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December 13, 2007

Sharebuilder's Jeff Seely moves to Jobster

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:34 PM

A spokesperson at Jobster said today Jeff Seely will replace Jason Goldberg, the company's founder, as chief executive.

Seely was the CEO at Sharebuilder until last month when the Bellevue online brokerage was purchased by ING Direct. At the time, Seely said that he planned to look for new opportunities.

The transition will take place Jan. 7.

Jobster's board has been hunting for a new top executive at the recruiting company. Goldberg will become vice chairman of the board.

December 11, 2007

Smilebox raises $7 million in VC

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:14 AM

Redmond-based Smilebox said today that it has raised $7 million in venture capital from Bessemer Venture Partners, and Frazier Technology Partners.

Smilebox is the modern-day Hallmark of sorts. It allows you to upload your digital photos, and then make slideshows, electronic cards, scrapbooks and other stuff.

The company's Web site has a blog link where you can see the "Smilebox of the week." The most recent entry is a slideshow of a family's trip to a pumpkin patch set to music.

The second round of funding will go toward expanding internationally, adding partners and moving Smilebox's features over to new platforms, the company said.

"Smilebox has pioneered the multimedia expressions category and established a proven business model. The service combines technology innovation with a strong focus on ease of use," said Rob Stavis at Bessemer Venture Partners.

Smilebox said in its release that more than 1.8 million users have installed the service since its launch in June 2006, and more than 1.3 million unique users worldwide access it monthly.

December 6, 2007

Strong links between entrepreneurs and dyslexia

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:53 PM

A new study suggests that a "staggering" number of entrepreneurs in the U.S. identify themselves as dyslexic, according to a story in the International Herald Tribune.

The report said that of the entrepreneurs interviewed, 35 percent said they were dyslexic. The study also concluded that dyslexics were more likely to delegate authority and to excel in oral communication and problem solving. They were also twice as likely to own two or more businesses.

One good example in our own back yard is Craig McCaw, who has a long list of companies he started: Clearwire, Nextel Communications, XO Communications, Teledesic and McCaw Cellular Communications,

Members of his executive teams frequently describe him as being creative, not too wrapped up in the details, and capable of delegating authority.

The article pointed out that the connection between entrepreneurs and dyslexia has been made before. Fortune had a cover story five years ago mentioning McCaw, but also Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways; Charles Schwab, founder of the discount brokerage that bears his name; John Chambers, chief executive of Cisco; and Paul Orfalea, founder of the Kinko's copy chain.

Why is this?

Julie Logan, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London, who conducted the study, said:

"We found that dyslexics who succeed had overcome an awful lot in their lives by developing compensatory skills. If you tell your friends and acquaintances that you plan to start a business, you'll hear over and over, 'It won't work. It can't be done.' But dyslexics are extraordinarily creative about maneuvering their way around problems."

The study was based on a survey of 139 business owners in a wide range of fields across the U.S.

Logan called the results staggering, especially when juxtaposed with the information that about 10 percent of Americans are believed to have dyslexia.

Global venture capital investments are up

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:21 AM

A study released late Tuesday says global venture capital investments this year are on pace to record the highest annual total since 2001, according to Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young.

This year, investment is expected to top $40 billion at the close of the fourth quarter while the number of deals should reach about 3,884, or similar to levels in 2003.

Driving this growth are investments in a broader range of sectors and geographic areas. The hot areas are cleantech and medical devices, and the two geographic regions of increasing importance are Beijing and Bangalore.

Also driving some of this growth is an increase in exits for VCs, which allow them to get some of their money back.

Here's a chart depicting the number of venture-backed IPOs:

IPOS07.bmp

The U.S. is the worldwide leader in cleantech investments:

cleantech07.bmp

The report also offered a prediction for 2008. Pending an economic downturn in the U.S. or the world, investing will likely continue to be robust. In addition, large multinational corporations are expected to increase their investments, and new geographies in Asia and growth in health care and cleantech innovations in energy and water will drive further growth.

Global venture capital investments are up

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:21 AM

A study released late Tuesday says global venture capital investments this year are on pace to record the highest annual total since 2001, according to Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young.

This year, investment is expected to top $40 billion at the close of the fourth quarter while the number of deals should reach about 3,884, or similar to levels in 2003.

Driving this growth are investments in a broader range of sectors and geographic areas. The hot areas are cleantech and medical devices, and the two geographic regions of increasing importance are Beijing and Bangalore.

Also driving some of this growth is an increase in exits for VCs, which allow them to get some of their money back.

Here's a chart depicting the number of venture-backed IPOs:

IPOS07.bmp

The U.S. is the worldwide leader in cleantech investments:

cleantech07.bmp

The report also offered a prediction for 2008. Pending an economic downturn in the U.S. or the world, investing will likely continue to be robust. In addition, large multinational corporations are expected to increase their investments, and new geographies in Asia and growth in health care and cleantech innovations in energy and water will drive further growth.

November 29, 2007

NetMotion Wireless is on the upswing

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:21 PM

The Seattle-area is known for its expertise in the wireless industry.

It is and has been the home of the biggest in the game, including AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile USA, Western Wireless, Nextel Partners, Clearwire and more.

Although T-Mobile and Clearwire are the only remaining wireless operators here, it's no less of a wireless town. Tthe focus is changing instead from infrastructure to software. There are Microsoft and RealNetworks, and a host of smaller venture-backed companies doing everything from search, gaming, photo sharing and social networking.

One company that gets a little less ink, but has been around for years and is making some headway is NetMotion Wireless.

I had a chance to catch up this week with Tom Johnston, NetMotion's senior vice president of product and marketing, to get a status report.

The Seattle-based company isn't doing anything flashy. It is solely focused on the behind-the-scenes of the enterprise workforce. It focuses on helping businesses run efficiently on wireless networks. It does so by helping workers keep their applications up and running even if they momentarily drop their wireless data connection, whether they are traveling through a canyon or repairing an elevator.

What does this mean?

It means that an employee who is using ar laptop or a handheld device in the field won't be kicked out of business applications, such as a billing system, when a cell signal fades. Similarly, police or fire personnel could continue to search driver's license databases when a connection is going in and out.

Without NetMotion, it's often the case that the application will shut down and freeze when a connection is lost. We're not talking about e-mail here, but large billing, expense, sales or other systems. If this happens, an employee often has to call headquarters to report the information, which can be a waste of time.

How does it work?

NetMotion places a server in a company's data center that fools an application into thinking the connection is maintained depsite what is going on in the field.

Johnston said demand for NetMotion products is increasing because more field workers have laptops with data cards or high-end phones.

Today, the company has about 1,000 customers using 200,000 devices. Its revenues for the first three quarters of this year are up 66 percent compared with the same period last year, and the number of licenses has jumped 71 percent.

It serves companies such as Cox Communications, the nation's third largest cable provide. It has 3,500 technicians using NetMotion. The Orange County Sheriff's Department has 400 officers using the software.

NetMotion has come a long way. The company was spun off from WRQ in 2001, and was backed by venture capitalists. In 2006, it had a patent-infringement tiff with Bethlehem, Pa.-based Padcom. They resolved their issues and decided to merge the two companies.

Today, the company has 90 employees.

November 28, 2007

Startup Sotto partners up with established XO

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:54 PM

A little more than a year ago, I wrote a story about Bellevue-based Sotto Wireless, a startup founded by three experienced executives coming out of AT&T Wireless.

The business revolves around simplifying telecommunications for small- to medium-size businesses by selling them one service they can use outdoors on the cellular network and indoors on Wi-Fi. It eliminates multiple bills, phone numbers and voicemail boxes.

A year later, Rod Nelson says the company is in the thick of it, having launched services in Charlotte, N.C., and in Seattle.

Today, it announced it is partnering with XO Communications in Seattle. Sotto will bundle XO's broadband services with its offerings to small-and-medium-sized business, and XO has agreed to resell Sotto's services.

Sotto falls into the highly talked about wireless sector called "fixed mobile convergence," or FMC for short. FMC mixes both the luxuries of landlines with the flexibility of wireless phones.

For instance, someone calling an employee using one of the Sotto phones will have no idea if he is reaching that person in the office or on a mobile phone. Phone calls can be transferred between employees, and all voicemail goes into one inbox.

When the employee is in the office, the phone operates over Wi-Fi, saving minutes on the company's cellular plans, but then it automatically switches over to cellular when the person leaves the office, Nelson said.

He added that the increased attention and focus on FMC has helped the business in the past year. T-Mobile USA started offering a service called T-Mobile Hotspot@Home in that time. That service allows consumers to use a Wi-Fi network in the house for better indoor coverage and to save money.

At the minimum, Nelson said efforts such as those are encouraging more handset manufacturers to include Wi-Fi in phones. Right now, Sotto Wireless resells Nokia handsets, but in the next year he expects to start offering Windows Mobile and other smartphones.

Paul Merritt, general manager of XO in Seattle, said the partnership places XO six months to a year ahead of its competition. He doesn't know of any of his competitors that are reselling cellular services. Because of this, he's allowed all of his 12 sales reps to offer the service to new and existing customers.

"It was a natural fit, there's nothing close to this on the market," he said.

Nelson said if the trial goes well in Seattle, it will eventually will roll out to the 75 markets that XO serves around the country.

HipCricket's IPO raises money for wireless play

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:39 PM

Earlier this week, I drove to Bellevue to sit down with Ivan Braiker and Eric Harber, HipCricket's chief executive and president, respectively.

We gathered in Braiker's office, which was surprisingly bare of any decorations, artwork or anything.

Turns out everything is packed up. The company is expanding so fast it needs to move to a larger office. Braiker even joked that as soon as he takes off for a sales trip, the employees celebrate -- up to three employees can fit and work in his office.

They'll have about 50 employees by the end of the year and are expecting to add about four or five a month, Braiker said.

What's HipCricket doing that's driving so much growth?

It helps radio and TV stations make their one-way media become interactive by allowing listeners and readers to send text messages to the station in response to advertising. At the same time, the system is used to increase the effectiveness of the ads. In doing so, the stations' can charge more.

It's good to step back every once in a while and hear examples of what is actually successful and making it in these frothy wireless days, where everyone has an idea for cellphones.

HipCricket seems to be addressing something spot on.

In a report published Tuesday by Seattle-based M:Metrics, 94.9 million mobile subscribers said they sent a text message in the three months ended September, or about 44 percent of U.S. cellphone users.

Here's some of the examples of how HipCricket is being used:

-- KUBE 93.3, the radio station in Seattle, regularly uses the system. For instance, it aired a McDonald's commercial that asked listeners to text a five-digit short-code to get a two-for-one coupon for cheeseburgers.

-- In Los Angeles, a local coffee shop offered a coupon for two-for-one iced lattes.

-- In yet another market, a company holding a job fair said if people sent a text message, they would get a text reminder the day of the fair.

Braiker said that these offers are generating a response rate of about 40 percent, a much greater rate than traditional means of advertising.

"TV and radio has struggled over proving accountability [that people are indeed listening and watching]," he said. "By the end of the day, they now know how many people have replied."

In the case of the L.A. station, Coffee Bean became a HipCricket customer so it could use the technology across all radio stations in all of its markets, not just the one in L.A.

Braiker said this is why HipCricket is growing so fast. Sister radio stations, TV stations, newspapers and even the brands themselves are using its technology.

The company, almost 4 years old, has about 200 customers and has managed 16,000 campaigns.

HipCricket charges a flat rate and provides a number of ways for the stations to make money. The station usually charges an advertiser a premium to add a text message to its commercial, but ads can also be added at the bottom of a text message. For instance, people can text in to get a list of the last three songs that played on the radio. On the bottom of the reply would be a sponsorship ad.

HipCricket can also be used to boost a station's audience. People may be willing to sign up for alerts, telling them to tune in when a prize is about to be given away.

The company has been backed by a number of private investors, and is profitable. But for now, Braiker said profitability is not a goal -- it makes more sense to invest and grow.

"We are in the middle of a land grab," he said.

UPDATE: Late Monday night, HipCricket went public on the London Stock Exchange's AIM. It raised about $17 million and has a market capitalization of $155.4 million. In this press release here, Braiker said: "The additional funding puts us in an excellent position to capitalize on the increasing opportunities ahead of us, providing a strong base to grow the company organically and also fund expansion in US markets. Our AIM listing will significantly enhance our ability to serve our existing UK investors."

November 19, 2007

Startups better see something Gates doesn't

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:55 PM

In addition to the somewhat controversial statements Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates made Friday about an engineering talent shortage, there were several other interesting tidbits from his speech and question and answer session with an audience of high school, college and professional members of the National Society of Black Engineers.

For starters, the atmosphere in the room at Microsoft's conference center in Redmond differed dramatically from that of Microsoft's annual shareholder meeting, at which Gates spoke earlier in the week. Gates noticed it, too. After waiting through a long and loud standing ovation -- "Thank you. Thanks for having me. Thank you. All right, thanks very much." -- to begin his speech, he said, "I've been at a lot of meetings in this room, but I think you may be the most energetic group we've ever had here."

Gates compared the software development process to a much more mundane pursuit: bread baking.

"The pace is really something because whenever you come out with software, customers love to tell you what's right, they love to tell you what's wrong, and you know you can go out and do something new. It's not like working at a bread company where they ... go back and tell you they don't like bread anymore, and great, well, we're a bread company, what do they expect? We're not going to change our product."

