Archive for February, 2010

Here is an article from SF Chronicle´s tech section worth reading.

“Intel Corp. and 24 venture capital firms will invest $3.5 billion in U.S. technology startups over the next two years, as part of a broad initiative to boost the nation’s competitiveness and create jobs.

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Here is an article from Bloomberg.

“Ballooning debt is likely to force several countries to default and the U.S. to cut spending, according to Harvard University Professor Kenneth Rogoff, who in 2008 predicted the failure of big American banks.

Following banking crises, “we usually see a bunch of sovereign defaults, say in a few years,” Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, said at a forum in Tokyo yesterday. “I predict we will again.”

The U.S. is likely to tighten monetary policy before cutting government spending, sending “shockwaves” through financial markets, Rogoff said in an interview after the speech. Fiscal policy won’t be curbed until soaring bond yields trigger “very painful” tax increases and spending cuts, he said.

Global scrutiny of sovereign debt has risen after budget shortfalls of countries including Greece swelled in the wake of the worst global financial meltdown since the 1930s. The U.S. is facing an unprecedented $1.6 trillion budget deficit in the year ending Sept. 30, the government has forecast.

“Most countries have reached a point where it would be much wiser to phase out fiscal stimulus,” said Rogoff, who co- wrote a history of financial crises published in 2009. It would be better “to keep monetary policy soft and start gradually tightening fiscal policy even if it meant some inflation.”

Failed Marriage

Rogoff, 56, said he expects Greece will eventually be bailed out by the IMF rather than the European Union. Greece will probably announce an austerity program “in a few weeks” that will prompt the EU to provide a bridge loan which won’t be enough to save the country in the long run, he said.

“It’s like two people getting married and saying therefore they’re living happily ever after,” said Rogoff. “I don’t think Europe’s going to succeed.”

Investors will eventually demand higher interest rates to lend to countries around the world that have accumulated debt, including the U.S., he said. The IMF forecast in November that gross U.S. borrowings will amount to the equivalent of 99.5 percent of annual economic output in 2011. The U.K.’s will reach 94.1 percent and Japan’s will spiral to 204.3 percent.

“In rich countries — Germany, the United States and maybe Japan — we are going to see slow growth. They will tighten their belts when the problem hits with interest rates,” Rogoff said at the forum, which was hosted by CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, a unit of Credit Agricole SA, France’s largest retail bank. Japanese fiscal policy is “out of control,” he said.”

Read the whole article here.

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Outlined below is an article from Cooley Godward Kronish LLP on Venture Capital  market indicators.

“Palo Alto, Calif. – Feb. 18, 2010 – Cooley Godward Kronish LLP today released its most recent report on venture capital financing market terms.  The report analyzes Cooley’s venture capital transactions nationwide that closed during the fourth quarter of 2009, with comparisons to the first three quarters of 2009 and prior years. The analysis is based on 376 completed deals across the United States totaling approximately $3.82 billion during 2009, including 98 completed deals totaling approximately $1.1 billion during the fourth quarter.

Highlights from the fourth quarter of 2009 include:

• The percentage of up rounds in the fourth quarter (45 percent) saw a considerable increase compared to the first three quarters (26 percent)
• The percentage of down or flat rounds continues to outpace the number of up rounds
• While still below recent historical annual averages, fourth quarter median pre-money valuations increased for all series as compared to the prior three quarters of 2009

“The increases in the number of deals, average pre-money valuations and aggregate dollars raised in the fourth quarter point to a potentially improving landscape for venture financing deals,” said Craig Jacoby, head of Cooley’s Emerging Companies practice.

Cooley’s Private Company Financings Report is published quarterly and is based on private company transactions in which Cooley served as counsel to either the issuing company or the investors. A complete version of the report is available here.”

Read the full article here.

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Here is a good commentary from San Jose Mercury News around Microsoft´s new mobile launch.

“The era of the PC’s dominance is officially over. We have crossed over into the age of mobile computing.

