Conference Curator: Kelly Lynne Ashton, Screen-based media consultant
Trained as an entertainment lawyer, Kelly Lynne Ashton has been working in the Canadian film, television and digital media industries for over twenty years. She has worked as a business affairs executive in several Toronto television production and distribution companies, including Atlantis Films Limited and the Owl Group of Companies. Kelly Lynne then entered the world of digital media to act as Senior Producer at children’s web studio Big Orbit Inc. While at Big Orbit she also developed, managed and marketed the online youth research company Reactorz. She has also worked in government relations and media policy as Director of Policy at the Writers Guild of Canada.
Kelly Lynne is currently bringing together the different strands of her career in the Canadian media industries – legal, business, marketing and research – and providing consulting services to clients in all areas of the industry including Interactive Ontario, the Bell Fund, Shaw Rocket Fund, conducting industry research on co-production and Diversity and Inclusion and acting as Programming Consultant for CMPA’s Prime Time in Ottawa 2015 and Conference Curator for GameON: Ventures 2016. Kelly Lynne is actively working to implement insights she learned from recently completing a Certificate in Leadership and Inclusion from Centennial College.
IO thanks the following professionals for their invaluable support and input during the creation of iVentures 2017.
Sasha Boersma – Co-founder/Producer, Sticky Brain Studios
Sasha’s 15-year career in Canadian screen media industries has spanned across game studios, television producers, funding agencies, and academia. Sasha is Co-founder/Producer at Sticky Brain Studios, where she is responsible for project management and business affairs. Since 2013, Sticky Brain Studios has developed over 25 games and apps for clients, ranging from television broadcasters to health tech, to not-for-profits. Their first independent game, Loki’s Castle, will be released for iOS and Android devices in 2017.
She is also contract faculty at Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre where she teaches post-graduate courses on accounting, marketing, business and entrepreneurship to future interactive media, games, and television producers. Previously, Sasha worked on a number of interactive digital media projects as a freelance Producer / Business Analyst where her clients included both game studios and television production companies. She started her career at the Bell Fund, then moved to marblemedia where she held various posts in business affairs and produced award-winning interactive projects. Sasha currently sits on the WIFT-Toronto Board of Directors and the OMDC IDM Industry Advisory Committee. She is also a member of Interactive Ontario and Dames Making Games.
Vikas Gupta – CEO, AVARA Media
Vikas Gupta is a digital media veteran who has spent almost two decades immersed in technology, media, entertainment. Vikas is a charismatic leader who defines himself as a seasoned executive with an entrepreneurial DNA. He has worked with some of the biggest video games brands and IPs in the world, negotiated strategic agreements and partnerships with top global companies, and forged distribution channels for content on a range of devices and platforms worldwide.
Vikas was formerly the CEO of Big Blue Bubble and established the company as the largest independent mobile games developer in Canada, ranking among the 50 fastest growing technology companies in the nation. Prior to Big Blue Bubble, Vikas was the CEO of TransGaming, a publicly listed multi-national global leader in the cross platform deployment of electronic entertainment and the delivery of video games to Smart TV and OTT devices. The company’s technology unit was acquired by NVIDIA.
Vikas is an advisor, mentor, investor, board member to many organizations from innovative start-ups to not-for-profit organizations. He is on the Board of Directors of Interactive Ontario, Prince’s Charities Canada Patrons Council, Alumni Council University of Waterloo, Board of Advisors University of Waterloo Stratford Campus, and served as an advisor on the Ontario Premier’s digital media roundtable and was on the digital media advisory board for the Ontario Minister of Culture, Tourism & Sport. Vikas is also a member of the prestigious global network of CEOs, Young President’s Organization (YPO) and is on the YPO Toronto Chapter board.
Vikas is a proud alumni of the University of Waterloo and was the recipient of the University of Waterloo Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015. He also won the ICCC Entrepreneur of the Year Award and has been recognized in the PROFIT 50, PROFIT 100, TSX 50 and has appeared in a range of print, digital, and television media.
