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Venture Capitalists Got Caught In The Summer Doldrums

October 1, 2004

By Ann Grimes

Venture capitalists entered the third quarter with the wind at their backs -- more initial public offerings of stock were completed in the previous quarter than any time since the 1990s technology boom -- fueled, in part, by the much-anticipated IPO of search-engine company Google Inc.

But high expectations, which gave several venture capitalists much-needed liquidity, failed to turn into a third-quarter surge. Venture-backed IPOs for U.S. companies, which rose to 24 in the second quarter from 10 in the first, fell back to 14 during the slower July-September period.

When the shares sold by both new and existing investors are accounted for, third-quarter transactions brought in $2.3 billion, according to VentureOne, a Dow Jones & Co. newsletter that tracks the industry. Although that looks good in comparison with the $1.5 billion raised by 22 venture-backed IPOs in all of 2003, more than half the capital raised in the latest quarter came from Google, which brought in $1.7 billion on its opening day in August. Google shares have risen almost 50% since. Several venture-backed companies -- including Nanosys Inc. and PlanetOut Inc. -- postponed their IPOs, citing uncertain market conditions.

Still, the industry mood remains "conservatively positive," says Nicolas El Baze, a general partner at venture firm Partech International in San Francisco.

Activity on the merger front remained steady, with 90 acquisitions of venture-backed companies raising $5.9 billion, compared with 96 deals for the first quarter and 95 in the second. Those raised $12.1 billion, collectively, according to VentureOne.

Among the third quarter's biggest transactions: Cisco Systems Inc.'s $200 million acquisition of software developer P-Cube Inc., the networking giant's sixth private acquisition of the year.

Several other deals brought venture investors a nice return, as valuations of start-up companies continued to rise and sellers commanded sizable multiples over the amount of money venture investors initially put in.

Among them: Yahoo Inc.'s purchase of Musicmatch Inc. for $160 million. The start-up company, which allows consumers download and pay for songs from the Web, originally raised $37 million in venture capital. Similarly, Qualcomm Inc. paid $170 million for Iridigm Display Corp., which makes flat-panel display technology. Venture investors originally put in $46.6 million.

On the flip side, Cisco announced its seventh acquisition of a start-up business -- paying $55 million in cash for dynamicsoft -- which makes software to speed the delivery of voice over the Internet. The Parsippany, N.J., company had raised close to $80 million in venture capital, a Cisco spokeswoman said.

Preliminary numbers for the latest quarter compiled by VentureOne show that venture dollars invested are down, while the number of deals seems to be holding steady. Final figures for the quarter won't be available for several weeks.

For the first nine months, however, overall investment is up 19% $16.8 billion from $14.1 billion at this point last year, according to VentureWire, another industry-tracking newsletter published by Dow Jones.

The largest venture investment of the quarter was the $105 million infusion of cash into Vonage Holdings Corp., an Edison, N.J., company that provides voice-over-Internet telephone services, by a group led by New Enterprise Associates, a bicoastal venture firm flush with a $1 billion new fund.

Biotechnology continued to draw big bucks: Avera Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is trying to develop and license treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders, raised $48 million in a third round of financing. Sopherion Therapeutics Inc., a maker of oncology, asthma and allergy drugs, raised $47 million in a second round.

Telecommunications also made a bit of a comeback, as ABS Capital led a $23 million round of investment in Control Point Solutions Inc., a company born from the merger of Broadmargin Inc. and Teldata Control Inc. whose products target telecommunications cost-management problems.

BridgePort Networks Inc., which makes products that link mobile and Internet telephone calls, raised $25 million in a second round.

College Sports TV, an independent cable service with offices in New York City, raised a $62 million second round, from an investment syndicate that included Allen & Co., Coca Cola Co., J.P. Morgan Partners, the private-equity arm of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and the New York City Investment Fund.

Semiconductor makers continue to attract capital, including $40 million for Silicon Optix Inc. in San Jose, Calif. Companies targeting pop-up ads and other computer-security concerns also pulled in the big bucks: PatchLink Corp., a Scottsdale, Ariz., start-up pulled in a $30 million first round from BA Ventures and Bay Partners. Proofpoint Inc., a Cupertino, Calif., maker of antispam software, raised a $20 million round to fund its expansion into Asia.

Firms interested in solving chronic technical problems, such as cooling systems for integrated circuits, which heat up faster the smaller they get, also received funding. Vette Corp., Manchester, N.H., pulled in $9 million from General Catalyst and Kodiak Ventures.

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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See for details.

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