ESRI Launches Open Website for Mapping, Verenium Sells Cellulosic Biofuels Biz, MindTouch Unveils Improved Platform, & More San Diego BizTech News

[Corrected 7/19/10, 1:05 pm. See below.] Some 13,000 developers of geographic information systems (GIS) gathered at the San Diego Convention Center last week as ESRI, the Redlands, CA-based GIS software developer, moved to address the market for mobile and other users. We’ve got that and the rest of our BizTech News all mapped out for you.

Verenium (NASDAQ: VRNM), the Cambridge, MA-based company formed in the 2006 merger of San Diego-based Diversa and Cambridge-based Celunol, decided to sell its cellulosic biofuels business for $98.3 million to BP. The global energy giant at the center of the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico gets Verenium’s San Diego-based R&D sites, as well as its demonstration-scale facility and pilot plant in Jennings, LA.

—J. Craig Venter, the human genome pioneer and founding CEO of San Diego’s Synthetic Genomics, said the algal biofuels company is growing its algae in saltwater at its new greenhouse near the company’s La Jolla headquarters. In remarks that might have been aimed at the corn ethanol industry, Venter said his algae biofuels company should not be diverting resources from agriculture. “Fuel cannot compete with agriculture if this is going to be successful,” he said.

—Japan’s Sony Corp. named one of its European executives, Phil Molyneux, as the new president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics in San Diego, the North American headquarters for the company’s consumer electronics business. Sony Electronics’ current president and COO, Stan Glasgow, is moving to a newly created position—senior advisor of  entrepreneurship and innovation—at Sony Corp. of America.

—[Corrected to refer to open-API software, instead of open-source software.] Free and open-API software was a prevailing theme last week at the 2010 ESRI International User Conference. ESRI, the private developer of geographic information systems based in Redlands, CA, demonstrated some of the map-making tools available at its recently launched website, Now people with relatively low expertise and no cartography-specific skills can produce GIS-referenced maps that can be shared.

ESRI also launched a free GIS application for the Apple iPhone and iPad, and soon began racking up tens of thousands of downloads from the online Apple Store. ESRI product manager David Cardella told me ESRI also is developing mobile GIS apps for Android Windows 7 Mobile.

—San Diego-based MindTouch launched a new version of its collaborative application development platform. The four-year-old software startup says its MindTouch 2010 business collaboration platform was specifically designed to enable product and service documentation created for online content to be used to help companies generate revenue while also reducing their costs.

—The U.S. Forest Service approved a 19-mile route through the Cleveland National Forest for the Sunrise Powerlink, allowing construction to begin on the 119-mile high-voltage power line between San Diego and El Centro, CA. When completed in 2012, the $1.9 billion transmission line will connect the San Diego power grid with at least 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy plants under development in the Imperial County desert, according to San Diego Gas & Electric.

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

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