The question-and-answer session, as is often the case with a young, engaged audience, was the best part. There were lots of questions about how Gates got started and how one could emulate his success.

Gates dismissed the personal risk he took of dropping out of Harvard to start Microsoft, saying, "I could have always gone back to school. When I started hiring my friends, and they had kids and things, then it was more risky, could I pay them? So I had to be really sure."

For those wondering how to build a Microsoft-sized company today, Gates said the trick is finding a big opportunity based on a major change that the big players -- himself included -- are missing. "You'd have to have an idea that's revolutionary. ... You'd have to have a breakthrough in artificial intelligence or robots or something that was so big that the existing companies really somehow just weren't getting their minds around it, and doing it well. ... So, you'd better see something I don't see if you want to start a company now."

November 7, 2007

Private equity already breaks last year's record

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:04 PM

U.S. private equity firms, including buyout and venture capital funds, have raised $263 billion so far this year, already breaking last year's fundraising record.

Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst reported that the record-breaking money was raised by 364 private equity funds. Last year, $258 billion was raised.

"With the present momentum and a full seven weeks left in the year, we could well see fund-raising break the $300 billion mark for the first time," said Jennifer Rossa, managing editor of Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst.

Buyout and corporate finance funds are attracting the lion's share of the money, accounting for about $203 billion, or roughly 77 percent of all capital raised this year.

Last month, Ignition Partners, a Bellevue-based venture capital firm, said it raised $675 million in capital.

November 6, 2007

ING Direct buys ShareBuilder.com for $220 million

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:18 PM

Amsterdam-based ING Direct, which has a U.S. banking subsidiary, said today that it is acquiring Bellevue-based ShareBuilder, an online brokerage business.

ING is paying $220 million, or 152 million euros, for Sharebuilder, which was founded in 1996.

I wrote a story about the company in 2004. At the time, it had 120 employees, and had raised $67 million in venture capital. The company started off as Netstock Direct, and launched ShareBuilder.com in 1999.

The company's business model included having co-branded relationships with more than 40 banks, 140 credit unions and other nonfinancial institutions, including Wells Fargo, National City Bank, Alaska Airlines, Costco and Safeco. It is also known for allowing people to individually invest by dollar figure instead of stock price. The end result is that the purchaser may own a partial share.

In 2005, I wrote about the company again, this time as part of a category of Northwest companies that were growing and had at least 100-plus employees -- and candidates for merger or an IPO.

Dick Harryvan, ING group executive board member and CEO of ING Direct, said in a press release:

"This acquisition is in line with ING Direct's aim to become the world's most preferred consumer bank by expanding geographically and developing its product range, while focusing on growing its mortgage business and investment services."
October 12, 2007

Voyager announces third fund/four investments

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:02 AM

Voyager Capital, a Seattle-based venture capital firm, said today that it has made four investments from its latest fund.

The new fund, the company's third, has made investments in: Ontela, a wireless company in Seattle; SEMDirector, a search marketing software firm in California; 1020, a California company pioneering location-aware advertising; and Yapta, an internet travel planning service in Seattle.

Voyager's fund has $107 million and will be used to invest in early stage companies in digital media, software and wireless -- both in the Northwest and in California, the company said in a release today.

In 2006, it was reported that Voyager was seeking to raise a third fund worth up to $200 million.

In all, Voyager has about $370 million under management.

September 14, 2007

Chinese business women look for local partners

Posted by Kristi Heim at 11:35 AM

When a business group from China visits a business group in Seattle, the odds are you'll see a lot men in dark suits. But earlier this week, an unusual group from China came through town: women entrepreneurs blazing a trail in a country where the odds are not often in their favor.

The visitors included Li Xiao Yan, the young general manager of Beijing Jingcheng Yanda Technology and Trade, a company specializing in energy conservation and management that she founded in Beijing. Li was looking for U.S. partners to provide energy technology products to China. Li's company is already importing energy management products from California. She said that with recent government incentives for technology that helps reduce electricity consumption, the opportunity is huge.

Led by Madam Feng Cui, president of the Chinese Association of Women Entrepreneurs, the eight women attended a reception in the waterfront Medina home of local businesswoman Laurie McDonald Jonsson. It was a reunion for some of the women, who met in China last year during a trip Jonsson organized for Stellar International Networks.


Wistar Kay/Stellar Networks

Li Xiao Yan (middle, in orange scarf) talks with Laurie McDonald Jonsson (in tan suit).

Their American counterparts were local lawyers, doctors, company executives, academics and others interested in making professional connections and friendships in China.

Another visitor, Li Daxiang, chair of Beijing Leitianxiang International Education and Culture Exchange, said she was anxious to meet Americans interested in exchange programs with China. Li said she hoped the problems with Chinese product quality would not put a damper on trade.


Wistar Kay/Stellar Networks

Zhang Zumei, general manager of a Macau investment company Kong Tai Luen Fat, tours the Jonsson house.

All of the entrepreneurs said they hoped that establishing friendships between American and Chinese women would build good will at a time when relations between their two countries are strained.

A few of the Chinese women were visiting the U.S. for the first time. As successful as they have become in the new capitalist China, they were clearly in awe of their surroundings, even without knowing they were just down the street from the richest man in the world. One local guest quipped: "I hope they don't think all Americans have homes like this."

August 30, 2007

Investments in clean energy grow worldwide

Posted by Kristi Heim at 11:11 AM

Venture capital investing in clean energy grew by almost 70 percent in 2006, to $18 billion, according to research firm New Energy Finance. And more than $10 billion was invested in companies and projects in the first half of 2007.

The group tracked more than 1,800 investors worldwide and recorded 193 funds that invest in clean energy.

Investment was highest in North America, with most of it going toward biofuels. In Europe private equity investment growth was strong, and in Asia investment was driven by pre-IPO investments in Chinese solar companies


AFP / GETTY IMAGES

Indonesia's biofuels program makes use of palm oil.


Looking at various industries, the investments broke down into $8.4 billion for wind, $4.7 for biofuels and $2.3 billion for solar, which together made up 86 percent of the total venture capital / private equity investment.

The report is available on New Energy Finance's website. It's called "Cleaning Up 2007."

August 29, 2007

Seattle game developer strikes again

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:46 AM

Peter Adkison, the entrepreneur and game developer who sold Wizards of the Coast to Hasbro for $500 million, must have been bored with early retirement.

His new Seattle company, Hidden City Games, is distributing a card game for girls called Bella Sara, hoping to replicate its popularity in Europe here in the U.S.

kristi3.JPG

In this game, every girl can have her own horse, at least a virtual one.

Bella Sara sells cards with whimsical, fantasy images of horses, linked to a game and an online site where players can take care of their own virtual horse. The game, created in Denmark, includes "positive messages designed to uplift girls and reinforce the principle that beauty comes from within," according to its publisher.

Bella Sara got a boost this week with a new distribution agreement allowing the cards to be sold at 2,500 stores around the country, including Borders, Waldenbooks, Barnes & Noble.

The idea that beauty comes from within could meet a challenging time here in the American setting. Considering all the beauty queens with DUIs, rehabs and jail sentences, says Bella Sera's publicist, it was hard to find a celebrity spokesperson "who wasn't a train wreck."

They finally chose Hayden Panettiere, the cheerleader from NBC's "Heroes" and "one of the few good girl celebrities out there," he said. Hope she likes horses, too.

New sports site launches today

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:06 AM

Seattle-based Ultra Unlimited said today that it launched SportsUltra.com, a site that provides custom sports news and video coverage based on the teams, players, blogs and sportswriters that users want to track.

The company said it eliminates the need to bookmark multiple sites to get the news people are looking for.

"Fans are ravenous for up-to-date news about their favorite teams and players, and RSS feeds and national sports sites only deliver a portion of that content for them. With SportsUltra.com, we have created a Web site that will give specific, local, and relevant sports content to these fans, just the way they want it," said Scott Decker, SportsUltra.com's founder.

Several other sports-related Web sites have been founded in Seattle.

Perhaps one of the most high profile was Rivals Network, founded by Jim Heckman. In 2001, the decision was made to sell the company, and it eventually shut down. Heckman was also the CEO at Seattle-based Scout Media, which was acquired by News Corp. in 2005.

Heckman was also behind Seattle-based TheInsiders.com, which charges users a monthly fee for specialized content about National Football League, college and high-school teams. In 2002, Yahoo said it would carry the subscription service on Yahoo's sports site.

August 17, 2007

Hard to run a company when you're such a celebrity?

Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:06 PM

Not so hard, says James Sun, CEO of Zoodango and emerging television personality. Sun may have finished his stint on "The Apprentice" as runner-up, but he's launching several ventures that promise to keep him on air.


Brian Casey

James Sun

He has a Hollywood agent out to make the most of his personality, tech skills and business acumen. Decked out in black Prada shades, intern by his side, Sun turned out for a lunch today with Chinese stars visiting Seattle to promote the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Not everybody can make the transition from reality TV to stardom, he says, "but my agent thinks I can."

The first show he's working on is a techno house program, introducing new kinds of technology and explaining how to set them up at home. Think fun with wireless gadgets and tabletop computers.

The second show is a look at celebrities launching their own businesses. Think Paris Hilton opening a pampered pet store.

Sun says he is also planning to go on a national speaking tour with "Apprentice" winner Stefani Schaeffer. The theme is very anti-Trump: teamwork.

"Stefani and I never backstabbed each other even once," he said.

Even though backstabbing sells on the show, Sun says real business is collaborative.

But with so much going on, how does he even find time to run a company?

"My job is chief evangelist officer," Sun said. Zoodango is getting more users in Los Angeles because he's there so often talking about it.

Besides, his investors have asked him to do a daily video blog about working as a tech CEO. His last blog, a rant about hospital security officers tasering a man holding a baby, was broadcast on television 48 hours after he posted it on YouTube.

"That's the power of the Internet," he said.

August 15, 2007

Calidora cleans up with $4 million

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:12 PM

Seattle-based Calidora Skin Clinic, which has stores that offer skin care treatments and products, said it raised $4 million to expand into Southern California.

About half of the round was financed by Calidora's existing angel investors, with the remaining funds coming from Fluke Venture Partners.

Calidora has four Seattle-area locations, where people can receive procedures such as Botox injections, cosmetic and restylane, non-ablative skin resurfacing treatments, and laser and light therapies.

In this story, I wrote about how the company got its start. At that point, it had raised $3 million, mostly from Starbucks executives, where Calidora founder Colette Courtion had previously worked.

Scorching hot virtualization: VMW continues skyward; XenSource bought for $500 million

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:32 AM

After leaping out of the gate yesterday with the hottest IPO of the year, VMware is again climbing big-time today, up about 13 percent in midafternoon trading in New York.

That's got to have the people at Seattle-based virtualization startup illumita, which pulled down $6 million in funding last week, feeling pretty good. (Did we mention they're hiring? They are.) Their investors are probably smiling broadly, too, especially the guys over at Bellevue-based Ignition Partners.

An earlier virtualization bet that Ignition made on XenSource paid off handsomely today when Citrix Systems announced plans to buy the company for about $500 million in cash and stock. Here's analysis from Mary Jo Foley on what the Citrix-XenSource combination could mean for Microsoft.

August 3, 2007

New VC funds and how they are doing

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:02 AM

Investors at U.S. venture capital firms raised $3.23 billion to add to their coffers during the second quarter, according to a report published by Dow Jones VentureOne this week.

That represents a decline of 62 percent from the same period last year -- the biggest decline since 2002.

During the period, there wer 15 venture capital funds raised, compared with 25 a year ago. That was the lowest quarterly fund total since the first quarter of 2003.

Although the numbers are down from last year, five huge venture funds skewed the 2006 numbers by raising more than $7.92 billion in capital. And, in 2005, two supersized funds raised $2.6 billion.

Even though funds have not been raising as much money recently, they are still performing well.

On Thursday, a separate report found that venture-capital performance continued to show positive returns in most investment areas during the first three months of the year, according to Thomson Financial and the National Venture Capital Association.

The report said an increase in the first quarter this year shows more companies have gone public or been acquired since the Internet bubble burst.

"The venture capital industry continues to outperform the public markets long term, offering strong returns to its limited partners, which include pension funds, endowments and foundations," said Mark Heesen, NVCA president.

July 27, 2007

Phone Sherpa, Jamglue sing with Blue Scholars

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:45 PM

Two local startups and the popular Seattle hip-hop group Blue Scholars have teamed up to promote a contest at tonight's Capitol Hill Block party.

The two companies are Phone Sherpa, which handles the Blue Scholars's ringtone sales on the Jamglue site, and Jamglue, which allows users to create their own song by chopping up bits and pieces and adding new vocals.

Together, Phone Sherpa and Jamglue created an MC and DJ contest for making your own mix to the Blue Scholars' song "Fire for the People." Blue Scholars will pick out the best of the mixes made on Jamglue and add them to their ringtone store.

Also, the first thousand Block Party-ers to show up at a special Jamglue Web page where the contest is taking place will get a free Blue Scholars ringtone when they sign up for a Jamglue account.

July 26, 2007

Thank-you notes pay the bills at Craigslist

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:42 AM

Check out this short Q&A with Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster in Fortune.

The Web site, which uses simple text links, has been grown tremendously and now reaches 50 countries through 450 sites.

