23rd February 2011

To The Business of Getting Things Done

More Canadian studios have been named to Pocket Gamer’s Top 50 Mobile Developers List. Congratulations to Trainyard creator Matt Rix, Gamerizon and Get Set Games. Pocket Gamer will reveal the remaining Top 20 over the next two days.Best Buy Canada

Best Buy Canada is holding a random drawing with one of three new Asus eee Slates as the prize. The Contest runs from February 11 – 24, 2011 and is open to residents of Canada (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their province.

An interesting development in the User Based Billing war in Canada is that Netflix has hired two former regulators to help smooth its first international expansion as an Internet billing debate grows. Please see the article over at Bloomberg for the full story.

New software has arrived on the market from several Canadian developers.

diomaticDi-O-Matic Inc. has released Maskarad, a new ground-breaking automatic markerless facial performance motion capture software. With Maskarad, 3D artists now only need a video file featuring an actor’s performance to get started creating lifelike facial animations. Using advanced computer recognition, Maskarad automatically locates and tracks facial expressions all the while using phonetic recognition to create accurate lip motion.

Maskarad is a markerless motion capture technology that literally puts motion capture on the animator’s desktop. You can shoot a video right at your workplace using a webcam or inexpensive digital camera and have it converted to 3D facial animation data in minutes.

“I’ve tested and used a lot of 3rd party software in my years of production on some of the best games of all-time like Bungie’s Halo3, Ubisoft’s Spinter Cell and Prince of Persia to name a few” revealed Jonathan Abenhaim, senior freelance character animator. He continues: “Maskarad is insanely simple, it outputs results in a fraction of the time it used to take me to produce facial animations and I can easily tweak its animation curves.”

No messy or cumbersome face marker setups and no expensive dedicated hardware is required. Maskarad quickly outputs facial animation data ready to be used in your favorite 3D applications. Before Maskarad, realistic 3D facial animation was limited to only a few high-end projects. This was due to the expensive motion capture hardware and laborious post-processing involved either directly or through outsourcing. Maskarad will provide an amazing first pass of animation done in minutes without any complicated setups. This is what Di-O-Matic solutions are about…giving you awesome results quicker than anyone else.

“Maskarad provides a remarkable solution for doing facial motion capture.” share Lee Dickholtz from Meta Motion. “Maskarad is the easiest powerful 3D animation tool that I have ever encountered during 25 years of working with 3D animation and motion capture. Di-O-Matic has done an excellent job creating character animation plugins and standalone programs that greatly simplify the life of character animators. Maskarad is another example of their splendid work!”

corelCorel has introduced Corel® VideoStudio® Pro X4, the new version of its powerful video editing software that lets anyone create and share professional-quality videos. The Cavechild has downloaded the trial version, and he is very pleased with it. He found it very easy to use and was mucking about with video and audio tracks in no time. VideoStudio Pro X4 gets two thumbs up from him.

With outstanding speed and easy ways to bring great-looking movies to the screen, VideoStudio Pro X4 combines power and simplicity to break down the barriers to video editing. Whether you’re a new user or have a long-time passion for video editing, VideoStudio Pro X4 is an ideal choice with its uncomplicated approach to movie making, impressive effects and outstanding speed-to-results.video studio Pro x4

This latest version includes all-new, creative features to enable anyone to add Hollywood-style effects to their movies. VideoStudio Pro X4 offers new Time-lapse tools that let you easily deliver the high-quality, photographic look of professional productions as your movie speeds your audience through time. The new Stop Motion feature automates this traditional, time-consuming animation process, taking away the complexity of bringing objects like toys or figures to life. In addition, there are new capabilities that make it easy to create a 3D look from your 2D video, emulating the immersive feel of 3D movies on the big screen.

Making the editing process faster than ever, VideoStudio Pro X4 delivers unprecedented performance with new optimization for 2nd generation Intel® Core™ (Sandy Bridge) and AMD Fusion processors. For users who may not have the latest hardware, VideoStudio Pro offers the unique Smart Proxy feature as well as support for CUDA, GPU acceleration and multi-core processing to provide quick and responsive editing.

