Aptera Shuts Down, Nettle Starts Movie App, & More San Diego BizTech News

12/5/11Follow @bvbigelow

There wasn’t a lot of news out of San Diego’s high tech community last week. On the other hand, the news we had was big. Get your roundup here.

—Aptera Motors, which raised an estimated $36 million in venture funding to develop a teardrop-shaped, three-wheel electric vehicle, shut down its operations Friday, according to an e-mail signed by Aptera CEO Paul Wilbur that was sent to customers and others. The company ran out of resources, Wilbur says. After nearly two years of discussions and “exhaustive due diligence” with the U.S. Department of Energy, Wilbur writes that Aptera got a “conditional commitment letter” for a $150 million loan. However, Aptera needed fresh capital to match the DOE loan and Wilbur says large private investors had no appetite to invest in “the perceived low volume return of our three-wheeled vehicle.” Aptera’s venture investors included Idealab, Esenjay Investments, and Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google Inc., according to VentureBeat.

—Nettle, the San Diego startup that came to light in August with a $500,000 investment from Google Ventures, launched MovieGoer, a new iPhone app. The free app helps people browse movies with friends from their social circle, find friends who have seen the movie, arrange to go see movies with their friends, and submit quick video reviews from their iPhone. CEO Brian Dear who founded San Diego-based Eventful in 2004, co-founded Nettle in late 2010 with Dan O’Neill, the chief technology officer. The two met a decade ago at MP3.com, where they worked together.

—San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) acquired Andover, MA-based Pixtronix, which has been developing low-power display technology for liquid crystal displays (LCD). Scott Kirsner of The Boston Globe reported the price is about $175 million to $200 million. While Pixtronix relies on micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology, the move is nevertheleess puzzling, as Qualcomm is spending close to $1 billion to build a factory in Taiwan for its own Mirasol display technology.

—A spokeswoman for San Diego’s Chumby Industries tells me the software company has struck another partnership that will make its catalog of apps available on the LG Smart TV program. In June, Chumby showcased how its offering of Web-based music, photos, games, and web sites worked with Internet-connected TVs and set-top boxes under a collaboration with Pace. Chumby also has licensed its technology for use in its Dash internet-connected device, and the Tablet S, which Sony introduced in August.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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