The questions in the article came from readers rather than the reporter.

Here's a good one for entrepreneurs to ponder:

Q: At some point, doesn't Craigslist have to be more aggressive about scaling revenues? I understand you're small, nimble and profitable, but your business is pretty easily duplicated. Or do you think you can sustain your business based on user loyalty?
--Aaron Letscher, New York City

A: Financial metrics aren't something we focus on; they're a pleasant side effect if we manage to do a good job by our users. We track page views to measure the usage of the site. We also look at the number of thank-you notes from users who have found their entire lives on our site -- from spouse to house, job, furnishings, cat, dog, friends and a social life.

July 25, 2007

A smattering of conversations

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:35 PM

At The Naked Truth event last night, I was able to catch up with a lot of people. And today the emails continue to pour in.

Here are a few tidbits and details to gnaw on:

-- Hardi Partovi, a founder of iLike, said the darnedest things happen when you have a social networking site -- like the time an iLike user invited Hadi to his wedding, even though it was on the East Coast and Hadi had never met the guy. And Hadi said he loves customer feedback, but there's one user who e-mails almost everyday. Now he's dying for another customer's feedback. He's also an avid iPhone fan, but not enough to stop carrying around his BlackBerry.

-- Speaking of iPhones, there were too many in the crowd to count. However, there was only one Ooma, and TechCrunch's Michael Arrington was giving it away. As he said, it's really cool, but if you don't know what it is, don't worry about it. Now I'm wondering who won it?

-- Co-founder Galen Ward of Estately.com introduced himself, and today he sent me a press release that said Estately was launching "True Area Search," a tool that lets anyone find homes within a half mile, mile, two miles, five miles or 10 miles of any neighborhood, city, Zip code or address.

-- I also chatted with Marcelo Calbucci, the founder and CTO (not CEO as I previously wrote), of Sampa, which helps individuals and small business build Web sites. A lot of the talk last night focused on creating a more cohesive community among entrepreneurs and tech startups. Calbucci blogged about the Naked Truth , and regularly maintains a blog focused on tech startups called Seattle 2.0.

-- A venture capitalist and a startup adviser were talking to Josh Hug, the CEO of Shelfari, which recently launched a Facebook application. They were obviously really excited about the launch, so I promised Hug that I would upload the application today to take it for a spin. So I did (and while I was at it, also uploaded iLike's Facebook application). Shelfari becomes a shelf that sits on my Facebook profile page. I can load it up with books I can recommend to friends. Unfortunately, when I searched for "The World according to Garp," the book I'm currently reading, I encountered an error. For now, my shelf is empty.

I talked to many other companies, too, including WetPaint, WildTangent, BlueDot, OthersOnline, Mobile Research, Alliance of Angels and Shiftboard.

Two bits on last night's Naked Truth

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:50 PM

You may have already read a blog post or two today on last night's panel discussion, BBQ and party called "The Naked Truth," but I thought I'd elaborate on the night's events.

The panel, consisting of reporters and bloggers, was intended to enlighten the technology startup crowd on the unwritten rules of dealing with the media. It was sponsored by Redfin and Madrona Venture Group.

The event, held at Havana Social Club, a hip, cavernous bar on Capitol Hill, went fairly well. The panel was outside in the parking lot, where a massive BBQ pit was cooking up ribs. (I heard the ribs were OK, but the sides were great). Afterwards, people went inside the bar to mingle.

The panel members consisted of myself, Becky Buckman of The Wall Street Journal, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, Fred Vogelstein of Wired and John Cook of the P-I. Greg Gottesman, a VC from Madrona, moderated.

We had a fairly lively discussion and people in the crowd asked a lot of good questions.

You can see Redfin's summary of the night's events here. CEO Glenn Kelman also vows to post the video there soon, so I won't bore you with a back-and-forth on how the questions went down.

But I thought I'd share a little on how the event came together.

Glenn called me a few weeks ago to see if I would participate. He said the idea was hatched when he told his investor, Madrona, that startups shouldn't waste money hiring PR firms and should handle all the calls to reporters themselves. He said Madrona didn't agree -- that you could make some major mistakes this way.

So they figured the best way to settle the debate was to have the media tell it like it is to the hundreds of entrepreneurs willing to listen.

I think part of the problem, though, comes in trying to generalize. All of our answers were different. What works for local media doesn't work for The Wall Street Journal, and what works for a magazine doesn't necessarily jive with a blog.

An Expedia PR employee brought up an interesting point afterwards that should help everyone in dealing with reporters.

Do your research. Read the reporter's articles from the past year and tailor your pitch to what he or she seems to be interested in -- that will reap major rewards.

And, finally, my two-cent contribution: Be honest. If you've never talked to a reporter before, it's OK. Admit it and ask the person how to approach, how to proceed and what we are looking for. If you have a good story, you'll get the time.

Any other questions?

Don't hesitate to ask.

July 24, 2007

State awards $500,000 to tech companies

Posted by Angel Gonzalez at 5:06 PM

What do wheelchair manufacturing, cancer research, chemical sensors, air pumps and materials for electron microscopes have in common?

They're all done in team with University of Washington researchers, and get grant money from the state. The Washington Technology Center gave half a million dollars to five companies engaged in these diverse realms, at the rate of about $100,000 each.

The funding is expected to generate some 200 jobs in Washington, the center said in a statement Tuesday.

The grant winners are:

- Artemisia BioMedical Inc, of Newcastle, which seeks to develop therapies for cancer and other diseases
- dTEC Systems, a developer of environmental monitoring systems, to create low-cost chemical sensor technology
- Kronos Air Technologies, with operations in Redmond, to make an energy-efficient electrostatic air pump.
- Hummingbird Scientific, of Lacey, to make a high-temperature heating element for use in the transmission electron microscope.
- MagicWheels Inc., of Seattle, to test a wheel manufacturing process for its wheelchairs.

Nokia acquires Twango, Part 2

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:34 AM

I wrote a story in today's story about Nokia's acquisition of a Redmond startup, Twango, which allows people to store their digital content online.

Here's a few more details that didn't fit in today's print edition:

First off, I wrote about the company in June last year before the public launch of its product.

What's interesting to note is that Twango, founded in 2004, has spent a lot of time building a platform and doing its homework on what a service requires on the backend in order for customers to have a good experience.

That may have justified the acquisition price. Although the specific price was not disclosed, The Wall Street Journal quoted a person familiar to the deal saying that Nokia paid less than €70 million, or $96.8 million.

That's a lot when you compare it with Loudeye, a publicly held company Nokia acquired in August last year for $60 million (which itself was a far cry from the $1.4 billion Loudeye was valued at after its public offering in 2000).

Anyway, let's go back to the platform that Twango is building. It's considered an open platform, meaning it will allow other developers to take the code and build applications around it. It also uses open features, such as RSS, podcasting and maps.

Serena Glover, one of Twango's co-founders, said that could mean that even though Nokia has bought the company, a developer could still create an application for a Motorola phone using Twango's work.

The open platform allows consumers to link multiple devices, services and networks. In theory that means if those consumers use their mobile phone to upload content to the Web, they'll continue to be able to do so if they change carriers. That differs from other services on the market, such as Apple's, which requires you to use an iPod or iPhone if you buy your music on iTunes. Or applications found on one carrier aren't always available on another.

I asked Nokia's Gerard Wiener what he thought about this, and he said that follows the handset maker's vision -- it's are going after a bigger market encompassing all phones instead of just Nokia ones.

"We are big believers in open source, as well. That is the way of the Internet," he said. "Far be it for us to fight that trend. In our services strategy, open source is a critical part of that, and we are pushing for it.... If we look at even Motorola and other companies, and we look at markets, the imaging services market is where we see a significant opportunity.

"Ultimately, the consumer is our master and we want to put ourselves in the situation that involves acquiring great teams and talent like the Twango guys," he said.

July 13, 2007

So you want to make this blog, huh?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 3:56 PM

A panel discussion coming up in two weeks will provide entrepreneurs and VCs a chance to grill the media on how to get noticed.

Well, here's an early hint -- if you are looking for publicity for your panel, invite the media.

Five reporters, including myself, will make themselves available for a panel discussion starting at 5:30 p.m. July 24 at The Havana Social Club on Capitol Hill.

At 6:30 p.m., the organizer Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin, has planned quite the after-party. The sponsors are Redfin and Madrona Venture Group, but it looks like other startups, including iLike, WetPaint, Farecast, Jobster and WildTangent, are also really pitching in.

With this list of reporters, the discussion will likely be lively:

Tricia Duryee, The Seattle Times
John Cook, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Rebecca Buckman, The Wall Street Journal
Fred Vogelstein, Wired magazine
Michael Arrington, TechCrunch

Kelman announced the event -- being called "The Naked Truth" -- on his blog and he's asking people to RSVP to both the panel and the party at this wiki.

July 11, 2007

Treemo's latest contest

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 6:37 PM

Seattle-based Treemo is launching a contest on its social networking site made for mobile phones.

The winner will receive tickets to a Velvet Revolver's concert in New York on Aug. 18. The plane tickets will be provided by another Seattle company, Farecast.

Participants are asked to send in videos, photos and essays on Velvet Revolver's new album -- Libertad, or freedom. Submissions are made by mobile phone.

There's already quite a large collection of entries on the Web site. There are several pages of thumbnails, where you can view pictures and text messages people have sent in representing freedom, including pictures of snowboarding and flowers.

To enter, you must register for a Treemo account or log in to your existing account, and then upload photos, videos, audio or text. The entry must be tagged "libertad." Winners will be decided by a combination of number of views, favorites, comments and shares, as well as a final vote among judges.

Brent Brookler, the company's CEO, said so far Treemo has more than 50,000 registered users and 95 percent of its traffic is coming from mobile. He added that Velvet Revolver has band members from Guns n' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots.

June 27, 2007

Will M:Metrics be bought next?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:21 PM

The Nielsen Co. said it will start measuring the mobile industry after agreeing today to acquire Telephia, a San Francisco-based company that researches wireless consumer behavior.

Terms of the transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval and expected to close in the third quarter, were not disclosed. Telephia and Nielsen are both privately held companies.

Perhaps, Seattle-based M:Metrics, which also tracks trends in the wireless industry, was also a candidate?

After all, Will Hodgman, who co-founded M:Metrics in early 2004, has ties with Nielsen. He founded a company called AdRelevance, which was later purchased by Jupiter Media Metrix. It was through Jupiter that he came to work at NetRatings and the the Nielsen//NetRatings service.

M:Metrics is financially backed by investors including I-Hatch Ventures, Prism Venture Partners and Kantar Group.

June 14, 2007

Avvo gets sued

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:39 PM

An attorney has filed a class action suit against Seattle-based Avvo, a startup that ranks attorneys on a scale of one to 10.

The lawsuit, filed on the behalf of other attorneys nationwide, claims that "the site is unfair and highly deceptive."

Steve Berman, the managing partner of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle. He alleges that the site violates unfair methods of competition and deceptive acts in the conduct of commerce as stated in the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

Berman has a rating of 9.2.

"When the site launched, they had a very slick media campaign that led consumers to believe the site would give them accurate and insightful information about attorneys," said Berman in a press release. "In reality, we believe the site's rating methodology is prone to error and wide open to manipulation."

Avvo launched on June 5. In this story, company execs said their ratings take into account a number of factors, but wouldn't disclose much detail.

Mark Britton, founder and former Expedia general counsel, addresses some of the concerns in a comment on this blog post.

UPDATE: Mark Britton posted a blog item on Avvo's site today addressing the rating system and how an attorney can get extra points for even winning softball awards, or the 4th grade spelling bee. The short answer is that it is a temporary spike until an Avvo employee checks to see if the award is legitimate, and takes any associated points away that the attorney may have unfairly got credit for.

UPDATE 2: Here's today's story on the lawsuit, which adds comments from Berman. Here's a link to the complaint.

We are getting a lot of feedback on the story. What do you think about ranking lawyers?

June 13, 2007

Aventail purchased by SonicWall

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:02 PM

Seattle-based Aventail said today that SonicWall, a company in Sunnyvale, Calif., would purchase the company for $25 million in cash.

Aventail sells a combination of software and hardware that give companies a way for employees to access electronic information stored securely on servers when they're away from the office. The technology is called SSL VPN, or secure socket layer virtual private networks.

Aventail serves very large customers while SonicWall, which competes in the same business, serves much smaller companies, according to Evan Kaplan, chief executive and co-founder of Aventail.

The acquisition follows Aventail's sale of the profitable service side of its business in 2005. That purchase price was undisclosed.

Last year, Aventail recorded $18 million in revenues and was not profitable.

In all, Aventail, which was started during the dot-com heyday, had raised $110 million in venture capital.

"I would like for the Seattle community to understand that it's a fantastic deal for customers, they are well served by it, and they are keeping over 75 percent of our employees, and keeping our engineering talent -- they are doing all the right things as the acquiring company. It's a very good deal for the employees, they have a stock that's doubled over the last three years. They've executed superbly," Kaplan said.

But for investors, he added: "It's an OK deal. We raised a lot of money, and it was gone before 2001 -- it was lost during the bubble period....I feel like we've served the Seattle community well, but I would have liked to be better by investors."

Here's a 2001 story about how Aventail refocused after it raised $55 million in its last round of capital.