New and Enhanced Features in Corel VideoStudio Pro X4

  • New! Stop Motion animation: Have fun making movies that bring inanimate objects to life. Capture images from webcams, camcorders and DSLR cameras and use the automated tools and settings to simplify the stop-motion animation process.
  • New! Speed/Time-lapse: Easily create time-lapse effects from a series of photos or video clips and give your movies the professional look of speeding up time. With the ability to handle full-resolution files and very large-size image sets, this is a perfect tool for HD-DSLR photographers.
  • New! Processor optimization: Offering exceptional power and speed, VideoStudio Pro X4 is optimized for the new 2nd generation Intel® Core™ and AMD Fusion processors.
  • Enhanced! Integrated HD authoring and burning: Ideal for upgrade customers, it’s easier than ever to author HD movies to DVD and Blu-ray™ Disc with tightly integrated disc creation tools.
  • New! 3D export: Convert 2D video clips into 3D files with presets for 3D output on DVD, Blu-ray™, and AVCHD discs, as well as WMV 3D formats for mobile. Box versions also include a pair of 3D glasses.
  • New! Customizable Workspace: Set up your workspace the way you want – including across dual monitors.
  • Enhanced! Web sharing: With presets for YouTube™, Vimeo®, Facebook® and Flickr® in both HD and SD formats, it’s easy to upload directly to your site of choice.
  • New! Import/Export Movie Templates: Make your own templates and effects that you can upload and share with other VideoStudio Pro X4 users.
  • Enhanced! Corel Guide: Get the tools you need to make great movies with free in-product training videos delivered through the Corel Guide. Click on the Corel Guide inside VideoStudio Pro X4 to access an array of useful information, Help, product updates and add-ons, downloadable media packs, and more.
  • Enhanced! Smart Package: Automatically gather your entire project – video, photo, and audio files – into one folder you can take with you while choosing a custom compression method and secure with password encryption, powered by newly integrated WinZip® technology.

Corel VideoStudio Pro X4 delivers a complete video editing package for less than $100, giving any business the power to add online video to their marketing mix. With simple drag and drop clips, effects and graphic placement, bloggers and business users can quickly create and share custom branded templates. The enhanced Smart Package, now using integrated WinZip encryption technology, gathers all video, photo, and audio files used in a project into one password protected folder – making it easy to share your work in progress with colleagues or take it to another PC. With presets for uploading directly to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and Flickr, it’s never been simpler to reach your audience.

Corel VideoStudio Pro X4 makes it simple for teachers to incorporate video into the classroom or digital storytelling projects. X4 offers a 3-step interface; outstanding stability and performance; custom template creation and sharing; and easy-to-use creative tools to help kids create something amazing.

“Video is part of our kids’ language. The introduction of video editing into the classroom gives teachers a meaningful opportunity to bring literacy, conceptualization and creativity together in one engaging exercise,” said Piros. “Corel’s flexible and inexpensive academic licensing, in-product training videos and simplicity make VideoStudio Pro X4, hands down, the ideal choice for schools.”

netsecure technologiesRegina’s NetSecure Technologies, a provider of online transaction security solutions, has announced the availability of its complete product suite – SafeCheckout , PINCheckout and SmartSwipe – to provide security solutions for online transaction security for consumers, financial institutions, credit card companies, online merchants and other organizations under attack by cyber criminals.

The entire product suite leverages NetSecure’s patented Dynamic SSL core technology, an endpoint-to-endpoint online data security system that protects sensitive financial, strategic, or personal information from endpoint threats such as keylogging, keyjacking and man in the browser attacks. Unlike other tokenization solutions, Dynamic SSL can be used to transparently retrofit SSL equipped systems without changing the existing applications.

According to Homeland Security, “cyber threat has become one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face. America’s competitiveness and economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on effective cybersecurity,” cites Daniel McCann, president of NetSecure Technologies. “The government states that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, urging every Internet user to help secure cyberspace. We believe in this shared responsibility, having developed data security solutions for not only consumers, but the organizations that serve consumers, providing a safer online environment for all.”

The company’s award-winning SmartSwipe, an online purchase security system, enables consumers to swipe their credit cards at home while shopping online. Using the same level of encryption found in ATM’s, SmartSwipe encrypts the card information while being swiped, rendering it unreadable to hackers and malicious programs.

