Venture funding holds its own during Q3

FRAMINGHAM (11/07/2003) - While privately held network companies still aren't attracting the venture capital dollars they used to, experts are upbeat about investments in the overall technology sector during the third quarter, which should mean more companies with good ideas will find the funding they need to bring their products to market.

Venture capitalists funneled US$1.9 billion into network and related companies during the third quarter, according to an analysis of the PricewaterhouseCoopers/Thomson Venture Economics/National Venture Capital Association MoneyTree Survey done for Network World. That's down from the $2.2 billion invested during the second quarter, but not as low as many feared during the notoriously slow third quarter that spans the summer months. "The fact that investments stayed relatively level with the second quarter is a significant pattern, it shows a slight uptick from what is normally expected," says Tracy Lefteroff, global managing partner for PricewaterhouseCooper's Venture Capital & Private Equity Practice. "We've definitely hit bottom, and now we're starting to see a pickup in activity."

In addition to biotechnology and healthcare, which quickly became favored sectors by venture capitalists after the Internet bubble burst in 2000, investors say they are interested in companies that produce Wi-Fi gear and services, and messaging and security vendors. For example, anti-spam companies Cloudmark Inc., Corvigo Inc., FrontBridge Technologies Inc., MessageGate Inc. and Postini Inc. all received venture funding during the third quarter, while Boingo Wireless Inc., Colubris Networks Inc., Legra Systems Inc., Tropos Networks Inc. and Wayport Inc. were among the Wi-Fi vendors that attracted dollars. Among the largest deals was a $50 million investment in VPN vendor Fiberlink Communications Corp. from Technology Crossover Ventures; a $47 million investment in storage company BlueArc Corp. from Crosslink Capital, and $32 million in funding for online exchange e2Open. com by Crosspoint Venture Partners and an undisclosed firm.

Network equipment vendors saw $331 million in investments, spread across 46 deals, representing a modest amount of activity, Lefteroff says.

While observers remain confident that venture funding of technology companies is on the rise, investors stress that only those start-ups with compelling products and impressive customer lists will garner coveted venture dollars.

"We're much more focused on the customer and the market" than during the Internet boom, says Pascal Luck, managing director with venture firm Core Capital, which invests in network and software start-ups.

"There's a much bigger focus on customer traction and market validation of a particular product," he says.

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