June 11, 2007

Innovating on the Facebook platform

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:06 AM

Redmond-based Sampa, which provides users with tools to make Web sites, said it launched a new service today for Facebook.

Now, the company says, the 19 million-or-so Facebook users, will be able to create Web sites and add blog functionality integrated into their Facebook profile.

Sampa CEO Paul Gross said the launch is part of Facebook's effort to open up some of its technology to allow startups and other companies to innovate on their platform.

Similarly, Seattle-based iLike was one of the first to integrate its music service into the hugely popular social networking site. Since Facebook's platform was opened up, Gross said more than 300 applications have been built for the site.


Sampa

This screenshot captures how the Web site would be integrated into a Facebook profile.

Gross said Sampa, founded in 2005, is targeting 25- to 34-year-olds who are looking to create Web sites as they get married and have children. Although that's not the typical Facebook profile -- which includes a lot of students -- Gross said they want to target users early and help them transition to adulthood. He said, as you get older, you may want to share your photos and thoughts with older relatives, who may not want to sign up for a Facebook account.

"We become interesting when inviting other generations. It may be an unnatural act for an aunt. She's not going to join Facebook," Gross said.

Sampa is currently made up of Gross and founder Marcelo Calbucci. They expect to raise $250,000 to $500,000 in angel money this summer.

June 6, 2007

MIT Venture Lab on Thursday

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:55 PM

The MIT Enterprise Forum, which encourages entrepreneurial activity in the Northwest, will be holding its Venture Lab event Thursday night.

The lab will feature the Startup Demo 2007, where six early-stage startups from the Seattle area which will be demonstrating new products and services to the audience.

The 6 p.m. event will take place in One Union Square Boardroom,
600 University St. in Seattle.

Presenters are:

IntellectSpace, which creates enterprise software allowing for the visual presentation of personal relationships. These relationship maps are particularly interesting to investment bankers.

BondRotary, which has created a hybrid engine designed to increase fuel efficiency threefold.

ScienceOps, which provides advanced algorithms for Internet advertising and search results.

VOIP Teleport, which makes voice over IP business phone systems built into a USB memory stick.

Ballpark Classics, which creates high quality table top baseball games.

JamGlue, which has created an online community for creating and sharing audio (music, mashups, fun sounds, etc).

June 5, 2007

Money flows to IceBreaker and HipCricket

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:06 AM

Two Bellevue startups said today that they have received more funding to pursue their mobile businesses.

HipCricket, a mobile marketing company, is announcing today that it has raised $6 million in second-round capital. Its services are used by radio stations to do text-messaging campaigns.

IceBreaker said it has raised $7.2 million also in a second round. It runs a dating service called Crush or Flush.

Avvo launches with glitches

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:26 AM

In today's paper, I wrote about Avvo, a Seattle startup that aims to create profiles of every attorney in the country. The service would compete with the Yellow Pages or other ways consumers find divorce lawyers or bankruptcy attorneys today.

Avvo aims to be more than a list of lawyers by providing ratings for each lawyer on a scale of 1 to 10.

I took a quick peek at the site last week after the company allowed a preview before the site's launch. I found nothing unusual, except that it was really slow.

However, CNET reports today a number of odd glitches and information it found:

According to Avvo's profiles of "licensed attorneys," President Abraham Lincoln, once a lawyer who traveled on horseback between county courthouses, and Scopes defense attorney Clarence Darrow, who died in 1938, have no disciplinary sanctions pending and are encouraged to update their profiles by personalizing them with "professional experience" and achievements. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito each receive hardly flattering "experience" and "trustworthiness" ratings of three out of five stars.

Avvo does not disclose how it comes up with its ratings.

Board member Rich Barton, the CEO of Zillow.com who helped Avvo CEO Mark Britton start the company, readily acknowledged to me in reporting today's story that the company's techniques will cause some controversy.

"As long as we stay focused on the fact that we are empowering the consumer with information, in the court of public opinion you will win," he said.

UPDATE: See the comment down below for Mark Britton's response that he sent to the CNET reporter regarding what he found on the Avvo site.

He said, in part: "We're working hard to constantly add more information and, now that we're live, lawyers and consumers can help by adding their own content. In just the few hours since launch, hundreds of attorneys have claimed their profiles and provided consumers valuable information regarding their body of work."

June 4, 2007

'Misfits now rule ... Seattle'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:19 PM

The New York Times had an interesting essay yesterday by Stanford journalism teacher and writer G. Pascal Zachary exploring the character of tech entrepreneurs, including all the big names: Gates, Jobs, Woz, Page, Brin.

He describes the breed as "technological innovators who have a rebellious streak -- resenting and resisting established authority and its prejudices -- [that] took root in the 1960s counterculture."

Zachary also traces the influence of science historian Thomas Kuhn, whose 1962 book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolution," described the identification of "'paradigm shifts' as the key to advances in science and technology."

"When world views were overthrown by rebels, new paradigms could be constructed, opening the way for new theories, new facts, new technologies," Zachary writes. "... For people like Mr. Gates and Mr. Jobs, Kuhn's attack on conformity in science and technology provided a moral and intellectual foundation that still survives.

"Echoes of the Kuhnian sensibility can be heard around any corridor in Silicon Valley, any day of the week. In fact, misfits now rule Silicon Valley and its sibling, Seattle."

Well, on Sunday we took a look at some of Seattle's rulers, then and now, and judging by their high school labels, there are quite a few jocks and cool kids in charge. But all in all, Zachary's analysis seems pretty spot on.

May 14, 2007

eProject raises $12 million

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:00 AM

Seattle-based eProject, which develops collaborative project software, said today that it raised $12 million in a second round of venture financing.

The round was led by Bay Partners and included previous investor Kennet Partners.

The company said it has more than 100,000 users at 650 companies relying on its software every day, and is adding new customers at a rapid rate.

May 10, 2007

ShackPrices adds bus routes

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:04 PM

Seattle-based ShackPrices.com, which falls into the same bucket as Redfin, Windermere and Zillow, added a new twist to its Web site today.

And, as Galen Ward, the co-founder points out on the company's blog, it corresponds nicely with a few trends -- going green, the high price of gas and road construction.

ShackPrices.com now lets home buyers search for houses along mass transit lines in King County free.

If you go to the site, you can add the option by clicking on the pull down menu to click on near transit. With the box added, you can plug in a certain bus line.

"By letting home buyers search for properties near current and future transit stops, we are giving the public a valuable tool to find homes that fit an environmentally friendly lifestyle," Ward said.

May 2, 2007

WSA: Office in Shenzhen, China

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:26 AM

In opening remarks at the WSA Investment Forum at the Bell Harbor Conference Center this morning, the technology industry association announced a partnership with the Shenzhen Software Industries Association (SSIA) in China.

As part of the partnership, WSA will open an office in the city in the next couple of months to support the partnership.

Ken Myer, the WSA's president and CEO, said the office will help Washington state companies work with the high-tech city in China, and assist in creating business opportunities, such as distribution, manufacturing and investing.

Former Gov. Gary Locke, known for his diplomatic work in China, also spoke this morning, saying the partnership will be great for Washington companies.

"Shenzhen is an incredible city. A few years ago it was a hamlet, and now it's a very planned city with tree-lined boulevards, where they have dedicated open space and beautiful architecture," he said. "It's also very young city with young people, highly educated people.

"This collaboration and joint office is going to be an opportunity to help position Washington companies in Shenzhen and Southeast China. The WSA has that foresight in helping the membership of the WSA, not just locally, and in the rest of the U.S., but in thinking of the globe as an eventual market."

The Shenzen Longgang District Government and Pacific Prestige -- a property development company that will host the WSA's Shenzhen office -- also signed the partnership.

Qiu Chang Miao, the SSIA's vice chair, also made an appearance at the event.

"We believe this is an important forward-looking decision. Compared to Washington, Shenzhen software industry is still in early stages. It has great potential," he said.

The WSA Investment Forum continues until 6 p.m. today with a panel discussion on trends and innovation followed by break-out sessions where startup companies have the opportunity to pitch venture capitalists and industry executives.

April 23, 2007

Venture investing and voice

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:31 PM

In case you didn't catch them in today's paper, I wrote two stories today -- one focused on how voice as a method of search might be a cure-all for the wireless industry. The other story looked at venture capital activity during the first quarter.

In the story on voice, I discussed the growing interest in speech recognition technology. The spotlight was on Bellevue's VoiceBox Technologies, which demonstrated how its technology can be used in the car to surf hundreds of radio stations to find answers to spoken queries.

Several other companies, including Microsoft, Nuance and Google, are placing big bets on speech, making it one of the more promising developments in the wireless industry.

In the venture capital story, I wrote about how Washington had a blockbuster first quarter, in which startups drew nearly $400 million in venture capital, according to the quarterly venture-capital report released today by Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young.

Washington was the third most active state in the country, behind California and Massachusetts. The amount also is the most raised in a single quarter since before the bubble burst seven years ago and represents more than a third of the overall capital raised last year.

Contributing to the big quarter was an intense interest in the energy sector, including Seattle's Imperium Renewables, which raised $113 million in venture capital.

For more details, check out all the charts here.

Check back tomorrow for a story on the competing MoneyTree report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

April 18, 2007

OVP on its soapbox

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:40 AM

OVP Venture Partners, the Kirkland VC firm that just closed its seventh fund at $250 million, sent out a electronic newsletter today discussing how the industry is headed for a restructuring -- for the better or worse.

The newsletter put the situation into three buckets: complacency, adjacency and free agency.

On complacency:

"No one wants to be accused of complacency. That has a pejorative connotation right from the start. But while inertia can be a powerful force, it is not always a bad force. Sometimes, inertia can keep you in place long enough to decide whether you really do want to leap across that open crevasse.

On adjacency:

Most observers of successful businesses will tell you that you should stick to your knitting. And failing that, only take up needlepoint, not arc welding.

In doing so, OVP saw the biotech trend evolving and decided to converge that with its expertise in IT to create Digital Biology.

But what the firm really spoke out on was the notion of "free agency."

What is troubling about many of the conversations we hear today is the amount of free agency that is being advocated. We see firms heading to green tech, clean tech, later stage, roll up, India, China, you name it. Now, to be fair, this may be a legitimate case of adjacency for some firms, if they have been at the edge.... But for many others, we see this as a bridge too far.

April 13, 2007

Calling startups for demo show

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:59 PM

The MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest is hosting a show in which companies can demonstrate what they do.

The MIT Venture Lab, called "Start up Demo 2007, is accepting applications until April 20 for the June 7 event.

Only companies with products that can be demonstrated are allowed to participate. Entrepreneurs, investors and the media are invited.

The Venture Lab will select 10 to 12 companies to present to a screening committee on May 10. The committee will select six companies for the June 7 event.

If interested, companies should send a one-page e-mail describing the company or service to edwardh@widemile.com.

April 12, 2007

OnRequest Images nabs $9 million

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:20 AM

Seattle-based OnRequest Images, which provides custom imagery online, said yesterday it raised a $9 million third round of funding.

New investor Menlo Ventures and existing investors Maveron and Frazier Technology Ventures participated in the round.

OnRequest Images will use the money to expand its sales and marketing efforts.

Menlo Ventures founder and managing director H. DuBose Montgomery will join the company's board of directors.

April 9, 2007

Money, money, money!

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:02 AM

Private equity funds continued raising vasts amounts of money in the first quarter,after just completing record-breaking fund-rasing in 2006. Private equity includes buyout and corporate finance funds, venture capital, mezzanine, and funds of funds.

In the first, quarter, 68 funds raised $44.3 billion, up 67 percent from the 46 funds that raised $26.6 billion in the first quarter last year, according to Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst.

In particular, the buyout side of the private equity industry raised a majority of the money, or $35.2 billion. As for venture capital, which focuses more on early stage investing, 22 funds raised $3.8 billion in the first quarter, falling from year ago period when $4.4 billion was raised.

If you don't remember, in 2006, the private equity industry broke all previous records, raising $246.3 billion in 359 funds. In addition to what was raised in the first quarter, Dow Jones said it knows of 400 other funds trying to raise at least another $130 billion.

Look at the impact this kind of money can have on the industry. It stirs up rumors of companies -- huge companies -- like Home Depot, which has a market cap of $75 billion, being bought out.

Who's next?

March 19, 2007

Kathy Wilcox joins law firm

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:42 PM

After more than a decade at the WSA, Kathy Wilcox has joined Davis Wright Tremaine, working with the law firm's business transactions and corporate finance practice group.

"We are delighted to have Kathy join us. An industry and civic leader, Kathy brings to us a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the technology sector ... nationally as well as locally," said new practice group Chair Joseph Weinstein.

Wilcox stepped down from the technology trade association in July at age 61 after serving as president and chief executive for 12 years.

At the time, she said: "This is the best job I've ever had; it has been the most challenging job I've ever had. Now I want to leverage my skills in the broader community."

Today, she said in a press release that Davis Wright Tremaine "is perfectly poised in the Northwest, East Coast and China to serve emerging market and traditional business sector clients particularly well." She added that she is "excited to be a part of their growth."

Wilcox received her law degree cum laude from the University of Puget Sound, and her bachelor of arts in political science from the University of California at Los Angeles. She also received a management certificate from the University of Washington's Executive Business Program.

