Venture capital investment had its biggest quarter (Q2 2012) of the decade

U.S. venture capitalists put $8.1 billion into 812 deals in the second quarter of 2012, their single largest quarter in more than a decade, according to CB Insights.

It’s clear that factors like the greater American economy and the bumpy tech IPO market don’t necessarily have a direct and/or timely correlation with venture capital spending.

Funding was up 37 percent from the first quarter, and 5 percent from a year ago. Number of deals were up 3 percent from the past quarter, and 4 percent from the past year.

Photo and video start-ups accounted for 29 percent of mobile funding dollars.

 

Keep reading: All Things D – U.S. Venture Capital Has Its Biggest Quarter Since Dot-Com Days

 

 

Continue reading Venture capital investment had its biggest quarter (Q2 2012) of the decade

Silicon Valley to get its own airline – SurfAir

A new airline, SurfAir, has emerged to serve entrepreneurs, executives, and Venture Capitalists, who travel frequently throughout the state of California.

…the US infrastructure has billions of dollars that is hardly used, so much infrastructure that Michael Flint said he could have us landing on a runway within 20 minutes, in case of an emergency with my mom. I later learned that about half of America’s airports operate at less than 10% capacity, and those are mainly the municipal airports, such as Palo Alto Airport in Silicon Valley.

SurfAir grew quickly and is already launching its beta this month. It’s starting with six destinations. 500 people were selected to participate. It’s a subscription model, just like Netflix. For less than $1000 per month, members can fly multiple trips between California destinations on a private Pilatus 8-seater aircraft. Passengers drive right up to the aircraft, where a valet parks their car and takes their luggage. They’re all pre-screened, so all they have to do is board the aircraft, and they’re at their destination within an hour with a car waiting for them as they exit the plane.

via Pando Daily

 

 

The airline will have (planned) service to – Palo Alto, Monterey, Santa Barbara, & Los Angeles – and it looks to be big hit:

 

When we originally interviewed SurfAir CEO Wade Eyerly last March, he indicated the company was seeking about $2 million. But over the past couple of days we’ve gotten unsolicited calls from investors, who wish to remain anonymous at this point, who have told us that there was so much demand that the company has raised nearly $14 million.

via – SurfAir’s 1st Round of Funding “Oversubscribed”

Switzerland – Silicon Alps – joins the start-up ecosystem

Ah, Switzerland. The land of chocolate, cow-bells, skiing and prices that make you want to cry. A place that has built a global brand on providing a safe, risk-free haven for other people’s money and not being disruptive or belligerent. Clean, orderly and wonderfully peaceful — yes, the clichés are true.

Not then, you might think, a country especially suited to launching a startup — but you’d be wrong. Long a hub for high-tech and medical sciences, Switzerland now boasts an ecosystem of Internet entrepreneurs that’s blossoming as fast as the proverbial Edelweiss in spring.

“I don’t know any other country on Earth that is so good at seed funding,” enthuses Johannes Reck, co-founder and CEO of GetYourGuide. His story is illuminating — after founding GetYourGuide in 2008, his team was approached by a local bank with a seed funding offer, an out of the blue reversal of roles that typifies what’s happening here.

“In literally every other country in the world I’ve been to, entrepreneurs struggle so hard to get their first seed funding,” he says. “In Switzerland you have a lot of institutions who provide money, literally for free, very early on.”

 

via TNW Europe

 

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Read about start-ups scenes in L.A. and Berlin:

 

And, some beautiful photos of Switzerland:

Continue reading Switzerland – Silicon Alps – joins the start-up ecosystem

Bill Gates invests in the future of electricity storage – Liquid Metal Batteries

Liquid Metal Battery Corporation, an MIT spin out that’s developing new technologies for electricity storage, has raised $15 million in funding from Khosla Ventures, Total and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. The technology behind the company was developed by Dr. Donald Sadoway (his famous TED Talk), a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

“Large-scale electricity storage will be a critical part of reinventing the global electric grid infrastructure, and LMBC has developed the most innovative chemically-based solution that we’ve seen,” said Andrew Chung of Khosla Ventures.

