WePay, Violin Memory, True U: The 1-Minute Summary of Last Week’s Bay Area BizTech News

7/26/11Follow @wroush

We usually bring you our review of the previous week’s business and technology news on Monday. But yesterday was so full of breaking news (Airbnb’s huge venture round, Innovalight’s acquisition by DuPont) that I just didn’t have time to write it. So, at the risk of dwelling on what’s now ancient history, here’s what we covered last week:

–Violin Memory CEO Don Basile told me the company is likely to attempt an IPO late this year or early next year. The company sells external storage arrays based on Flash memory and hopes to displace vendors like EMC, HP, Oracle, Dell, and Hitachi, whose arrays are still built around hard drives.

—WePay, an online payments startup in Palo Alto, announced that it’s going directly after digital payments giant PayPal with a new service that lets small Web merchants set up online stores for free. WePay processes credit-card payments for a 3.5 percent fee, but doesn’t charge setup fees or monthly fees, as PayPal and parent company eBay do for their online stores.

—I spent two days on the UC Berkeley campus attending True University, a “startup school” staged by San Francisco-based True Ventures. In my Friday column, I provided a CliffsNotes-style summary of the event, which was designed to help non-founder employees of True-backed companies to think about common challenges in areas like engineering, design, and customer interaction.

—Palo Alto startup Thrutu introduced an iPhone version of its system for sharing photos, maps, contacts, and other data during a phone call; the app has already proved popular on Android phones.

–My San Diego colleague Bruce Bigelow surveyed two sets of data on second-quarter venture investments, the MoneyTree report prepared by the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Dow Jones VentureSource report. The MoneyTree report found that venture investments were up slightly over the same quarter of 2010, while the Dow Jones report found that they were slightly down. Yet a third source, CB Insights, reported last week that investments were up sharply. Who to believe? It depends on whose data-gathering techniques you like best.

—While digging through the MoneyTree data, Bruce discovered this interesting tidbit: The Backplane, a stealthy social network for celebrities founded by pop megastar Lady Gaga and funded by Tomorrow Ventures, the investment fund of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, is apparently based in San Diego.

—I profiled Adchemy, where CEO Murthy Nukala argues that search engine marketers buying ads through Google’s AdWords program shouldn’t have to worry so much about which keywords to bid on. Adchemy’s system looks at an advertiser’s product catalog and uses natural-language software to predict what “intents” will drive consumers to the site, then automatically generates keywords based on those intents.

—Freelancer Tom Abate sent us an article about Cogenra, the Mountain View, CA-based company whose innovative solar arrays generate electricity and hot water at the same time.

—In deals news, SeaMicro raised $20 million, MoboTap raised $10 million, SupportSpace raised $12 million, Nevro raised $58 million, Traackr raised $1 million, and Oracle acquired Cambridge, MA-based Ksplice.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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