San Diego Tech Roundup: Qualcomm, TechStars, Apps Challenge & More

1/30/12Follow @bvbigelow

—Peter Clarke of EE Times reported that San Diego’s Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) has acquired Andover, MA-based Pixtronix, a startup founded in 2005 to develop Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) display technology. Qualcomm, which confirmed the deal with EE Times but provided no details or press release about the deal, reportedly spent between $175 million and $200 million for Pixtronix. The Massachusetts company founded by Nesbitt Hagood raised more than $53 million in venture funding, athough the Pixtronix technology has not yet been introduced to the market. Qualcomm has spent years working to refine its own MEMS-based display technology—known as Mirasol.

—More than 200 entrepreneurs turned out to hear TechStars founder and CEO David Cohen talk about the startup accelerator program he helped to launch in Boulder, CO, in 2007. Cohen told the rapt audience during a San Diego Tech Founders meetup that the Internet software community in Boulder “is just totally on fire” compared to five years ago. This was the night after Cohen met with local tech leaders to discuss the steps that helped boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Colorado college town. Xconomy San Diego arranged the dinner discussion, and I plan to have more about our conversation later this week.

—Meteorologist Stephen Bennett and investor John Plavan founded San Diego’s EarthRisk Technologies in mid-2010 with the idea of creating predictive analytics technology that could extend the range of weather long-term forecasts from two weeks to 30 or 40 days. They are now providing their Web-based technology to commodities and energy-trading firms on a subscription-basis. Bennett told me the core business at EarthRisk Technologies is focusing on extreme weather events—heat waves, frigid cold snaps, and storms because extreme events are the ones with the highest impact.

—Mark Heesen of the National Venture Capital Association gave a good-news, bad-news presentation to the San Diego Venture Group last week. Among the interesting bright spots: Corporate venture capital is growing and San Diego-based Qualcomm now ranks as the nation’s second-largest corporate venture outfit. The bad news? U.S. VC firms invested $28 billion in startups last year, but only raised $18 billion nationwide from their limited partners, which include university endowments and pension funds. It’s not sustainable, and Heesen says, VCs need to raise more capital.

—Johnson & Johnson’s research and development center in San Diego, now known as Janssen Healthcare Innovation, announced an incentive prize challenge with awards totaling $250,000 for technology solutions that improve care for patients who’ve just been discharged from a hospital. The idea is to invent a cross-platform tracking system that shares information with a variety of care-givers.

—The City of San Diego is coordinating an “apps challenge” that offers a total of $50,000 in incentive prizes for code writers. In posing the challenge, the city has assembled data on transit schedules, construction permits, crime statistics, energy usage, ocean temperatures, and 370 other datasets from dozens of city departments, as well as San Diego Gas & Electric, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. The grand prize for best overall app is $15,000. There also is a $5,000 prize for best City of San Diego app and $5,000 for best SDG&E energy app. More info is here.

—San Diego-based Proximetry, which provides Smart Grid network management technology, said it is extending its collaboration with Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), the networking giant based in San Jose, CA. Through Cisco’s Connected Grid ecosystem, Proximetry said it has been working with Cisco and Itron (NASDAQ: ITRI), the smart grid equipment maker in Liberty Lake, WA, to develop network management systems that meet electric utility needs to monitor, control and manage a vast and disparate set of loosely coupled systems.

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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