NetSecure’s newest endpoint security product PINCheckout, a chip and PIN technology solution, oversees transactions and enables card issuers and financial institutions to offer their customers a secure online shopping environment for their chip and PIN transactions. With PINCheckout, e-commerce transactions are secured by encrypting sensitive information through an external device and remains protected throughout the entire transaction.

SafeCheckout, which powers PINCheckout and SmartSwipe, is a true end-to-end encryption solution within a web browser session. It replaces consumers’ real information with fake information, while the entire transaction is protected with Secure Socket Layer (SSL). SafeCheckout protects users from endpoint threats, such as zero-day attacks.

NetSecure is now offering their products with or without hardware for licensing and cost effective deployment.

prairiefyreOttawa’s prairieFyre Software has released prairieFyre Contact Center for Microsoft© Lync™, a modular software suite that provides sophisticated multi-channel contact center functionality for the Lync unified communications (UC) platform. Developed on the Voice-over-IP and UC architecture of Microsoft Lync Server 2010, prairieFyre Contact Center is ideal for those organizations that wish to leverage the advanced enterprise voice features of the UC platform and require a comprehensive contact center solution.

Microsoft Corp.’s UC applications enable real-time collaboration and information flows by combining presence-aware telephony, conferencing, messaging, and mobility functionality in an easy-to-use Microsoft Lync 2010 interface. The prairieFyre Contact Center takes advantage of these capabilities and combines them with a full-featured Automatic Call Distributor (ACD), enabling agents to provide superior customer service through instant access to key subject matter experts, support teams, and business intelligence across the enterprise.

prairieFyre Ignite combines an ACD soft phone, enterprise presence and real-time contact center information in a familiar Lync 2010-based client. From Ignite, agents can login to queues and control their availability with user-defined reason codes. Agent states are fully synchronized with the enterprise presence capability of Lync Server 2010. prairieFyre Ignite also supports the headsets and desktop sets “optimized for” Lync.

prairieFyre Contact Center automates management reporting, forecasting and scheduling allowing supervisors to focus on their Key Performance Indicators and continually improve operational effectiveness. Reports can be run on-demand or scheduled to be automatically generated and emailed at specific times. Supervisors can chose from 120 report templates or use the Flexible Reporting module to create their own custom reports. Powerful Forecasting and Scheduling modules allow supervisors to create and publish agent shift schedules and ensure service levels are met through real-time adherence alarms. All reports and schedules are rendered from the Microsoft SQL Server database in preformatted Microsoft Excel or Adobe® PDF formats. The suite is designed to work on a single Microsoft server platform with Windows 7 on the user desktop.

With its broad functionality and modular design, prairieFyre Contact Center for Microsoft Lync can be tailored to businesses of any size or industry in departmental, standalone, or geographically dispersed deployments.

speakfeelSpeakFeel, a mobile marketing agency and product development firm based in Guelph, has secured two valuable assets: One of the industry’s top mobile-app developers and a new mobile analytics software that is already generating buzz in the industry.

Harry Scanlan joined SpeakFeel almost a year ago and quickly proved his credentials as one of the industry’s top mobile app developers. Now Scanlan has joined the SpeakFeel management team as a partner and has taken a seat on the Board of Directors of the fast-growing company.

The SpeakFeel partnership group also includes Kelly Brooks, who has over 13 years experience in managing web application projects and online branding strategy, Noel Webb, a nine-year veteran in the field of digital and social media, and Rudy Diemer, founder and President of RKD Web Studios Inc.Harry Scanlan

“Harry’s unique skill is developing bullet-proof blueprints for mobile apps and then leading a team of developers to bring apps to fruition quickly and effectively,” says Brooks, President of SpeakFeel. “A mobile app developer like Harry who works across all the platforms, including BlackBerry, is an extremely valuable asset and very difficult to find. Harry is key to our growth going forward.”

As the new Director of Mobile Technology, Scanlan will manage the team of developers as well as networks, hosting and security. He will also drive research and development with new devices. The SpeakFeel team works across all major platforms including BlackBerry, Android, iPhone and Windows Phone.

“At SpeakFeel we’ve aligned our business and technical expertise to position ourselves as leaders in both client and in-house product development for mobile,” says Scanlan. “I look forward to the exciting future we have together, not only with Noel and Kelly but also our talented development and management team.”

