Wednesday, December 31, 2008

VC: Eco factors will drive Green investing

PBS "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" broadcast a few minutes (video here) ago an update on venture-capital investment in clean-energy and related green technologies. Much of the piece centers around an interview with former Kleiner Perkins VC and co-founder of Sun Microsystems Vinod Khosla (at left), an engineer-cum-VC whose own venture fund is looking for clean-energy investment opportunities. Another interviewee in the piece, as aired tonight, said he thinks VC interest in green investments is already waning -- as VCs choose to pursue later-stage deals in the current buyer's market -- but, Khosla said such cooling of ardor won't change the fundamentals. Said Khosla, Coal and Oil can't be our main solution, 25 years from now, because we cannot sustain a world dependent on fossil fuels. A fuller transcript of the interview with Khosla, from an earlier airing, is posted here.

SS Columbia: NASA reports on deaths of Seven and their craft

Nearly six years ago, on Feb. 1, 2003, seven Astronauts were killed when Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated, due ultimately to a 1.6-lb. piece of foam insulation breaking loose and damaging a wing. Today, The New York Times published its story about NASA's investigation of that catastrophe, and the 400-page NASA document is here. Though the entire matter is being handled with sensitivity, a review of the technical report of damage and failure factors leaves at least one reader somewhat stunned, and grateful for the report. NASA rightly also celebrates its 2008 successes, here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chattanooga may be U.S. economy in microcosm

The latest report doesn't include Volkswagen's impact or the ramifications of the current economic morass, but the latest Ochs reports on the State of the Chattanooga region contains some interesting numbers, including a surge in information technology employment of about 125 percent during 2001-07. During the same period, engineering jobs were down substantially. The Chattanoogan reports it here. The full report is here, at the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, in Chattanooga.

Passin' along news from PassAlong`

This is all going somewhere, right? PassAlong Networks' Founder Dave Jaworski has proven he can raise gobs of money, and he's trying to demonstrate that again, now. In the middle of it all, however, the company has just announced it's investing in a new president, one Ray Gary. The initial story's here.

PureSafety acquisition

Nashville's PureSafety, a provider of online safety-training and risk-management software solutions, announced its acquisition of Colorado-based Unique Software Solutions, Inc., which has a customer base of over 2,700 active installations. Unique's flagship product is Occupational Health Manager. That's PureSafety CEO Bill Grana, at left. Release here.

VCs hold differing views on Tech plays

In one story, Seth Harward (left) of Frontier Capital says Nashville is a good hunting-ground for SaaS and IT companies for his private-equity firm, while in a second offering this morning MB Venture Partners' Gary Stevenson says he'd rather leave that to the natives, while he collaborates with them and tends his own chosen niche. The two stories thus complement one another.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bart Gordon announces Sci-Tech priorities

U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon of Murfreesboro, who chairs the House Science and Technology Committee, has been forced to idle several years, during the Bush Administration. Now, with his latest pronouncement on his committee's priorities, he seems poised to sprint off the blocks, to secure funding for his America COMPETES program and other initiatives. Read the DNJ story here and the congressman's release here. Our related story is here.

SBA '200' program in Tennessee

We reported last week on President-Elect Obama's appointment of VC Karen Mills (left) as administrator of the Small Business Administration. Our story's here. Lest that news seem faraway, we note the Commercial Appeal's recent story on Memphis businesses' involvement in the SBA's "Emerging 200" program to cultivate small enterprises.

Council Ventures adds VC from Research Triangle

One of Nashville's worst-kept secrets has been Council Ventures' addition of healthcare IT and services specialist Grant Jackson as general partner. Jackson joins from a Research Triangle Park-area VC. The story's here.

HealthStream issues 'Constitution'

Eighteen years after he founded a very different and still evolving company, HealthStream CEO Bobby Frist and his senior-management team have created a Constitution that's intended to improve performance. The story's here.

Vanderbilt CFO departing

VU Chancellor Nick Zeppos (at left) announced late Friday there's a change pending in leadership of a broad domain that includes managing budget, debt, finance, HR, IT and a host of other services. The story's here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

VU Engineering appointments

Vanderbilt University School of Engineering Dean Ken Galloway (at left) has been reappointed after 12 years in the post, for another 4-year term, an indication of strong support from VU officials. VUSE also announced that Peter Pintauro is joining the Engineering school as chairman of the Chem.E. department, from a named-chair faculty position at Case Western Reserve. Also, George Hornberger has been named director of the recently established Vanderbilt's Institute for Energy and the Environment. He joined VU earlier this year from the faculty of the University of Virginia.

The end of IPOs and the shackling of VCs

Frequent ABC News columnist Michael Malone (left) sounds-off in this morning's Wall Street Journal on the role of Sarbanes-Oxley and FASB in drubbing IPOs into nonexistence. Malone earlier assayed the decline of VCs' sagging returns for Limited Partners in VC-managed funds.

Wamp delivers

U.S. Rep. Zack Wamp (D-3) delivered on his promise to U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-6) to bring a major high-tech economic development event to Mid-Tennessee. Our story is here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Eastate security, e-discovery firms combined

Sword & Shield Enterprise Security, based in Knoxville with offices in D.C., acquired Knoxville's Forensic Discoveries, strengthening its presence in e-discovery. SSES said in a release that is clients include "Major government-based customers include the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the White House, the U.S. Defense Department and the U.S.D.A. The company has a large contract with the FBI for security assessments and a $31 million NASA Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) contract for IT products."