March 7, 2007

Entellium new hire

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:01 AM

Entellium, which develops Web-based customer relationship software, said today that it has hired David Scott as senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Scott, a former senior executive at both Intermec Technologies and PeopleSoft, will be responsible for developing and managing Entellium's product marketing, corporate communications and sales growth strategies.

"I'm drawn to Entellium because it focuses on product innovation, hands-on research and one-on-one customer service," he said. "I look forward to contributing my experiences, business knowledge and vision at this exciting time for the company."

Scott's career included stints at General Electric and The Boston Consulting Group. At PeopleSoft, he was vice president of marketing and strategy and supported the company's $2.5 billion global services division. At Intermec, a leader in RFID technology, he led a 125-member team in building the company's global marketing organization.

Impinj raises $19 million in VC

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:52 AM

Impinj, which develops semiconductors based on RFID technology, said today that it has raised $19 million in venture capital.

AllianceBernstein, one of the world's largest asset management firms, led the round, with all previous investors also participating. They include Arch Venture Partners, GF Private Equity Group, Madrona Venture Group, Mobius Venture Capital, Polaris Venture Partners and strategic investors Unilever Technology Ventures, UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, VentureTech Alliance and the Viterbi Group.

In total, Impinj has raised $98 million. The money will be used to escalate product development and delivery of its RFID readers, tags and antennas.

Impinj is one of the companies in town that has been named a likely candidate for an initial public offering.

Here's a story by Kristi Heim from last summer on how Impinj has had some early successes, but now other companies are starting to catch up.

Inrix a possible acquisition target?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:41 AM

The biggest competitor to Kirkland-based Inrix, which uses road censors and car locators to predict traffic patterns, was officially acquired today by Navteq, a provider of digital maps.

Navteq said it paid $177 million for Traffic.com, which also provides traffic information. The acquisition is pending approval by stockholders of Traffic.com.

Previously, Inrix commissioned a study by Frost & Sullivan to determine whether Traffic.com or Inrix provided more accurate traffic data.

Inrix said the study concluded that Inrix was the leading provider of real-time traffic information in the U.S.

If that's the case, it makes me wonder whether that make Inrix as a likely acquisition target.

Briefs: iConclude, HTC and Microsoft

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:17 AM

Sometimes things get a little hectic around here, and things that would normally be stories, end up being briefs. Tuesday -- for today's newspaper -- was one of those days. So, I'd like to point three things in today's paper. They can all be found here (If you were to look for it yourself, it's a link that's nearly halfway down the business section page, indicated by the tag "Business Digest."

1. Brier Dudley and I blogged about this yesterday, but Opsware, a company co-founded by a founder of Netscape, purchased iConclude for about $60 million in cash and stock.

2. Microsoft's Jeff Raikes is set to announce today that the company is releasing a new version of its Office Communications Server at VoiceCon Spring 2007.

The new version of is pretty interesting, and expands the 2005 release significantly. I talked with Eric Swift, Microsoft's senior director of product management in the Unified Communications Group, about it Tuesday, and he said the big feature will enable users to be able to click to call, instant message or start a Web conference from within Microsoft Office documents or Outlook.

Because of these enhanced abilities, Microsoft forecasts that within three years, the cost of rolling out VoIP will be cut in half because of software implementations. And, by then, it expects 100 million people, or twice the number of current business VoIP users, to initiate calls from Microsoft applications.

The public beta of Office Communications Server 2007 will start at the end of March, and general availability is expected by this summer.

3. Yahoo! announced today that its mobile application called Yahoo! Go for Mobile 2.0 will now be available on Windows Mobile devices.

Yahoo! Go for Mobile includes oneSearch, which allows users to surf the Internet and also access maps, news, photo sharing and Yahoo! e-mail.

In addition, Yahoo! said it has formed a strategic partnership to pre-load and distribute Yahoo! mobile applications on millions of HTC devices. HTC, a Taiwan company with U.S. headquarters in Bellevue, is one of the largest distributors of Windows Mobile devices.

I think this is yet more evidence of how Microsoft is willing to work with other companies on its mobile initiatives. Steve Ballmer even said so at 3GSM two years ago; Microsoft is in mobile to partner, not dominate, he said. He doesn't want anyone -- a carirer or handset manufacturer -- to feel that they have to buy Microsoft's entire package.

If HTC, which is super reliant upon Microsoft, feels this way, it has to be true.

The other recent example was when Palm launched the new 750w. Instead of integrating MSN as the main search engine, it chose to go with Google, a decision that was fully supported by Microsoft, Palm said.

March 6, 2007

iConclude's $60 million conclusion

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:35 AM

Bellevue-based iConclude, which builds software that runs many of the tasks found in data centers, signed a definitive agreement today to be acquired by Opsware of Sunnyvale, Calif.

The transaction is valued about $60 million. That breaks down into about $30 million in cash and 3.39 million shares of Opsware common stock ($22.6 million, based on the recent trading price of $6.66 a share), and $7 million from iConclude's existing cash, which will be distributed to stockholders as a dividend at closing.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions. Opsware said it intends to retain almost all of iConclude's employees.

With the addition of iConclude, Opsware said it will provide one of the only IT automation solutions that integrates a number of tasks, including "change management," compliance and process automation for servers, networks and storage.

In December 2004, Opsware purchased Redmond-based Rendition Networks in a $33 million deal. Rendition Networks software helped companies comply with Sarbanes-Oxley regulations by monitoring networks and recording data for auditing purposes. It also tracked changes to the network to identify all the devices connected to it, including routers, switches and firewalls.

Opsware, a public company based in Sunnyvale, Calif., was co-founded by Chairman Marc Andreessen, a founder of Netscape Communications.

iConclude most recently raised $9 million in venture capital. Its investors included: Madrona Venture Group, Greylock Partners and Shasta Ventures. In all, the company raised about $12 million.

Late last year, iConclude formed a partnership with Opsware, allowing Opsware to resell and market iConclude's platform through its worldwide field sales and channel team.

Update: Brier Dudley talks with iConclude CEO Sunny Gupta, who says the deal was too good to pass up.

February 28, 2007

OVP adds investment power

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:07 AM

OVP Venture Partners said today that Mark Ashida joined the venture capital firm's investing team to lend his expertise in security, networking and infrastructure.

Most recently, Ashida was general manager of Microsoft's Windows Enterprise Networking.

"Mark is the best of all worlds -- a strategic thinker with operational experience. He has a deep understanding of technology, markets and competition but at the same time can maintain a high-level strategic focus," said OVP's General Partner Chad Waite. "We're thrilled to have him join our team."

Before joining OVP, Ashida was responsible at Microsoft for its networking infrastructure and security servers, a $450 million business. He was also responsible for Network Access Protection, a new feature included in Vista and in the upcoming Windows Longhorn Server.

February 27, 2007

Dexterra's determined to grow

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:32 PM

VentureWire reported today that Bothell-based Dexterra has raised $36 million in a fifth round of funding.

It was only six months ago, the Bothell company, which develops enterprise software for mobile devices, closed an $18 million round.

VentureWire said new investor New Enterprise Associates led the round, joining existing investors Canaan Partners, Intel Capital, Mesirow Financial, Motorola Ventures and Sigma Partners.

According to a release, the money will be for "strategic, measured" growth in 2007, while also working to achieve profitability by the year end.

The company's customers include Motorola and Vodafone.

Since the company was founded in 2002, VentureWire said Dexterra has raised about $88 million.

In this story, co-founder and CEO Robert Loughan explains how the company is set for tremendous growth.

Loughan's essential argument is that fast wireless networks being deployed by wireless operators and highly capable handsets are allowing companies to extend valuable software used inside its walls into mobile workforces.

As if to make the point, Dexterra said today that it has achieved more than 250 percent year-over-year growth since its inception in 2002. In addition, it says analysts are predicting the mobile business software market will be more than $1
billion by 2010.

February 22, 2007

Turning snail mail into e-mail

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 5:13 PM

Seattle-based Document Command said today it raised $2.84 million in debt, or convertible notes.

Document Command makes a product called Remote Control Mail, which allows people to access their postal mail online.

The financing comes from members of the Keiretsu Forum and corporate strategic partners. The notes are expected to convert into a round of capital by June when the company expects to raise up to $10 million.

The funding will help the company roll out its services to customers. It said its service is already in use by businesses and individuals in more than 80 countries.

The Remote Control Mail works because it receives the mail each day, scans the outside of the sealed envelopes and presents this image to the customer online. The customer then determines whether to have the mail opened and scanned, shredded, recycled, transferred elsewhere, or forwarded.

February 21, 2007

Talisma executive changes

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:34 AM

Following up on the news that Bellevue-based Talisma had a record 2006 in terms of customer growth, the company said it was making a number of executive changes.

Talisma, which develops customer relationship management software, said yesterday that it has promoted Chief Financial Officer Wade Pfeiffer to the additional post of chief operating officer.

It also named Brad Birnbaum, former vice president of product development, as chief technology officer.

And, to replace Birnbaum, the company hired Dan Mason as Vice President of Development. Talisma also hired Sharon Thompson as vice president of human resources.

Talisma acquired eAssist in 2004 and Knowledgebase.net in 2005.

Since then, Talisma said, it has signed a company record 266 new customers in 2006, which exceeds the new customer count of the five previous years combined.

In a release, Talisma's CEO Dan Vetras said: ""Last year was very successful for Talisma because of the growing demand for CIM (Customer Internaction Management software), but it is only a precursor of what is to come....Even though we've just had the best year in our company's history, we're confident that 2007 will significantly exceed our previous accomplishments."

February 15, 2007

SeaTab Software raises $3.5 million

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 8:00 AM

Bellevue-based SeaTab Software, which provides analytical tools for searching a company's sales information, is announcing today that it has raised $3.5 million in venture capital.

Investors include Trident Capital and a number of private individuals.

As part of the funding, Evangelos Simoudis, managing director of Trident Capital. will join the SeaTab Software board of directors.

SeaTab intends to use the new funding to accelerate its sales, marketing and product development efforts. The company will also use some money to repurchase shares previously held by Novell, an early investor in SeaTab.

David Weld is the president and CEO. Formerly, Weld held the positions of CEO at MessageGate and COO of Loudeye.

SeaTab Software was founded in 1998 and has nearly 12,000 customers, including REI, Concur, Zones, CarToys, Wireless Advocates and Novell.

Here is a story about SeaTab back in 2002.

February 6, 2007

WSA: Investment Forum May 2

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:25 PM

WSA, a technology trade organization in Washington, announced today that its 14th annual Investment Forum will be held on May 2.

The Investment Forum provides a venue for Northwest technology companies to make presentations of their business to venture capitalists and potential customers.

WSA is now accepting applications to be a presenter. The deadline is March 2

Nearly 300 attendees are expected at the forum. Presenting companies will have an opportunity to do a either funding pitches or sales pitches to the audience during their session. They will also have a chance to exhibit their products and solutions in a showcase during the event.

Here's a report from last year's event, which drew more than 300 people. The 25 companies making presentations had already raised $100 million. More than $13 billion was under management among the VCs in attendance, and more than $142 billion in revenues was distributed among companies represented by industry professionals there.

February 1, 2007

Mixpo mixes with Windows Live

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:30 AM

Seattle-based Mixpo, which helps users publish video, photos and audio online, said it is partnering with Windows Live to provide access to more than 120 million users of Windows Live Spaces.

The users will now be able to add media to their Space as an embedded blog entry or a gadget called a "Mixcard." For more information, check out Mixpo's site here.

"Rich media is an important way for people to share their stories with friends or
the world," said David Fortin, senior director of product management at Windows
Live. "Mixpo offers users the simple tools for publishing multimedia they want to
maintain control of, expanding the ways in which they can share their stories with
confidence."

Mixpo, which is funded by Madrona Venture Group, most likely secured this relationship with Windows Live through Anupam Gupta, Mixpo's COO. Prior to joining Mixpo in July, he worked at Microsoft for eight years,
most recently as the director of product management for Windows Live
initiatives.

Mixpo also garnered some attention this week after presenting at Demo 07, an annual event in Palm Desert, Calif., that draws lots of investors and jouranlists.

January 30, 2007

Demo 07: Local companies to watch

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:05 PM

Today, I wrote about the four Seattle-area companies attending the Demo 07 show this week in Palm Desert, Calif. The show is a way for companies that are just launching or revealing new products to get in front of an influential crowd of journalists and investors.

The companies from the Seattle area are Yodio, Mixpo, Trailfire and EyeJot.

David Geller, the co-founder and chief executive at EyeJot, was hoping to get some high-profile publicity for his new video email product.

I think he got it.

The WSJ wrote about the show today, featuring EyeJot high up in the story. It even included a screenshot of Geller giving a video message.

January 22, 2007

Venture capital investing 2006

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:26 PM

Today, I wrote about the report released by VentureOne and Ernst & Young that details the level of investment activity in Washington and the U.S. during the fourth quarter and full year 2006.

I took the opportunity to talk to four VCs in the Seattle area to get their thoughts on a few questions. The questions revolved around user-generated content, how Seattle's expertise was shaping up, and whether a bubble started to develop last year.

The summary is that roughly 100 companies in Washington state raised about $1 billion in investment money, which is the most since 2001, the year after the height of the bubble. Here's more information in chart form .