This transition has been building momentum for a while. Some might argue that the iPhone was the dawn of this era. Others might say it was really the rise of the BlackBerry. Or maybe even Android, Google’s mobile operating system. Good cases could be made that any one of these marked the start of the mobile era.

But Microsoft’s announcement of its new mobile-phone platform this week signals a clear end to the old PC era and an epic shift in computing.

But why Microsoft? The reason has little to do with the details of Windows Phone Series 7 that the company unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday.

I haven’t touched it, and it won’t be available to consumers for months.

This isn’t about specific features or its design, or whether it will help Microsoft regain lost momentum in the mobile market. Rather, what struck me is how Microsoft did this.

For years, the company took its Windows operating system and created a miniature version for smartphones. While initially good enough for many users, this was the approach of a titan aimed at protecting its turf, rather than a nimble tech firm trying to innovate. It was safe, which is often the enemy of creativity.

Along the way, Windows Mobile was surpassed by the iPhone, Android and Palm’s webOS in terms of elegance and features.

Rapidly losing market share in this critical space to those competitors, Microsoft eventually decided it was time to reboot. For the new version, Microsoft scrapped the Windows-based version completely. The need to think mobile first was so critical, the company was willing to risk undermining its biggest franchise, Windows, which brings in billions of dollars a year.

Rather than let that fear of change paralyze it, Microsoft built the new operating system for smartphones from the ground up. And it did it for the right reason:

“The phone is not a PC,” said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows phone program management as he demonstrated the new platform.

“Well, duh,” you say. That sounds obvious. It’s not.

The success of the Windows operating system bred complacency. The temptation is to make sure everything you do reinforces the cash cow.

To cast that aside, to start over, is a fearless move.

I chatted Tuesday with Karen Wong-Duncan, a manager in Microsoft’s mobile communications systems, who said the rapid change and adoption in the smartphone market required more than just incremental changes. This time around, Microsoft was trying to think big.”

Read the full article here.

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Here is an interresting article from SF Chronicle.

“Regulators have cleared the way for the landmark search partnership between Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., creating a unified front in the battle to crack the dominance of Google Inc.

Seven months after announcing the agreement and following several years of merger flirtations, the U.S. Department of Justice and European Commission approved a deal that tightly allies the No. 2 and No. 3 players in the search space. It also marks a pivotal moment in the history of Yahoo, as it cedes territory where it was once a pioneer.

Under the terms of the pact, Microsoft’s Bing search tool will become the exclusive platform on Yahoo’s sites, funneling queries through the Redmond, Wash., software titan’s increasingly popular algorithm. The Sunnyvale Web portal will sell advertising tied to online search for both companies, and Microsoft will pay Yahoo for the traffic it generates.

The deal promises to give the companies control over nearly 30 percent of U.S. online searches, based on the current market share reported by comScore Inc. The combination will deliver improved results for consumers and better returns for advertisers and publishers, the companies said.

“Together, Microsoft and Yahoo will promote more choice, better value and greater innovation,” Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said in a statement.

But analysts are skeptical about how much the deal will really reshape the search industry. Google holds a commanding lead of more than 65 percent of searches, and Yahoo has been bleeding market share for years.

“I don’t think there’s a big shift in power here,” said Carl Howe, analyst with Yankee Group Research Inc.

Rather, he said the agreement provides incremental benefits, opening up a bigger channel of advertisers for Microsoft and lowering research and development costs for Yahoo.

Yahoo previously estimated the agreement would add $500 million to its annual operating income and save $200 million in capital expenditures, though not until two years after the deal was approved.

Implementation will begin in the coming days and could be complete in the United States by the end of the year. The goal is to transition U.S. advertisers and publishers to the new platform before the holiday season, but the companies acknowledged it may take until 2011.

“This breakthrough search alliance means Yahoo can focus even more on our own innovative search experience,” Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said in a statement. “Yahoo gets to do what we do best: combine our science and technology with compelling content to build personally relevant online experiences for our users and customers.”

