With Exits Barred, VCs Keep Investments Flat

If you believe the venture capitalists on Friday’s conference call about the latest MoneyTree Survey results, which covers venture investing in the second quarter, now is the best time to contact them with your ideas. Just because the exit environment is brutal doesn’t mean VCs won’t continue to put their time and dollars into seed and early-stage deals, two of them said. And so far the data bears that out. But if the exit environment stays grim, early-stage fundings will drop as well.

Venture capitalists invested $7.39 billion in 990 deals in the second quarter of 2008, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on data provided by Thomson Reuters. That’s slightly less than the first quarter of 2008, when $7.5 billion was invested in 977 deals, and flat compared to the second quarter of 2007, when VCs placed $7.37 billion into 1,033 deals.

John Taylor, VP of research with the NVCA, said that there’s no need to sound the alarm on the exit environment just yet. He also noted the fact that IPOs are more difficult to complete than they used to be. Taylor tied the inability to take a company public or sell it to “fears of the macro economy” and a market that’s unwilling to bet on early-stage companies. But he expressed confidence that once investors realize that the overall tech sector is strong and resilient, in part because it has global exposure, “the slowdown in the exit market will stop.” Read More about With Exits Barred, VCs Keep Investments Flat

Cleantech Investment Rises Again

It’s still a great time to be a clean technology company seeking funding, according to data released today from the quarterly MoneyTree Survey. The cleantech sector reached an all-time quarterly high in investment dollars in the three-month period ended June 30, with $883.6 million going into 65 deals, according to the report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on data provided by Thomson Reuters.

This dollar figure represents a slight increase from the first quarter, when $870.9 million went into 60 deals, and a whopping 62 percent rise over the $544.4 million dollars that went into 53 companies during the second quarter of 2007. And the top two deals involved clean technology companies: OptiSolar, which captured $132 million (and far more than the $38 million we had noted back in April), and BrightSource, which raised $115 million.

Notably, Thomson Reuters changed its definition of cleantech this quarter to include more companies; it also changed the historical data to reflect the category change.

Cleantech companies are faring better than the overall venture climate, which stayed flat from the previous quarter and flat compared with the second quarter in 2007. Venture capitalists invested $7.39 billion in 990 deals in the second quarter of 2008, while in the first quarter, $7.5 billion was invested in 977 deals. For the second quarter of 2007, VCs placed $7.37 billion into 1,033 deals.

Cleantech is a growth area for venture firms; it comprised half of the industrial and energy segment deals in the latest three-month period. Trevor Loy, a managing partner with Flywheel Ventures, a seed-stage firm focused on clean tech and hardware deals, said the investments are now moving beyond renewable energy into categories such as clean building trends, petrochemicals and devices that use less energy. Water is also a big interest for Flywheel as the firm believes it will grow in importance as a resource over the next 10-20 years.

NVCA Discovers That Most VCs Are White Males

The National Association of Venture Capitals released a demographic study today that was pretty anticlimactic. They discovered that venture capitalists in charge of investing money were white (88 percent) and male (86 percent.) But the trade organization was encouraged by the fact that 81 percent of junior venture capitalists (senior associates and associates) were weren’t white, leading to hopes that the VC population overall will become more diverse.

In the meantime, if you’re a member of a minority you’re far more likely to achieve the exalted general partner or managing director status if you have a PhD. Almost a quarter of non-whites and 81 percent of those born outside of the U.S. earned Masters or PhDs, compared with 62 percent of whites and 61 percent of U.S.-born VCs. As a friend of mine put it, if you can walk on water, you’re in. Nice.

Cleantech Continues Its Decline With VCs

For the first quarter of the year, clean investing continued to decline, from a high of $885 million invested in the third quarter of 2007. In the first quarter of 2008, venture capitalists put $625 million into 44 clean technology firms, according the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

This represented a 6 percent decline in the dollar level for cleantech companies from the fourth quarter of 2007 (although it was a 51 percent increase from the first quarter for 2007.) The largest deal in the first quarter was a cleantech deal for Range Fuels, with the next-generation ethanol producer capturing $130 million. Additionally, four of the top 10 largest deals in the quarter were for cleantech startups.

Others included a $50 million round for Suniva, a thin-film maker; $4 million for an unidentified ethanol company in Massachusetts; and $50 million for stirling solar company Infinia. All in all, cleantech financing accounted for 8.8 percent of the dollars invested for the quarter and 4.8 percent of the deal flow.

PhoneFusion Adds Visual Voicemail

ScreenshotThanks to PhoneFusion, visual voicemail management is no longer limited to the iPhone. Anyone can now sign up for the Fusion Voicemail Plus service and get free unified voicemail management on their phone. At the moment, the phone-side software requires Windows Mobile 5 or 6, but they’re actively developing versions for other operating systems.

After signing up, you forward all of your voicemail to a new number from PhoneFusion. Then whenever a message comes in, you get a notification on your phone, and an application to manage notifications in. Listen to messages in any order, delete them, send messages, call back, or just get an overview there. You can also manage messages in the system from a web browser or any phone line.
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Working in the cloud and the impact on mobile connectivity

ZeusA lot of folks are now happily working away in the cloud and more are joining that group every day.  Working in the cloud fits a lot of mobile workers’ lifestyles what with keeping data on the web and accessing it on whatever device they might be using at a given moment.  This method is very effective for many, I know Kevin is quite happy working in the cloud.  I have tried different "cloud approaches" and while they work well I have noticed they can have an impact, not always positive, when I happen to be in the field and using 3G mobile broadband connectivity.

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Palm Treo 750 hits Canada, first HSPA Treo for Canucks

PalmtreorogersGood news for Canada out of Palm: the Treo 750 is finally available for Rogers Wireless customers, making this the first Treo on the Rogers network with HSPA support. The Windows Mobile 6 Professional device offers up Palm’s effective QWERTY keyboard and 240 x 240 screen. It would have been a nice upgrade to have a 320 x 320 in my opinion, but I’m just the messenger. Speaking of messages, Direct Push e-mail support should work quite zippy on the handheld thanks to the tri-band UMTS / HSPA radio; you’ll get quad-band voice support in case you start crossing borders and oceans.

A quick trip to the Rogers Wireless Treo 750 page shows availability at $249.99 with a three-year contract. If you’re a commitment-phobe, the price ramps up to a whopping $649.99. For about $200 more, maybe the HTC Advantage might be worth a look?

Another Day, Another VoIP Provider

Well folks, if you are like me and losing touch with reality and cannot keep up with the VoIP provider announcements, I might have a solution which might be agreeable to most. I am going to put a “dollar” for every new VoIP provider that starts-up, and send the money over to the tsunami victims. I guess with the pace the whole industry is growing, about $25 a month, for next twelve months is not that difficult. Now if ten of you decide to join me in this exercise, well do the math… that’s $3000. I think that should get at least six families back on their feet. I mean something good should come out of this VoIP madness… right! Now why this sudden brain storm… well eLEC has just launched its VOX service nationwide. Read any other company’s product offerings, and then go to eLEC’s homepage to see an encore. National service is $30 bucks a month. Please note, the madness is so steep that now the company is using dot-net. Guess the dot-com is gone!