I talked to Len Jordan of Frazier Technology Ventures; Chad Waite of OVP Venture Partners; Matt McIlwain of Madrona Venture Group; and Enrique Godreau of Voyager Capital shared their thoughts by phone and e-mail.

Here are their thoughts on whether there is a bubble:

-- "I wouldn't call it a bubble, but I think there's a bit of a mini-bubble." Len Jordan of Frazier Technology Ventures.

-- "If not the start of a bubble, we at least witnessed the building of a foundation for one." Enrique Godreau OF Voyager Capital.

-- "Yeah, I would say the mythical Web 2.0 garbage, as I call it, is a bubble." Chad Waite of OVP Venture Partners.

-- "There was more hype on the consumer Internet front in 2006, but no bubble." Matt McIlwain, Madrona Venture Group.

January 19, 2007

WSA names 18 Industry Acheivement finalists

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:40 AM

Washington's technology trade group, WSA, today named 18 finalists for its Industry Achievement Awards.

They are:

Breakthrough Technology of the Year: BioPassword, Inrix, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Business Product of the Year: Attenex, Tableau Software, Twisted Pair Solutions
Consumer Product of the Year: Farecast, Logos Bible Software, WhitePages.com
Service Provider of the Year: PTSO of Washington, SafeHarbor Technology, SolutionsIQ
Technology Innovator of the Year: Chris Diorio, chairman and CTO, Impinj; Bryan Mistele, president and CEO, Inrix; Rob Gilde, vice president of product development, Lockdown Networks
Best Use of Technology in the Government or Nonprofit: OPSCAN (Olympic Public Safety Communications Alliance Network), PTSO of Washington, Tacoma Goodwill

The winners will be announced March 21.

WSA is also introducing a Community's Choice Award. Beginning in February, the public can vote for a winner on the organization's Web site.

December 27, 2006

WSJ hosts Web 2.0 bubble debate

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:31 AM

Is it a another bubble? The debate rages on over whether the surge of Internet startup companies and the venture capital funding them -- the Web 2.0 phenom -- constitutes a bubble like the one in the late 1990s.

The Wall Street Journal today published a dialogue between two venture capitalists who made bets during the last go-round and are investing again today.

Todd Dagres of Spark Capital says there is a Web 2.0 bubble. One reason, he notes, is that many startup companies are copying existing business models and there's a low barrier to entry. "R&D in a Web 2.0 company = rummage & duplicate," he says. Ouch.

In the opposite corner is David Hornik of August Capital and author of VentureBlog. He notes that much less capital is flowing into Web 2.0 companies than the Internet startups of the late 1990s received. And venture capitalists get quick feedback on the success or failure of these upstarts. "VCs may lose their capital invested early in Web startups, but the amount of capital sunk into failed businesses will never snowball the way it did in the late 90s," he says.

Here's a link to the whole back-and-forth.

December 12, 2006

Hyper growth ahead for HyperQuality

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:30 PM

HyperQuality said today that it has raised $10 million in venture capital.

The Seattle company monitors customer-care telephone conversations, e-mail and chat interactions for mid-size to Fortune 1000 companies from two evaluation centers, one in Gurgaon, India, and the other in Seattle.

The round was led by Bellevue's Ignition Partners with participation of Miramar Venture Partners, Rustic Canyon and Divergent Ventures. Previously, the company had raised $5.5 million.

HyperQuality will use the new funds to invest in product development and technology, and to expand its sales force to support sales, which are expected to grow by 200 percent in 2007.

Today, its services are used by more than 35,600 agents from 136 call centers, representing customers such as AOL, Allconnect, Carlson Leisure Travel Services, Covad, Lillian Vernon and Time Warner Cable.

December 7, 2006

WSA extends awards deadline

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:58 PM

In November, I told you about how the applications deadline for the WSA's 12th annual Industry Achievement Awards gala was coming up Dec. 1. Well, the state's tech organization wanted to give you a little more time, so applications are now due Dec. 15.

The event will recognize the state's most outstanding technology achievements in a variety of categories, including Business Product of the Year, Consumer Product or Service of the Year, Service Provider of the Year, Best Use of Technology in the Government or Non-Profit Sector, Technology Innovator of the Year and Breakthrough Technology of the Year.

November 10, 2006

Get in your applications for WSA event

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:47 PM

The WSA said yesterday that it is accepting applications for its 12th annual Industry Achievement Awards gala.

The event will recognize the state's most outstanding technology achievements in a variety of categories, including Business Product of the Year, Consumer Product or Service of the Year, Service Provider of the Year, Best Use of Technology in the Government or Non-Profit Sector, Technology Innovator of the Year and Breakthrough Technology of the Year.

The 2007 IAA event will take place March 21 at the Westin Hotel in Seattle, and will feature Robbie Bach, Microsoft's president of the Entertainment and Devices Division as the keynote speaker.

Some of the fine print: Applications can be submitted online until Dec. 1. The awards are open to Washington state companies only, and the application fee is $90 for members and $180 for non-members.

October 31, 2006

Sinegal and others address entrepreneurs

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:07 PM

Costco's Jim Sinegal and Chase Franklin, the founder of Qpass, the company sold to Amdocs earlier this year, will be just two of the noteworthy businessmen addressing a crowd at the Northwest Entrepreneur Network's Entrepreneur University on Thursday.

The daylong event is designed to allow budding entrepreneurs to learn from some of the best. In addition to Sinegal and Franklin, others speakng include Nick Hanauer, the co-founder and chairman of aQuantive; Pete Higgins, partner at Second Avenue Partners; Jonathon Roberts, a partner at Ignition Partners; Dan Sheeran, senior vice president of music and video at Real Networks; and David Weld, CEO, SeaTab Software.

The event has two tracks, one focused on early-stage entrepreneurs just starting up and a second track for those ready to accelerate their business.

The event is Thursday at the Sheraton Hotel in Seattle. Members of the NWEN can attend for $275; non-members are $375.

October 27, 2006

Follow the money wirelessly

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:06 PM

I ran across a great follow-up to a story I wrote on Monday that detailed an increase in the level of investing in communications companies, which includes wireless, fiber and other telecom ventures, despite a five-year decline.

I wrote that the Venture One/Ernst & Young report showed Washington communications companies -- many of them developing wireless networks and services -- were on track to receive at least as much money this year as last, though there was a downtick this past quarter.

LightReading reported today that of the 39 digital media U.S. startups that received venture capital funding in the month of September, 15 are developing products and services around mobile devices.

That factoid, LightReading said, came from San Francisco-based Rutberg & Co. , which keeps tabs on venture capital and merger events involving digital media companies.

"The pace of venture capital investment in the digital media industry remained brisk in September," Rutberg analyst Peter Daley told Light Reading. "There was significant investor interest in the mobile marketing and advertising category."

The 39 funding rounds that took place during September raised $313 million, LightReading reported. Companies that develop technology that creates, enables, or delivers some kind of mobile content took $153 million of that.

October 18, 2006

Frazier investment is on the shelf -- sort of

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:30 PM

Seattle-based Frazier Technology Ventures said today that it participated in a $12 million investment in W5 Networks of Fremont, Calif.

Frazier Technology Ventures led the round along with previous investors, including Thomas Weisel Venture Partners and U.S. Venture Partners. The latest round brings W5 Networks total amount raised to $22 million.

W5 Networks develops wireless technology for the retail industry by replacing paper shelf labels with small displays that can be updated wirelessly.

September 21, 2006

Web 2.0 on dramatic growth curve

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:56 AM

VentureOne put out interesting new statistics today on the Web 2.0 craze, saying that although the sector is receiving a lot of hype, it isn't receiving a disproportional amount of dollars.

To show this, VentureOne reported how many dollars Web 2.0 companies have received funding stretching back to 2001.

In the first six months of this year, 49 such companies were funded, garnering $262.3 million in capital. That compares to 51 deals and $199.1 million invested in all of 2005. At that rate, activity is likely to double this year.

As for the definition, companies included in this study were defined as having a business model that revolves around a "dynamic" interface, which relies on user-created content, networking, and collaboration. Applications may include podcasting, tagging, blogs, social networking, mashups, and wikis.

A spokeswoman for VentureOne said that Web 2.0 companies showed up as early as 2001 because the statistics included companies that have evolved their business model to encompass Web 2.0 and have remained venture-backed.

Some other interesting facts for the first half of 2006:

-- Although Web 2.0 may be considered overhyped, it still remains a small portion of the overall venture pool. While Web 2.0 companies attracted $263 million in the first half of the year, the overall total for venture investments during that period was $13 billion.

-- Also, the median size of a Web 2.0 financing round this year is $4.4 million, compared to $7.5 million for a venture financing overall.

-- The most heavily invested category, not surprisingly, was "IT consumer services," which had 27 deals.

-- The second-most popular category was "IT business services," with only five deals.

-- The most popular stage of development for the companies was early stage with 26 of the deals being categories as first rounds.

-- The largest Web 2.0 deals this year are Facebook of Palo Alto, Calif., which received a $25 million round, and Zimbra of San Mateo, Calif., which received a $14.5 million round.

August 31, 2006

5-minute speed investing

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:46 AM

No wonder the list of participants is so long for the inaugural ZINO Zillionaire Investment Forum -- the company that gives the most compelling 5-minute presentation will walk out with $100,000.

Sounds like a good return for such a small amount of time invested.

Here's how it works:

20 investors from the ZINO Society, a Seattle angel investment group, have pooled together $100,000. They've invited 28 local early-stage companies to the Fairmont Olympic Hotel on Sept. 18.

After the companies make their 5-minute presentations, Zino will choose four finalists. Those companies will then have an additional 10 minutes of presentation time. The best will be awarded the $100,000.

Here's the list of companies participating:


Blue Lake Publishing

Portland
Judy MacDonald Johnston, CEO
Blue Lake Children's Publishing is a publisher of innovative, character-based magazines for children ages 2-12 years old.

Braincandy
Seattle
Sam Reich-Dagnen
Braincandy creates award-winning developmental DVDs, CDs, books & toys designed to help very young children think critically, creatively & independently.

Carousel Information Management Solutions
Bellevue
Janis Machala, CEO
Provides easy-to-use, safe and secure computing/Internet capabilities for active seniors and their families.

Cascadia Labs
Seattle
John Clyman, Robert P. Lipschutz, John David Patton (the 3 founders)
Proactively identify web sites contaminated with malware and malicious behavior

CG Therapeutics
Seattle
Jonathan A. Green, CEO
A new immunotherapy to treat cancer effectively with very few side effects

Charter Bus America
Seattle
Dylan Peterson, CEO
Charter bus booking system that provides online quotes in seconds for charter bus customers such as churches, high school and college organizations, businesses, wedding planners, and individuals.

Chelsey Henry
Seattle
Chelsey Owen, CEO
Chelsey Henry designs, manufactures, and markets multi-functional, stylish totes and handbags with brand appeal that retail under $250. Designed by on-the-go women, the CH collection is stylish and functional, well thought out with pockets and practical features to simplify a busy woman's life.

CleverSet
Seattle
Todd Humphrey, CEO
CleverSet provides personalized product recommendations that are based on each customer's current and predicted online shopping behavior.

Document Command
Kirkland
Ron Wiener, CEO
We automate the processing of postal mail, converting it into electronic documents for customers, which span business, government, military, residential and national post offices.

Formotus
Bellevue
Joe Verschueren, CEO
Enables information workers to create, deploy and manage data applications to their wireless devices.

Global Wonder
Seattle
Cindy Ball
A premier digital entertainment company, specializing in the development of experiences that combine stories, games, rich media, user-created content, commerce and social communities.

Hestia
Bellevue
Matthew Moore, CEO
Hestia provides mobile solutions, sold as a service, for small and medium-sized service businesses that automates the entire business process connecting the mobile field worker to the central office.

HomeMovie
Winthrop
John Larsen, CEO
HomeMovie.com is an established web-based video storage, editing, and sharing service, with over 2 million clips archived for over 100,000 users.

Incident Tactics
Lynnwood
John Mitchell
Creates online simulations for police, fire, education & corporate business continuity departments depicting large-scale natural or terrorists disasters.

iSold It on eBay
Seattle
Kenneth E. Byrne, President/CEO
Sell business and consumer products through multiple online auction and fixed-price marketplaces using retail storefronts and warehouses as market-entry and production facilities.

Motion Research
Seattle
Dominic Dobson, CEO
Commercial and industrial wireless human I/O display

Novinium
Kent
Glenn Bertini, CEO
Repair & rejuvenation of cable.

Overcast Media
Seattle
Richard Stoakley
Overcast media is the first company to allow anyone to create DVD-style commentary for television shows and distribute them over the web.

Perlego
Gig Harbor
Todd Ostrander, CEO
The company delivers a hosted, centrally managed platform that dramatically reduces the cost and complexity of provisioning, tracking, supporting, and maintaining the growing number of mobile devices and data assets throughout the entire mobile device value chain.

Pluggd
Seattle
Alex Castro, CEO
Pluggd aims to help consumers discover Internet Radio and TV programming (e.g. videocasts, podcasts, etc.) that will inform them, delight them, and enrich their lives.

Positron
Boise
Martin Hedley, CEO
We license unique and patented non-destructive testing applications that determine material integrity before a crack occurs.

Pure Home
Kirkland
Teresa Tullio, CEO
PURE HOME is a color design and architectural paint store utilizing a new designer created color system.