via GeekWire

 

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Bill believes that creating large-scale batteries to store energy is a critical problem to solve if solar and wind energy are to become mainstream. In this video, Bill and MIT Professor Donald Sadoway discuss the importance of new battery storage technology and Sadoway’s focus on the development of a “liquid metal” battery.

via Gates Notes

 

 

To get more technical, the liquid in the all-liquid battery is molten salt and liquid metal, which:

“…avoids cycle-to-cycle capacity fade because the liquid electrodes are reconstituted with each charge – similar systems have operated in a lab environment for more than 17 months with daily cycling and no reduction in performance. The molten salt electrolyte combines high conductivity with abuse tolerance at low cost. Self-segregation due to three immiscible liquid phases of different densities (e.g. oil and water separation) allows for robust operation and ease of manufacture. Together, these attributes will enable the liquid metal battery to exceed 70% round-trip AC efficiency for over a decade without degradation.”

Learn more on the2-page information sheet from LMBC (pdf)

Continue reading Bill Gates invests in the future of electricity storage – Liquid Metal Batteries

Pinterest valued at $1.5 billion – as megalithic Japanese website invests

Rakuten (the Amazon of Japan) has led a $100m funding round into Pinterest, which values the online “curation” community at around $1.5 billion.

The Japanese ecommerce giant won out over major US venture capital firms who were vying for a piece of Silicon Valley’s new sweetheart, which lets users clip images to a virtual pinboard.

The FT spoke to Hiroshi Mikitani, chief executive of Rakuten, about how social discovery can boost ecommerce and the growing importance of images over text on the web.

“I met Pinterest’s management a few months ago and we got along very, very well….They said they were planning to raise capital. I offered to take all of it.”

“They had a prior arrangement with their angel investors so I told them I would like to get as much as possible. We talked about how we can help each other and we can help their presence in Japan which is one of the major markets in the internet industry. And they liked the fact they we would be able to help their business in Japan.”

via – Financial Times

 

// Photo – Alan Cleaver

Bloom Energy, an update – from start-up to acceleration, this company is winning

It’s been two years and time for an update on Bloom Energy. Back in February, 2010, the company made a big splash by announcing their technology and their customers.

The technology is revolutionary for the simple fact that it does not use steam-powered turbines. Every power plant in the world from coal to nuclear still uses a steam engine. Think Mark Twain on the Mississippi and you’re not far off.

This technology uses a Solid-Oxide fuel cell to convert natural gas into energy without combustion (or steam).

For decades, experts have agreed that solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) hold the greatest potential of any fuel cell technology. With low cost ceramic materials, and extremely high electrical efficiencies, SOFCs can deliver attractive economics without relying on CHP (steam). But until now, there were significant technical challenges inhibiting the commercialization of this promising new technology.

via Bloom Energy

The “low cost ceramic materials” is huge because traditional fuel cells use expensive and rare ones that America fights China for.

The other major component here is the “technical challenges” that Bloom has overcome using a term they call “R&D on steroids”.

As a venture capital backed company they have been able to rapidly iterate since 2001, resulting in some incredible efficiencies. The first is the fuel cell they launched in 2010 that requires half the natural gas for the same power from traditional sources.

The second, recently launched, allows for double the amount of power with the same cell. Put another way, with the same footprint you get 200 kw instead of 100 kw.

These innovations have been hugely popular among the right set of customers. Companies like Coca-Cola, Walmart, Google, Bank of America, AT&T, and Ebay have all installed the Bloom Servers at their offices.

That success is continuing as seen by the rapid growth in their workforce, which has increased by 70% since 2010, and added 1,000 manufacturing jobs in California. Not to mention establishing an international arm to push this technology worldwide.

Back in 2010, when the company was lauded as the next big thing many were skeptical, including myself. Here is my coverage of that press event launching Bloom Energy.

At this point, though, it seems clear that the only question is when GE will buy the company or start competing with them.