play, a mobile gaming platform acquired by Electronic Arts in 2009.

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$1.5 Billion Canadian acquisition activity in 2011

34+ Number of Canadian start-ups purchased in 2011, including sales to Google, Facebook, Zynga and Salesforce.com

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