SpeakFeel has secured another important building block for the future. In joining the partnership team, Scanlan brings Devilytics to the mobile app agency too. SpeakFeel now has full ownership of the impressive and easy-to-implement online mobile application analytics tool. Devilytics enables mobile app developers and owners to track downloads, usage and other items such as errors, GPS and cell tower location from a beautifully simple online interface.

“Acquiring full ownership of Devilytics allows us to give our mobile-app development clients complete transparency into how customers use their apps,” says Webb, Vice-president/Chairman of SpeakFeel. “Now we deliver leading-edge apps backed by a tool that drills down and delivers data to determine return-on- investment.”

Canada's Walk of FameAnd finally today, after more than 12 years as the symbol of Canada’s Walk of Fame, the emblematic maple leaf “star” evolves to shine ever brighter with the introduction of a new icon commemorating Canadian excellence. The Board of Directors of Canada’s Walk of Fame has announced the launch of a redesigned logo to celebrate and symbolize a new era of Canadian excellence. The new mark was developed by recently appointed agency of record, TAXI 2.

“Never before has Canadian pride been so resonant across this great country and our new star becomes the heart and soul of a legacy that future generations can enjoy,” said Peter Soumalias, President and CEO of Canada’s Walk of Fame. “I’m particularly pleased with the new look as it represents the outcome of terrific creative work on behalf of our new ad agency, who truly embraced the brand and with their insight and understanding of the essence of Canada’s Walk of Fame, produced a truly distinctive graphic branding approach.”

The concept behind the new logo — connecting five maple leaves forming a singular star — is inspired by the bond of Canadian pride that we all share. The logo evokes the notion that as Canadians, we all contribute to the success of our country. Occasionally, Soumalias suggested, exceptional individuals rise to be recognized and our appreciation of their achievements as well as our celebration of their fame can make us all feel part of a greater whole.

“Before we started working with Canada’s Walk of Fame, we thought we knew what it meant to be ‘proud Canadians’,” said Dave Watson, Creative Director at TAXI. “But now our pride is at an all-time high. We wanted the new logo and visual identity to reflect the important work that Canada’s Walk of Fame does in shining the spotlight on Canadian excellence from all aspects of our culture.”

A 60-second video spot, also created by TAXI 2, will play nationally in Cineplex theatres starting March 1.  The new logo has been integrated across all Canada’s Walk of Fame branding initiatives and will be implemented for the 2011 inductions.

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23rd February 2011

Digital Developments

Note: The World Wide Short Film Fest has opened Screenplay Giveaway to submissions.
Note: Nominations now open to Canada’s emerging technology companies for PricewaterhouseCoopers 2011 Innovator of the Year Award.

Game Prototype ChallengeThe third Game Prototype Challenge ended earlier this week with a total of ten game submissions centering around the theme of Loneliness and Dimensions. There are some very cool ideas in this last round, and considering that they were all done as side projects between February 14th and February 21st just makes them even better. The Challenge just keeps growing with every iteration, and I am looking forward to seeing comes out in the next one in March.Hothead Games

The final installment of the Ask Dr. Mike video series has been released by Hothead Games. Check out the in-studio rivalry between Producer Joel DeYoung and Lead Designer Pete Low as Joel tries to trump Pete’s new high score in the upcoming platformer Swarm.

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Watch the gameplay carefully and listen closely to the commentary for some inside secrets on game-play and high scoring tactics. See how the sacrificing of squishy blue guys will lead you to multiplier supremacy and achievement completion.

University of WaterlooPost-secondary students these days have so many cool new specialty areas to study, sometimes I wish I could go back to school full-time. Yes, I liked school. Except for Math. And Science. History, Law and English – those were my favourites. There weren’t really any courses leading towards any specific type of creative career when I was in high school, not counting the classes for performing arts or traditional trades like welding and wood-working.

A new graduate studies programme has been introduced at Waterloo University’s Stratford Campus. The Master of Digital Innovation (MDI) is a one year project-based interdisciplinary degree programme. Students will work through the programme as they would if they were working for an employer, in teams, working on core projects. Throughout the process of completing these projects, students will consult with faculty and industry partners, gaining hands-on experience in many areas, including Team Building, Design Thinking and Business Modelling as well as Marketing Strategy and Critical Cultural Analysis. That last one sounds like it involves Math.

