Wireless, Life Sciences Winners In VC Deals

Venture capital funding may have dropped overall in the first quarter of this year, but not all sectors suffered as seen by the multimillion dollar deals granted to the likes of Meru, Beceem, Stokes, Lavante, iScience, and Ausra.

Michael Singer, Contributor

April 22, 2009

4 Min Read

Venture capital funding may have dropped overall in the first quarter of this year, but not all sectors suffered as seen by the multimillion dollar deals granted to the likes of Meru, Beceem, Stokes, Lavante, iScience, and Ausra.

The rest of us found out this week what startups already know: the money just wasn't flowing as freely in January, February, and March. A Money Tree venture capital survey found companies invested just $3 billion in 549 deals in the first quarter -- a drop of 61% from the same quarter a year ago. The figures represent a 47% drop in dollars and 37% drop in deals.

But with a new quarter in play, six young companies in the bio-science, wireless networking, and Web 2.0 space have fresh infusions of cash to further develop their products.

Meru Networks created the most buzz on Monday when it announced $30 million in a private funding round led by Vision Capital Advisors, LLC, of New York City. Existing investors, including Clearstone Venture Partners, NeoCarta Ventures, BlueStream Ventures, The D. E. Shaw Group, Evercore Partners, Tenaya Capital and Monitor Ventures, also participated in the funding round.

The company makes 802.11n virtual cell WLAN products that use virtualization to deliver wireless services to businesses for voice, video and data applications. The products compete with similar offerings from Cisco and Aruba. Company CFO Brett White said the latest round of funding is expected to help Meru's engineers solve application performance problems over wireless while meeting a strong demand from the health-care and education markets.

Also in the wireless networking space, Stoke this week said it now has an additional $15 million to support its installed base and commercial carrier trials with carriers. The company makes mobile broadband gateways for network operators. New investor Net One Systems joined previous investors Reliance Technology Ventures, DAG Ventures, Integral Capital Partners, Pilot House Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to pad Stoke's coffers to more than $65 million.

Not to be outdone, Beceem Communications said this week that it raised $20 million in new funding from Motorola. Global Catalyst Partners, Khosla Ventures, KTB Ventures, Walden International, Intel Capital, NEC, Mitsui and Samsung also contributed to the funding. The company, which makes mobile WiMAX chips, said that it will use the proceeds to increase production and customer support, as demand for high-speed WiMAX products ramps up.

In the Web 2.0 space, Lavante said it landed $5 million in its second round of funding from Venrock and ATA Ventures. The company's Web-based tools can help large-scale customers automate communications with their vendors to help reduce transaction errors. The company, which recently changed its name from AuditSolutions, said the infusion of cash will help it hire additional positions in management, sales, and operations.

Life sciences also announced funding wins this week. iScience Interventional said it has raised $20.5 million in its sixth round of funding to help develop its micro-catheter technology. The devices are used to treat a range of sight-threatening diseases. The company has received FDA clearance for its iTrack Canaloplasty Microcatheter, which is used by glaucoma specialists for lowering intraocular pressure in patients with open angle glaucoma.

Affinity Capital Management led the funding for iScience Interventional. New investors Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., L Capital Partners and Clarian Health Ventures and previous investors Prism VentureWorks, Three Arch Ventures, DeNovo Ventures and Asset Management also participated.

Finally, Ausra, which makes solar thermal energy systems, said it has raised $25.5 million in new equity funding. The company's solar concentrators are designed to boil water with focused sunlight, generating high-pressure steam that drives conventional turbine generators. The company also is developing thermal energy storage systems that will allow solar electric power to be generated on demand.

Previous investors included Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, as well as new investors Kern Partners, Generation Investment Management, and Starfish Ventures. The company, which also raised $60.6 million last fall, said that it will use the proceeds to expand its solar thermal energy equipment supply business.

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