Red Llama
Seattle
Peter Gruenbaum, CEO
Red Llama is a training software company dedicated to providing the premier method for disseminating expertise on medical procedures and other complex processes.

RIPL
Seattle
Bill Messing, CEO
RIPL distributes user-generated content (e.g., photos, music, video) dynamically based on the user's relationships and interests.

Sensa Networks
Seattle
Doug Melby, CEO
We're a technology company that provides food industry leaders including Tyson, Sara Lee and FSA with a more collaborative and systematic way to sell their products.

Suhari
Mercer Island
Jeff Coon, CEO
Suhari is a mobile marketing technology company which enables advertisers to reach their target customers via mobile websites and applications.

Theo Chocolate
Seattle
Joseph Whinney - CEO
Theo Chocolate makes high-end, specialty, organic and fair trade chocolate from bean to bar.

Yodio
Bellevue
Clay Loges, CEO
Yodio is developing proprietary sound processing technologies that make it easy for most anyone from anywhere to record, package, and publish personalized audio content such as narrated slide shows.

August 17, 2006

Local "clean tech" just a sliver of investment pie

Posted by Mark Watanabe at 4:04 PM

From Deputy Business Editor Rami Grunbaum:

With several ambitious biofuels projects under way, and a self-image as both technologically savvy and environmentally sensitive, the Pacific Northwest seems a natural spot for sustainable energy and other eco-friendly projects.

Thus, at the enterpriseSeattle quarterly breakfast this morning, where clean technology was the focus, Rep. Jay Inslee even declared that this region "is destined to become the world leader" in such technology.

But the hard numbers one panelist displayed at the breakfast may have shaken that faith.

Nationally, venture investing in "clean tech" posted its eighth consecutive quarter of growth, hitting $843 million for the second quarter, reported Cleantech Venture Network executive John Balbach. The segment was led by energy, though it is broadly defined to include clean technology involving materials, transportation, air and water quality, and other areas. Year-to-date investments totaled $1.4 billion, almost double the first half of 2005. All told, since 1999, the firm's database counts more than $10.2 billion in VC "clean tech" investments.

But his figures showed the Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho) with the smallest slice of that pie's seven regional slices -- $11 million for 2004 and '05. California and Hawaii, classified as "West Coast," led with nearly half a billion dollars over that same time frame.

NW clean tech boosters need not despair, however. Balbach said those numbers don't reflect two factors: 1. The sector saw an upsurge here in the first half of 2006; using those figures to compare regions, "the numbers would have looked a lot better," he said later. 2. A lot of projects here are not backed by venture capital but by various forms of project finance, meaning either loans or equity capital from non-VC sources such as investment banks.

Indeed, according to the Cleantech Venture network, last quarter saw almost $60 million invested in four deals in the Pacific Northwest; the previous quarter it was less than $20 million spread over three deals. Each of the four quarters before that saw barely any money invested in the sector here, a fall-off from two deals totaling $30 million in Q4 of 2004.

Comparing the latest quarter's regional and national totals shows the three Pacific NW states got 7 percent of the clean tech VC. And, says Balbach, that is nearly all in Washington.

Here are more details on investment in clean technology here and nationally.

August 4, 2006

From Windows to Mifos

Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:55 PM

Paul Maritz, a 14-year veteran of Microsoft who managed platform strategy before retiring in 2000, is putting his efforts behind open source software projects these days.

Maritz, who grew up in southern Africa, advised the development of a new open source platform at the Grameen Technology Center in Seattle. That project, called Mifos, was created to help microfinance institutions around the world manage tens of thousands of accounts without having to buy complex, proprietary software.

Maritz recently joined the board of the Grameen Foundation, the organization connected to the bank that pioneered microfinance, or extending credit and other financial services to the world's poorest people. Volunteers are invited to contribute to the Mifos project, which is written in Java and set for release in November.

July 27, 2006

In wireless, smaller is better

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:03 AM

Startups in wireless have an edge over the search behemoths like Google and Yahoo!, according to a Wall Street Journal story today.

It explains that carriers are reluctant to hand over control to the big brands, so they are more likely to choose a small company when it comes to performing search on a phone.

One company, in particular, that is gaining traction, the story said, is Medio Systems, a Seattle-based company that builds search software for the mobile phone. It said the company is close to signing a deal with Verizon Wireless.

"Verizon's users will be able to search for downloadable multimedia content through a Medio-powered search bar. Medio is also developing a service to allow ads based on search results, similar to the model Google and Yahoo have pioneered on the Internet," the story said.

It was that advertising model that I explored in a story in April about Medio after it bought Seattle-based AdRelevance.

July 26, 2006

GarageBand.com gets funding for iLike

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:46 AM

Seattle was once a hotbed of innovation in the digital music business, but lately it seems like some of that action has dried up a little bit. That may change with iLike, the new venture headed by Hadi Partovi, who resigned as manager of the MSN portal and content group last October, and his twin brother, Ali.

The Partovis are working on a software application and service called iLike to help iPod and iTunes users organize their music and discover new songs based on their interests. It's designed to work smoothly with Apple Computer 's products.

Hadi Partovi told me yesterday that the company isn't going exclusively with Apple, but the iPod platform is the most logical one to work with right now, given its market dominance. Later on, iLike would expand to other media-player systems, and given Partovi's employment history it's a good bet he's looking closely at Zune possibilities.

GarageBand.com, iLike's parent company, announced today it has received $2.5 million in equity financing from investors that include well-known venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and MTV co-founder Bob Pittman. The money will mostly be spent on developing the engineering team and the iLike product, Partovi said.

These days, $2.5 million isn't a whole lot in financing deals, and I asked David Weiden, the general partner at Khosla's VC firm why the investment in GarageBand wasn't bigger.

"We encourage people to raise just what they need to run their business and that's it," Weiden said. "That's just what they did. They're frugal and they're creative and they really focus on just what's necessary to build a great business."

GarageBand.com is technically headquartered in San Francisco, but the company splits its 15-person staff between that city and Seattle, Partovi said.

July 25, 2006

Energy technology projects sizzle

Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:22 PM

Energy continues to be a hot area for entrepreneurs. Two Seattle companies won grants from the Washington Technology Center to help commercialize their technology. 3TIER provides tools to analyze renewable energy resources like wind, water and solar power. The company, which we profiled a couple of weeks ago, is collaborating with the University of Washington's Civil and Environmental Engineering department to develop forecast techniques for stream flows used in hydropower, which generates 76 percent of the state's electricity.

EnerG2 develops carbon-based material for high-performance capacitors used in energy storage, which could improve the way alternative fuel vehicles capture energy. The company is partnering with the University of Washington's Materials Science and Engineering Department.

3TIER and EnerG2 were among 11 companies receiving a total of $952,000 in grants. Clean energy is also the topic of a breakfast forum Aug. 17 with Rep. Jay Inslee and Martin Tobias, CEO of Imperium Renewables.

July 20, 2006

Bezos invests in Chicago startup

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:44 PM

Amazon.com Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has made a private investment in 37Signals, the company announced in its blog today. The funding is actually through Bezos' personal investment company, Bezos Expeditions.

The Chicago-based company makes Web-based applications such as the project management program Basecamp and the personal organizer Backpack.

In the blog posting, 37Signals founder Jason Fried says the company has been contacted by about 30 venture capital firms, but was more interested in what someone like Bezos could bring to the table:

What we've been looking for is the wisdom of a very special entrepreneur who's been through what we're going through. Someone who sees things a little differently and makes us feel right at home. Someone with a long term outlook, not a build-to-flip mentality. We found a perfect match in Jeff. Jeff is our kinda guy.

(Via Om Malik.)

July 17, 2006

VC fundraising heats up

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:21 PM

Venture capital fundraising broke new records in the second quarter, according to a report by Thomson Financial and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA).

In fact, fundraising in both the venture capital and buyout classes of private equity reached new levels. During the quarter, 50 venture funds raised $11.2 billion, the highest level since the 2001, and 35 buyout and mezzanine funds raised $30.8 billion.

Several large funds in both buyout asset classes drove the unusually high level, according to the report.

Oak Investment Partners XII raised $2.56 billion, the largest venture capital fund ever raised. New Enterprise Associates 12 raised $2.25 billion. On the buyout side, Texas Pacific Group's TPG Partners V raised $14 billion.

"While this quarter's venture capital fundraising explosion is largely driven by a few players, we cannot pretend that this isn't an incredible amount of money to invest," said Mark Heesen, the NVCA's president. "It reflects a philosophy that companies need more money and a longer runway to go public today and these larger funds are going to support these enterprises from their infancy until their exit, which they hope in many cases is an IPO."

We'll find out early next week how this fundraising affected investing in companies.

July 11, 2006

Synapse CS makes a buy

Posted by Kim Peterson at 1:46 PM

Seattle-based Synapse Corporate Solutions said today it has acquired Arestia Design Studios, a branding, Web development and print media design company in Seattle. The two companies have worked together very closely in the past, Synapse said. Financial terms of the deal weren't announced.

Synapse sells software for small and medium-sized businesses. I wrote a short profile of the company in May.

Ignition merges 3 of a kind

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:15 AM

Bellevue-based Ignition Partners announced today that it has created a new company by merging three wireless broadband companies that provide service to businesses.

The new company will be called Sparkplug and is a combination of Sparkplug in Chicago, Prairie iNet in Des Moines and Telespectra in Phoenix. It will be led by Ignition Partners' Bill Malloy, who will be CEO, and Steve Hooper, as chairman.

Sparkplug, using technology from Motorola, will offer wireless business broadband services in the Midwest and the Southwest.

"Our business customers are moving more data than ever. They demand scaleable high-speed connections that are affordable, reliable and quick to provision, plus come with responsive customer service," Malloy said. "All three companies deliver on this today, and that's why businesses are choosing us. Through the merger we are announcing today, the new company is well-positioned to meet these needs for more businesses in existing or new markets."

In June, Ignition gathered an additional $80 million to support acquisitions. That makes its current venture fund about $400 million.

July 3, 2006

Show me the money!

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:22 AM

At a breakfast panel discussion at Fortune magazine's Brainstorm conference last week, VCs talked about the industries and regions where they are focusing most of their attention, according to a story on CNNMoney.com.

And there seemed to be a lot of local participation.

Gary Rieschel, the founder of Qiming Venture Capital Partners, started in part by Bellevue-based Ignition Partners to fund early-stage companies in China, said that medical technology firms and energy start-ups there are two areas that excite him the most.

The story also said the VCs and industry experts agreed that broadband wireless companies, as opposed to PC-focused Internet firms, seemed to hold the most promise for investors.

Mark Anderson, president of Strategic News Service, a tech newsletter out of Friday Harbor, was the one to comment on that. "The phone is now the center of innovation," he said.


July 2, 2006

WSA Web site hacked

Posted by Kim Peterson at 9:37 AM

Marketing guru Frank Catalano wrote in to report that the WSA's Web site was defaced over the weekend, and sure enough, when I checked it out this morning all I saw was a blank white page with the words "CyberLord WAS HERE."

Seems some other sites, like this one for Aeropacifico, have been hacked as well.

WSA Web site hacked

Posted by Kim Peterson at 9:37 AM

Marketing guru Frank Catalano wrote in to report that the WSA's Web site was defaced over the weekend, and sure enough, when I checked it out this morning all I saw was a blank white page with the words "CyberLord WAS HERE."

Seems some other sites, like this one for Aeropacifico, have been hacked as well.

June 27, 2006

The Shephard cometh

Posted by Monica Soto at 10:59 AM

Details of the closely held Blue Origin flight test program were revealed recently in a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration filing, according to this story.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos founded the privately funded aerospace program in 2000 -- with grand visions of providing space tourism and, over time, enabling an "enduring human presence in space."

The New Shephard, a re-launchable launch vehicle, is being targeted to commence commercial operations in 2010, with projected demand at 52 launches per year.

Bezos' vision has been long in the making. He first laid out plans for the colonization of space during his high school valedictory speech at Miami Palmetto Senior High School.

In March 2003, he was riding in helicopter when it crashed on a Southwest Texas mountain range. He and the other two passengers avoided serious injury. (The launch site is located near Van Horn, Texas.)

Now, about the name...

We asked Google to define "Shephard," and the only entry to come up was that of Lucius Shepard (no "h"), an award-winning science ficition writer who hails from Vancouver, Wash.

Coincidence?

June 12, 2006

IPO trivia

Posted by Mark Watanabe at 4:34 PM

From Deputy Business Editor Rami Grunbaum:

Local venture capitalists help launch a lot of companies, but generally they don't wind up holding the big stakes when those companies go public. Other venture firms, with deeper pockets, usually step into that role by investing in later-stage financings.

An exception is the proposed initial public offering filed this month by Seattle biotech Trubion. Two VC funds with partners based here -- Frazier and Arch -- are the leading shareholders (with about 19 and 18 percent, respectively).

Here's the trivia question: When was the last time two local funds were the top shareholders in a local IPO?

According to our search of SEC filings, you've got to look back at least five and a half years.

Seattle Genetics' IPO, filed in late 2000, had Kirkland-based OVP, Bill Gates' Cascade Investments and Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures as biggest shareholders, with a collective 38 percent.