This new full-time program, which will be offered for the first time in Fall 2011 pending final Ontario Council on Graduate Studies approval, will take place over three consecutive terms: Fall, Winter and Spring.

The Fall Session will focus on Working in Teams, Principles of Marketing in a Globalized World, Digital Media Solutions Design and New Perspectives on Media History and Analysis.  During the Winter Session, students will continue Working in Teams as they look at Digital Media Solutions: Project Management, Media Innovation and Impact as well as Understanding the Consumer Universe. The Spring session focuses entirely on Projects.

Longbow GamesLongbow Games has launched the latest game in their Hegemony series of historical RTS wargames. Hegemony Gold: Wars of Ancient Greece expands upon last year’s PAX 10 finalist Hegemony: Philip of Macedon, adding two new campaigns and an all new diplomacy system plus an open sandbox mode with 26 playable factions and significant gameplay upgrades and refinements. The game is available online from Longbow, priced at $29.99 for the complete version or $9.99 as an upgrade from the original game.

“After spending the last year building a community and talking to fans about what they liked best in the first Hegemony, we’re really excited to show off all that we’ve added for Hegemony Gold,” said Jim McNally, President and Lead Designer of Hegemony Gold Wars of Ancient GreeceLongbow Games. “Not only do the new features significantly expand the range and depth of the tactics in Hegemony but the new campaigns and sandbox mode exponentially increase the amount of gameplay available.”

Conquer the ancient Greek world in Hegemony Gold: Wars of Ancient Greece, a real-time strategy wargame that expands and refines the award-winning Hegemony: Philip of Macedon with brand new content and features. Experience the full range of warfare from reconnaissance and raids to field battles and mountain blockades as you campaign across a continuous satellite-accurate map of ancient Greece. Siege and starve your enemy by cutting their supply lines or burning their crops, all the while building and protecting your own supply network to support your growing kingdom. Play as Macedonia, Athens, or Sparta in the three historical campaigns, or choose one of the 26 factions in the epic sandbox mode and forge your own empire. With a dynamic new diplomacy system and greatly expanded tactics, Hegemony Gold sets the new standard for ancient IUGOwarfare.

IUGO Mobile Entertainment has released a trailer for its latest announced title, Pricklees, which has been submitted to Apple for approval. Jump, duck and roll to the beat with the Pricklees in this new music game that features 3 adorable characters you wish you could cuddle, if they weren’t covered in prickles.

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There are 3 levels of difficulty in the game: easy, medium and hard for tons of replayability, with more unlockable content through IAP. Dead easy controls and intuitive UI in dynamic 2D/3D environments allow for unique rhythm-based gameplay with 7 Fresh Electronic tracks and more songs coming in future updates.

TVOTVO is pleased to announce the launch of its new digital Public Archive, a free online resource that unlocks four decades of made-at-TVO educational programming that stands the test of time. The centerpiece of TVO’s 40th anniversary celebrations, TVO’s Public Archive is full of rare moments in television history including:

* popular Saturday Night at the Movies host Elwy Yost’s conversations with film legends of the 70s and 80s;
* insights from some of the greatest minds in science and technology like Richard Dawkins, John Polanyi, Carl Sagan and Steve Wozniak;
* interviews with political leaders including every Ontario Premier since John Robarts;
* rare moments with Canadian icons like Mordecai Richler, Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence and John Candy;
* and Canadian heroes like Jane Jacobs, June Callwood and Roberta Bondar.

TVO’s Public Archive is a valuable resource for researchers, filmmakers, writers, bloggers and anyone who wants to learn more about the cultural history that has made Ontario what it is today, and features beloved TVO programs that have defined TVO over the years. It launches with over 375 programs and segments that would take more than five days to watch.

The site includes episodes of Polka Dot Door, Today’s Special, Prisoners of Gravity, Imprint, Realities, Studio 2, the interviews portion of Saturday Night at the Movies, The Education of Mike McManus, Between the Lines and more. It also includes the new “Think Again” podcast series where programs are re-cut and re-mixed, examining important issues and placing them in context of the world today. New content that can be searched by program title, year, guest, subject or playlist will be added to the Public Archive regularly.