Read the whole article here.

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Here is some good news from CIO update.

“After what can only be described as a desolate merger and acquisition landscape throughout most of 2009, a new study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts an upswing in both the volume and value of deals this year. And mergers and acquisitions in the high-tech sector will be leading the charge.

According to the US technology M&A insights 2010 study, total closed deals in 2009 fell 53 percent and were valued at just under $36 billion, way down from 2008 when companies completed purchases valued at $77 billion. However, a nice little surge in technology deals in the latter portion of 2009 appears to have given the market some momentum with 85 percent of the value of the $36 billion in mergers and acquisitions last year coming in the final six months.

“Driven by the surge of technology deals completed in the latter half of 2009, PwC expects deal activity to continue apace in 2010, albeit still below the levels seen in 2006-07,” the report said.

Anyone lamenting the moribund state of the technology M&A market can’t blame Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL). The software giant continues to continues to make purchase after purchase in its ambitious quest to unseat SAP (NYSE: SAP) as the world’s largest business application maker and take on rivals IBM (NYSE: IBM), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and HP (NYSE: HPQ) as it looks to become the world’s leading systems provider. Oracle has already made a pair of acquisitions early in 2010 after closing its blockbuster purchase of Sun Microsystems.

IBM also loosened its purse strings in effort to keep pace with Oracle and other cloud-computing providers. It’s a trend that PWC expect will continue throughout 2010. “There is much enthusiasm that the IPO market will make a big comeback in 2010,” the report’s authors wrote. “Add to this the potential return of private equity investors to the negotiating table and the result is improving exit multiples and more satisfied sellers.”

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Here is a good article written by David Gold posted at The Cleantech Group.

“With all the complexities of cleantech policy and technologies, there is only one simple thing needed for an explosion of competitive clean technologies: an increase in the price of fossil fuels.

The amount of R&D that will need to be invested in clean technology in order for them to become competitive is much greater with low fossil fuel prices. And, the lower those prices, the less appetite the private sector has for making such investments.

This leaves a much-increased burden on the back of government through grants and subsidies—a back that is close to being broken from debt.

While clean technology development is absolutely necessary, technology development takes time and, often, a long time. And technology development is fraught with uncertainty…nobody ever knows a priori whether such efforts will be successful and how long they will take. Believe me… every venture fund in the world would love to be able to know that! But they don’t.

However, virtually every venture fund and researcher will acknowledge that significant advances usually take much more time and more money than expected.

In an environment of relatively low fossil fuel prices with high price volatility, grants and subsidies for an amount of time and at a level that will make any permanent and meaningful difference are simply unsustainable. So, for all the focus on “cleantech stimulus,” the most important thing that government can do is to affect change in the cost of fossil fuel alternatives.

If we had higher fossil fuel prices, or even just clearer visibility and certainty about future increases, the free market would make dramatic increases in investment in clean technology. When the free market sees an opportunity to make a profit, it moves extremely fast.

Government actions that put in motion increases in the cost of fossil fuel alternatives, even if those increases are phased in over many years, could have an enormous impact on the money invested by the private sector in alternatives (and a corresponding decrease in need for government subsidies and grants).

This, in turn, could further accelerate technology advances, leading to a more rapid convergence of the time when various technologies can competitively reach the mass market.

Given that fossil fuels are a finite resource, it is a fait accompli that eventually alternative energy and energy efficiency technologies will become so compelling that they will dominate the market. But the future of fossil fuel prices in the relatively near term (e.g., the next decade or two) is far from certain (article), as both general economic conditions and new discoveries such as those in Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt play a role.

If we didn’t care about global warming, national security or economic security, there would be little need to do anything but let the market take its course. But irrespective of personal policy hot buttons, most would agree that we do not have the luxury of the amount of time for this transition to take on its own.”

Read the full article here.

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