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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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November 7, 2007 10:39 AM

Protelus dubbed most promising startup, best pitch

Posted by Brier Dudley

Protelus, a Bellevue data-mining company you've probably never heard of, was deemed the most promising startup at a funding forum held Tuesday night by The Indus Entrepreneurs' Seattle chapter and the Harvard and Wharton schools of business.

The firm also won the event's "best pitch" award for the five-minute spiel by its president, Craig Chelius, who earlier co-founded Primus Knowledge Solutions.

Protelus beat out five other companies that presented to a panel of venture capitalists and startup veterans.

Protelus helps mortgage companies better monetize their customer data, charging them to capture and clean data.

Sales are expected to double this year to $1 million and the company expects to reach $68.4 million by 2010, if it's not already acquired by a big financial services company.

Meanwhile, it's looking for funding, beyond the $2,500 in prize money it took home last night, to expand sales and marketing.

A third prize, for "most innovative" company, went to SpringStar, a Woodinville company developing non-toxic pest control products.

SpringStar already sells such products as yellow jacket traps through Molbak's, Fred Meyer and other retailers, but panelists were intrigued by new technology that founder Michael Banfield called "bio-mimicry" because it uses "natural biological communication to repel and attract pests."

Dubbed the SpringStar Sonic System, the product is based on research into pheremones and "songs" bugs use to communicate. Banfield said it's "the iPod of pest control."

Banfield is raising $900,000 in series A funding that values the company at $2.7 million. He's expecting sales to rise from $1. 4 million to $20 million a year after the sonic system gets going, and predicts SingStar will be acquired by one of the big industry players.

Also presenting were:

-- JDL Digital Systems, a Bellevue company that has developed software for video surveillance systems it provides to government and businesses, particularly casinos. Chief Executive Victor Huang said the industry is fragmented and JDL's solutions are far easier to manage. He's expecting 50 casino deals next year to boost sales beyond its current $2 million.

Huang is trying to raise $1.5 million -- valuing the company at $6 million -- to invest in sales and marketing.

-- TeachStreet is a Seattle company aiming to connect people with instructors, replacing bulletin boards, catalogs and Craigslist ads people generally use now.

It sounds to me like a digital version of lifelong learning programs such as the UW's Experimental College, but TeachStreet has bigger amibitions. It's using vendors in India and the Philippines to scour the Internet and build directories of teachers in cities across the country.

In Seattle, the six-person company is building a Web site where instructors can post profiles that include recommendations from former students.

TeachStreet's chief executive, Dave Schappell, was formerly a director at Amazon.com, where he helped develop the marketplace platform. Its chief technology officer, Fred Sadaghiani, previously worked at Amazon and Zillow.

Schappell said TeachStreet has raised $550,000 so far, but he's looking for $1.75 million, which would give investors 25 percent of the company that he compared to eBay and Yelp.

-- CondoCompare is a Seattle company building a site for searching and listing condomium listings. Chief Executive Casey Sullivan plans to make money primarily from referral fees paid by real estate agents, but also from contextual ads.

Sullivan said the site is working with brokerages -- so far in Washington, Oregon and California -- so it can obtain MLS data feeds. Within three years it hopes to reach 150 markets, but expansion costs the company $20,000 to $50,000 per market so he's looking for funding.

-- Artemisia BioMedical is a Newcastle-based company developing anti-cancer drugs based on old malaria drugs, drawing on research at the University of Washington and Johns Hopkins University.

The company is working with artemisinin, a malaria drug that researchers in 1993 found can kill cancer cells. Targeted compounds based on the drug were developed in 2003 and 2004, and the company was founded in 2006.

It's now seeking $2 million for further development, an investment that would put the valuation of the company at $10 million, according to Senior Vice President Dilip Worah, formerly chief scientific officer at Nastech Pharmaceuticals. Artemisia's chief executive, Michael Kuran, co-founded Fulcrum Ventures and earlier was a ZymoGenetics manager.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.