OMDCThe Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) today launched a major international TV, print and online campaign to showcase Ontario’s thriving cultural media sector. The campaign encourages consumers and investors to “be part of it” by buying Ontario’s award-winning cultural media products and investing in the province’s dynamic companies.

The six-week television campaign, showcasing more than 80 Ontario companies and world-renowned cultural exports, features a soundtrack by indie band Metric, which won the 2010 Juno Award for Best Alternative Album. The campaign was created by Toronto ad agency Brandworks International Inc. and will be supported by print and online ads in a variety of Canadian, U.S. and U.K. publications, along with an interactive website.

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Ontario’s entire creative cluster includes: book and magazine publishing, film and television, interactive digital media, music, performing arts, radio, advertising, architecture and design. Together, they contribute more than $ 12.2 billion to the provincial GDP and employ more than 300,000 people.

ubisoftUbisoft is going on tour with its Kinect titles, but it seems BC is not on the list, at least not yet. One would think that BC would be on the list considering that Ubisoft has a development studio in Vancouver. The only confirmed locations thus far are for Halifax, when they will be visiting the Halifax Discovery Centre on February 25th and 26th before moving on to the Wal-Mart at Halifax Shopping Centre on February 27th. All other provinces are listed as “Coming Soon” with BC and all three territories not appearing on the schedule at all.

frima studioFrima Studio has earned two of the five nominations given out for the Best PS3/PSP Mini Game by Sony Computer Entertainment of America for its 2011 PlayStation®Network Gamers’ Choice Awards. Frima’s latest effort, the aptly named A Space Shooter for Two Bucks!, has recently crossed the 100,000 downloads mark, and Young Thor is one of the most critically-acclaimed Minis in history.

Voting will be open for one week until Tuesday, March 1st, with PSN users across North America choosing their favorite game in each of the four categories by downloading a free XMB theme corresponding to that game, voting for one game in each category. When the voting is over, the winning game from each of the four categories will go on sale for 30% off at the PlayStation Store and 50% off to PlayStation Plus subscribers.

NexonNexon America has kicked off the second round of the Nexon iNitiative, a million dollar program designed with the intent to seek out the most promising independent video game projects and provide funding to support the next generation of game developers from around the world. Open for submissions until April 30th, the Nexon iNitiative will award game developers a share of $1 million in development funds for projects that align with Nexon’s focus on community building and long-term user engagement.
antic entertainment
The first Nexon iNitiative was launched in March 2010, which saw Canadian developer Antic Entertainment and Polish developer one2tribe chosen from a pool of more than 100 candidates in 2010. Each of the studios earned a share of more than $1 million in development funding. Both companies are currently creating online game projects that will be co-developed and published through Nexon’s global distribution network, which currently services 30 games in more than 71 countries.

Through the Nexon iNitiative, Nexon is looking for potential games that have wide-ranging audience appeal and which encourage community and social interaction. Flash, client-based games or ports from other platforms are all welcome submissions. Games with strong online and multi platform elements will get serious consideration, as will game concepts that align with Nexon’s goals.

Rogers Digital MediaRogers Media (RMI) today announced the appointment of Jason Tafler to the newly created position, Chief Digital Officer.  A veteran of the U.S. and Canadian digital sector, Tafler comes to Rogers from PointRoll, a leading provider of innovative digital marketing solutions and technology based in Pennsylvania.Jason Tafler

Tafler will be responsible for strategic and operational leadership for the Digital division of Rogers Media with accountability for financial and operational targets.  Rogers Digital Media is responsible for over 250 Rogers Digital products including brand websites, mobile products and client microsites as well as pure digital plays such as Sweetspot.ca,  BRANCHEZ -VOUS!, PoolExpert and Canadian Parents.  The range of partnerships and acquisitions brings Rogers Digital Media over 16 million unique viewers per month and reaches 65% of Canadians online.  As well, Rogers Digital Media provides ad solutions and content for Rogers Communications and ad representation for foreign clients.

Tafler grew up in Toronto and has spent most of the past decade of his career in the U.S. building, advising and investing in entrepreneurial growth-oriented companies in the media, advertising and technology industries.  He joined PointRoll in 2005 and became CEO in 2008.  Prior to PointRoll, he worked in a boutique investment bank in New York and with Zoomer Media and First Marathon Securities in Canada.

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