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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

April 24, 2008 at 10:15 AM

WTIA’s startupalooza investment forum

A few tidbits from the morning session of the tech trade group’s forum at Bell Harbor conference center:

The outlook is uncertain for venture capitalists, according to Stephen Sommerville, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers who presented data from the MoneyTree Report.

Washington state is still doing relatively well, ranking fifth in investments in the first quarter and fourth in terms of deals, with software and biotech still getting the lion’s share.

But opportunities to cash out may be thinning, he said, noting first quarter declines in IPO registrations (fell from 60 to 37) and average M&A deal sizes (dropped to $125 million, from $177 million in 2007).

“It remains to be seen if that lack of liquidity is going to provide a barrier to VC investment going forward,” he said.

On Clearwire’s outlook, a morning panel moderated by Keith Grinstein was 2-1 negative, with the positive perspective coming from Clearwire consultant Mike McSherry. Analysts Sid Parakh of McAdams Wright Ragen and Steve Lidberg of Pacific Crest Securities are more enthusiastic about the potential of 3G networks — specifically W-CDMA — to fill the mobile broadband void.

What’s hot, according to the panelists? The iPhone and location-based services.

What’s not? Mobile commerce, which isn’t likely to take off anytime soon in the United States, especially with carriers and credit card companies trying to get a piece of the action. McSherry said they’re adding the equivalent of an 8 percent commission on sales. But the story’s better internationally.

Also not hot is Microsoft’s effort to buy Yahoo. Lidberg said Microsoft has to make the move, but Parakh and McSherry both said merging the companies will be a nightmare and they have more faith in Microsoft’s ability to grow organically.

Least hot of all, though, are individual purchases of carbon offsets. When Grinstein asked the crowd of entrepreneurs and investors how many purchased offsets, he was the only one to raise his hand.

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