Christian Latour – Product Manager, Battlegoat Studios
Christian has worked in the video game industry for nearly 20 years. From 2001 to 2013 he was directly involved in the development, production and launch of five titles over thirteen years as Game Designer at BattleGoat Studios in Hamilton. Christian helped establish feature road-maps and project timelines to meet contractual obligations from publishers as well as fulfill the role of Customer Service Manager, supporting the studio’s community to increase acquisitions and cross marketing between titles. Joining SHG Studios in 2014 gave Christian the chance to gain experience in the Free2Play market on both mobile and web with the release of two more titles. His contributions included marketing, financial reporting, game design, third party relations and customer relations management. As of 2017, Christian has returned to BattleGoat Studios, now as a project manager, to help launch their latest game and undertake a new project, as yet unannounced.
Lydia Sani – Co-founder and Managing Partner, Redwood Performance Group
Lydia Sani is co-founder and managing partner of Redwood Performance Group. Redwood plans, designs and builds eLearning that sticks for organizations that need their people to comply with business practices, perform to achieve goals and engage with passion. Redwood also offers hosting services through its agile learning management system (VIBE). A graduate of Concordia University’s Communications program, Lydia was a partner in Invisions Productions, one of Canada’sleaders in innovative events to engage top performers and jump start major initiatives. She started Redwood to address gaps that were in the online learning market with great results, including multiple Institute for Performance and Learning (formerly CSTD) awards. Lydia sits on the board of Interactive Ontario, has presented many papers on soft skills eLearning and other high performance learning initiatives.
Marcelo Serres – Director of Technology and Game Production, Pebblekick
Marcelo is the current Director of Technology and Game Production of Pebblekick Inc. A Publisher / Developer based in Pasadena, CA. with offices in Seoul and Santiago.
Working in Creative Industries for more than a decade in different projects and roles, not only in Latam, also Globally, allows him to have an excellent understanding in how design, tech and business fuse together in order to define and seek flexible business opportunities that could fit each project and its specific features.
He previously was Chairman of the board for VG Chile (Chilean video game developers association) and head of IGDA chapter in Chile. Worked in +50 Games in his previously Co-founded Video game development studio back in Chile. Along with regularly giving lectures about Game Design, Tech. Development and Production for local Universities, He has been consulting for Autodesk and Unity Training and Certification Programs.
Sean Skelton – MTS Software Engineer, AMD
Sean Skelton is a programmer with 20 years of game development experience with a focus on graphics and performance. Sean has always been interested in the challenge of pushing real time rendering techniques to deliver stunning visuals. He has been at AMD since 2009 where he is currently leading the Special Projects team. Previously Sean worked in game development where he has contributed to over 10 shipping titles.
Heather Steele – Communications Director, Ubisoft
A strategic communications leader with 20 years’ experience building global brands and growing successful companies, Heather Steele is driven by creativity and the fast pace of innovative industries. In her role as Communications Director at Ubisoft Toronto, Heather helps the game development studio successfully grow the team while maintaining its strong studio culture and commitment to develop the highest quality games. Currently, the studio is on track to grow to 800 talented creators by 2020.
Heather is passionate about helping to grow the games industry in Ontario and around the world, through her role as a member of the Interactive Ontario Board of Directors, the SXSW Interactive Advisory Committee, and her numerous volunteer efforts to help women and girls in game development and STEM.
Prior to joining Ubisoft Toronto, Heather was Vice President at High Road Communications, leading business development and communications strategy focused on results-driven marketing communications, media relations, and social media. Her clients included Microsoft Canada, Xbox Canada, Disney Interactive Canada, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Facebook and the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC).
Heather holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto and a Post-Graduate Communications Certificate from Humber College. You can find her on Twitter @hsteele sharing thoughts on the latest video game releases, the hottest new restaurants, or the latest episode of The Walking Dead.
Tom (Zhongning) Tang – Independent Game Consultant
Tom Tang is the former CEO and founder of Astepgame, the award-winning mobile game developer in China. He moved to Ontario in the fall of 2016, and he’s currently an independent consultant for several game companies both in Canada and China.
Tom joined Objectsoft, one of the oldest game companies in China, in 1996. He started his career from a 3D Artist, then a Game Designer, and finally the Producer. Tom has served as the Product Manager, Lead Game Designer and Producer in a few other game companies including one of the most successful online game publishers in China. Before starting his own company in 2010, he had spent 4 years with Microsoft, working on Xbox 360 localization projects.
Throughout his 21-year career, Tom has established a reputation as a transformational leader who is driven by entrepreneurial challenge, undeterred by development obstacles, and committed to furthering standards of excellence in game development and team leadership.