Quibblers may point out that Cascade and Vulcan aren't conventional VC funds. They're welcome to search even further back to find a satisfactory answer; please let us know.

June 5, 2006

Citel goes to London

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:31 PM

Seattle-based Citel Technologies, which helps companies migrate from old telephone systems to Internet-based ones, intends to raise money through AIM, or the Alternative Investment Market, a London Stock Exchange.

Citel, which deploys VoIP without making companies buy all new hardware, plans to raise 10 million pounds, or roughly $18.7 million.

Vonage, which provides consumer VoIP in the U.S., went public on the New York Stock Exchange last week. It has faced lawsuits for setting aside a portion of its $531 million IPO for its customers.

June 1, 2006

iJam in development

Posted by Kim Peterson at 2:57 PM

Our colleague Brier Dudley writes today about a new online music service in town called iJam. It was founded by Hadi Partovi, the former chief of the MSN portal.

You can breathe a sigh of relief that another iWord isn't entering our vocabulary. According to the company, "iJam" is just a placeholder name and will be replaced.

May 31, 2006

WSA: The winners circle

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:42 PM

OK, after writing extensively about the WSA Investment Forum last week, here most likely are the final thoughts of the one-day event linking startups with investors and potential customers.

The winner that grabbed the "Best & Brightest" award was
SNAPin, a company developing software that helps people figure out how to use their mobile phone without having to call customer service.

A couple of the panelists, including Adrian Smith of Ignition Partners and Tom Huseby of SeaPoint Ventures, raved about the company and thought it was the right time for such a product. The company was compared to how the ATM helped people bank without the support of a worker.

Here are other winners in the four categories of digital media, health IT, Web services and wireless:

DIGITAL MEDIA

Best Funding Pitch: thePlatform and Melodeo

HEALTH IT

Best Funding Pitch: Teranode

Best Sales Pitch: Genelex

WEB SERVICES

Best Demo: PayScale

Best Funding Pitch: HyperQuality

WIRELESS

Best Funding Pitch: Ontela

Best Sales Pitch: SNAPin

May 26, 2006

Northwest entrepreneur of the year

Posted by Kristi Heim at 11:20 AM

Ernst & Young announced 24 finalists for its Entrepreneur of the Year 2006 award, and the list has quite a few up- and-coming tech leaders we've written about, including Impinj President Bill Colleran, Unitus President Geoff Davis, Junxion President David Hsiao, Jobster CEO Jason Goldberg, and a whole crew from PopCap Games: CTO Brian Fiete, Chief Creative Officer Jason Kapalka, and Director John Vechey.

We'll find out who gets the award June 23 at the Westin Bellevue. The awards are given to those who excel at innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.

May 25, 2006

WSA: Sales pitch

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 2:06 PM

Cequint, a Seattle company, had the opportunity to pitch its business to a panel of professionals from Cingular Wireless, Microsoft and Alltel.

The company is building a new caller ID product for cellular phones. The biggest feature of the software provides the city and state for phone numbers on a user's incoming call.

CEO Rick Hennessey said there are more than 350 area codes today, and more than 75 percent of people get calls from area codes they don't recognize. Hennessey is the former CEO of Dwango Wireless.

The company wants carriers to sell the service to users for $1.99 to $2.99 a month. The product is expected to launch in August with Alltel, the fifth largest carrier in the country.

An example of the panel's response:

1. Philip Osman, who left Cingular in 2005 after he helped integrate it with AT&T WIreless: If I'm in Omaha, but have a 425, what does it tell the recipient of the call?
Hennessey: It says Bellevue, or Issaquah, or Renton, wherever you are from.

2. Deanna Garcia of Cingular: What prohibits the carrier from building an application just like this?
Hennessey: We've done a lot of work, and the technology is patented.

3. Raghu Murthi of MSN's Windows Live: Does this work off your server?
Hennessey: No, all of it sits on the device and it's very easy to manage with over-the-air updates.

4. Osman: Would you consider partnering with the handset manufacturer so you don't have to share revenue with the carrier?
Hennessey: Right now, we want to be preloaded on to the phone, which can be purchased by the user after it's trialed. We don't want to be on the deck because we think it will be lost unless we can get good deck placement.

WSA: The little guy

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:51 PM

In addition to the companies presenting today, there's also the little guys who are wading through the crowd to find investors and customers.

James Wen left Amazon.com about two weeks ago to pay full attention to his new startup, Positive Motion.

His company puts the concept of flash cards used by students onto the mobile phone. That way users have the flash cards wherever they have their phone. When the class is over, and they no longer need the content, they can be uploaded to the company's Web site for sale. Wen's company takes a percentage of the profits.

The software also has quizzes and multiple choice questions, and as you learn the items and decide to knock them off, your confidence level goes up on a color-coded meter.

Does it require a high-end phone or 3G? Wen said no; he wants to make it as easy as possible so people will use it.

"I got this phone for free," Wen said. "I don't even know what that [3G] is."

WSA: The upswing

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:36 PM

The Investment Forum is trying out a new business model of its own.

The event is attempting to jazz things up a bit by creating an "ecosystem" in which entrepreneurs and investors get conversation flowing that may plant seeds for new ideas. After all, if you are a good VC, you should probably know of all the companies presenting today.

Brian Vincent, an investor at Vulcan Capital who helped plan today's event, said the organization is trying to revamp the program to get more interest in it.

Vincent said $100 million of venture capital has already been raised among the 25 companies making presentations; more than $13 billion is under management among the VCs in attendance; and more than $142 billion in revenues is distributed among companies represented by industry professionals there..

In all, about 300 people are in attendence.

"The three things together provide opportunity and credibility," he said.

WSA: Razr's dirty secret

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:18 PM

The Motorola Razr has been a stylish hip and cool mobile phone for at least a year. But what people don't realize is it's not special.

As your mom might have said, don't judge a book by its cover -- the Razr is not a special phone in any metric, Mark Lowenstein said during his keynote.

"The Razr is not a leading, or best- in-class device in any category but its thinness," he said.

Compare it with other phones in battery life, screen resolution or speed, and it doesn't match up.

WSA: Wireless keynote

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:15 PM

Mark Lowenstien, the managing director of Mobile Ecosystem, is presenting the noon keynote focused on wireless -- one of the hot topics today at the WSA Investment Forum.

Lowenstein is making many industry observations, including why data usage on wireless phones has taken off in other geographic regions before the U.S.

He said it comes down to price. In the U.S., we spend about 7 cents a minute for an average voice call with virtually no roaming charges. In Europe, a voice minute costs about 15 to 20 cents a minute and there frequently are roaming charges.

In comparing the U.S.with Europe, Lowenstein makes a further, newer observation. He said the U.S. has leap-frogged Europe when it comes to data usage. Although a larger percentage of revenue may come from data there (about 25 percent), if you take out text messaging, the U.S. far exceeds Europe when it comes to downloading games, ringtones and wallpapers and other content.

"In the download business, we are well ahead of Western Europe," he said.

We are also ahead in network technology, he said. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel have rolled out signifcant 3G networks, which provide broadband speeds, and Cingular Wireless has rolled out an even faster technology than what's available widely in Europe.

WSA: Ontela prepares for pitch

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:08 PM

Seattle-based Ontela is here today to get the attention of investors.

Ontela, a three-person company in Pioneer Square, is developing a technology that allows photo applications, traditionally on PCs, to work with cel phones.

Brian Schultz gives a demonstration: He takes a picture of Britney Spears' CD album cover. The data is uploaded to a network, which pushes down an application that allows you to find prices of the album, buy related ringtones or watch a video. Schultz decides to buy a ringtone and it starts playing on the phone.

That application is possible through a partnership Ontela has with ActiveSymbols, a Seattle subsidiary of Logicalis.

Ontela's technology is the connector that helps ActiveSymbol's recognition technology work on a mobile phone. Ontela helps software that would otherwise run only on a high-end $500 smartphone.

WSA: Digital Media panel

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:59 AM

During a panel discussion on digital media, Steve Lidberg, a research analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, made an observation about the content market for computers and mobile phones.

People today can pay and download a lot of content, whether it's video, music or games. But Lidberg said consumers only have so much pocket change; a subscription model will become the preferred business model over selling items one-by-one.

That's where Real Networks has been an innovator, Lidberg said. Today, it offers a music subscription model. He said Apple Computer's iTunes service could even flirt with the idea of a subscription model.

"We will see more subscription offerings," he said. "A consumer's wallet is only so thick."


WSA: Digital Media panel

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:59 AM

During a panel discussion on digital media, Steve Lidberg, a research analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, made an observation about the content market for computers and mobile phones.

People today can pay and download a lot of content, whether it's video, music or games. But Lidberg said consumers only have so much pocket change; a subscription model will become the preferred business model over selling items one-by-one.

That's where Real Networks has been an innovator, Lidberg said. Today, it offers a music subscription model. He said Apple Computer's iTunes service could even flirt with the idea of a subscription model.

"We will see more subscription offerings," he said. "A consumer's wallet is only so thick."


WSA: Intelligent picture frames

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:51 AM

A Living Picture, which is developing "intelligen"t picture frames, is one of the companies at the WSA Investment Forum to meet investors and raise money.

The Seattle company couldn't have better timing. It is still coming down from its high of being mentioned during Bill Gates' keynote presentation at earlier this week at WinHEC, the hardware engineering conferece, said Jesse Grindeland, A Living Picture's president and chief operating officer.

A Living PIcture is working with Microsoft to enable WIndows slideshow capabilities on photo frames for the launch of Windows Vista.

At the investment forum, being held at Bell Harbor, the company showed off digital picture frames that connect to computers and flip through a number of photos on your harddrive. The frame also shows other information, such as the current weather forecast or caller ID when a phone call comes in.

Grindeland said his product passes the mom test. He sent his mother one and he controls it from his house by sending new photos of the grandchildren to it whenever he wants.

The frame is surprisingly smart. It comes with Windows CE operating system that connects to the computer using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, infrared or USB. It also can be connected directly to a camera and supports seven types of memory cards.

The funding the company is seeking today is for supporting orders, which Grindeland says are already in place in Europe, Canada and the U.S. He said the product will launch in October through partnerships with unnamed retailers, digital camera manufactuers and PC manufacturers.

A 5 x 7-in. picture frame costs $150 and a 6 x 9 in. costs $250.

A Living Picture will present today between 1:30 and 2:45 p.m. to Paul Bialek of Frazier Technology Ventures and Shawn Carolan of Menlo Ventures. Bill McAleer of Voyager Capital will moderate.

WSA: Digital Lifestyle panel III: Final thoughts

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:57 AM

Peter Daley, an analyst from Rutberg & Co. who was moderating the panel, asked one final question -- who would be successful in the digital lifestyle? The options were content owners, distributors or those building consumer tehcnology.

David Britts of ComVentures said that he thinks it will be the underlying tehcnology builders. He said the content owners would be No 2, but that it was "a hits parade," where those who succeed would need to release new and better continually.. "It's a great time to be an entrepreneur -- there's a lot of money out there for a company that can make it dead simple."

Tim Dowling agreed: "There's a tremendous amount of money out there looking for deals in the digital home." His bet would also be on the enabling technology.

Seth Shapiro, principal at New Amsterdam Media, said he was more idealistic -- that all parties need to be successful for things to be accomplished. "I think that all have to happen in order for it to work. There's room for everyone."

Mike Fidler, CEO of Digeo, which has a television set-top box for the living room, said he likes where his company is. "I think the interface where you manage and receive all content is a critical part of the digital lifestyle."

WSA: Digital Lifestyle panel II

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:38 AM

The advice to startups coming from the panel of four executives was to keep things simple.

David Britts, general partner at ComVentures, said that you can tell that there's a lot of complexity in technology by the size of Best Buy's Geek Squad -- the people who make house calls to fix computer problems.

Tim Dowling, who has direct experience at trying to make technology eaiser to use at Pure Networks (now Network Magic), said the Geek Squad has two vehicles in the Seattle area and the No. 1 problem it responds to involves getting two computers networked together in a home. He said the squae charges $150 for the service.

Remedying the disconnect between the technology and people's ability to use it, the panel agreed, requires a lot of work. It requires not making two versions of a product, but six renditions over time.

WSA: Digital Lifestyle panel I

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:36 AM

During the introduction for the Digital Lifestyle panel this morning, Tim Dowling said he had been working at Pure Networks, a Seattle company that builds software to help people set up home computer networks.

He said he is now an independent consultant and working on finding a new startup opportunity.

One more change: Pure Networks is now known as Network Magic.

WSA: Investment Forum kicks off

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:33 AM

The 2006 WSA Investment Forum kicked off this morning at Bell Harbor International Comference Center with a semi-crowded room and people dressed to impress.

The day is expected to be wide-rangings. About 27 companies are set eitherfor fund-raising pitches to venture capitalists or sales pitches to representatives of relevant companies. There are also panel discussions looking at a variety of subjects and a demonstration room where presenting companies will be able to show off their products.

The main topics of include digital media, helath IT and Web services.

Some of the companies in attendence include: A Living Picture, Melodeo, gamerZunion, Pluggd, thePlatform, Red Llama, Teranode, TouchNetworks, Farecast, HyperQuality, Mpire, PayScale, Cequint, GoGoMo, Movaya Wireless, SNAPin, Sotto Wireless, and Telecom Transport Management.

Tricia Duryee
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