Dell Inc. gives in Tennessee

Dell Inc. announced about $200K in grants to four nonprofits in Nashville and Memphis: Nashville Public Television, Oasis Center, Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee and Memphis-based Youth Villages. The grants program is concentrated in cities with Dell facilities.

Can't see the forest for the Titans

Tennessee Titans Fans: San Francisco-based StubHub, the online ticket marketplace, says it'll plant a tree in Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee for each NFL Playoff or SuperBowl ticket purchased, or folks can donate directly to the forest fund, with every dollar donated planting one tree. More on the deal here. Note: In Nashville, Highnotes startup CEO Scott Welch was an exec with Stubhub, before its sale to, story here.

TW3 in Nashville

Gov. Bredesen, Commissioner Kisber, Former Honorary Consul Nelson and others say there's more investment to come, in the wake of the Hemlock announcement, story here. Meanwhile, IRON Solutions' allowing its CEO and CFO to live in Nashville, while the rest of this Venture-backed company remains in Missouri and Canada provided an opening, apparently, for the CEO to reopen discussions of moving more of the company here. Former high-flying Ingram exec Peter Clifton apparently loves publishing, and his startup, which was announced softly via NYC publishing-circle blogs a week ago, is a space to watch. For all recent stories, go here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Metro Nashville economy (more)

Metro Councilmember At-Large Jerry Maynard told VNC he'll ask Vice Mayor and President Diane Neighbors to convene a Council working session on Metro economic development on Jan. 6, 2009. Our story is here.

Laffer curveballs

Nashvillian and fabled Reagan economist Arthur Laffer writes overnight in today's Wall Street Journal that President-Elect Obama is wrong about renewable energy and energy independence and would do well to heed Al Gore's advice, as characterized by Laffer: "The only real solution is Al Gore's proposal to offset a carbon tax dollar-for-dollar with either an income or payroll tax reduction. If a carbon tax increase were offset dollar-for-dollar with an income tax rate cut, I for one would strongly support the policy. The economy would benefit because the progressive income tax does far more damage than a carbon tax would, and we'd use less oil. It's a win-win situation." Google Laffer and see how busy this fellow stays, largely because of a curve that people found easy to 'understand'.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sundquist aide to Battelle board

Former former Tennessee Deputy Governor and Sundquist Administration Chief of Staff Alex Fischer, 41, has been named to the board of directors of Battelle Memorial Institute, one of the nation's largest R&D organizations, and a key ally of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee. Fischer is Battelle SVP for business and economic development. Before joining the corporate offices of Battelle, Fischer was director of technology transfer and economic development for UT-Battelle, the partnership that manages the Oak Ridge lab. During the Sundquist Administration, Fischer also served as commissioner for economic and community development. A native of Hendersonville near Nashville, Fischer earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at UT-Knoxville.

Cybera targets enterprise

Cybera, the managed-networks and services provider based at Cool Springs, announced Paul Melton (left) as VP-enterprise sales. Melton was co-founder and VP-sales/marketing for Global Linking Solutions, a managed-services company. Earlier, he was AT&T’s regional sales director for Internet Services. Melton reports to Ken Royer, SVP-sales. Our previous coverage of Cybera here.

Scripps bits

Greg Moyer (left), who previously held a number of top titles at Cablesystems Rainbow Media division and Discovery Communications, has joined Knoxville-based Scripps Networks as president of a new International unit. The company says Moyer, who'll work from New York City, will drive the company's lifestyle-media expansion into Asia and other global markets, where the ranks of middle-class audiences are swelling.

Pharos in med-devices

Nashville/Dallas-based Pharos Capital invested again in a Series B round for med-devices maker Pioneer Surgical Technology of Marquette, Mich. InvestMichigan! Growth Capital Fund was a first-timer in the round, while Pharos, Highlander Partners, Hopewell Ventures and River Cities Capital took a second bite. Our earlier profile of Pharos is here.

Heidtke's Picks

Doing our story on Buzz Heitdke's "worst year ever" in performance of his MidSouth fund was a pleasure. And, we enjoyed hearing how he picks some stocks on information gathered by walking around, or by trends he perceives. In addition to buying Healthways after hearing former Sen. Bill Frist's spiel on healthcare's future, Heidtke said he bought Smith & Wesson, thinking gun purchases would rise in a slow economy. Earlier this week, S&W posted a $76 million quarterly loss, due largely to cutbacks in hunting firearms. Yes, other reports indicate that sales have revolvers had, indeed, jumped recently. And so it goes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Morgan Keegan moves and Local LBOs

Memphis-based Morgan Keegan announced yesterday its acquisition of Burke Capital Group of Atlanta to its investment-banking group. Just a few days earlier, Morgan announced its acquisition of Revolution Partners, in a similar deal. Yesterday's City Paper had a look-back LBO activity in our region, with an update on how they're faring. Symbion's hurting, while HCA and DG are doing better.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fractional Capital

Our story on Ellen Lehman's call for VC involvement in the community foundation she leads reminded me of Mike Shmerling's 'Idea 67' concept, in which Nashville allies would launch ventures that would remain in Nashville long term. The idea: go to local companies in search of viable business ideas those companies might have lying about, but which have been deemed too small to address within the company, itself. Assemble a team of mentors, grad students, investors, et al; develop a business plan, recruit funding and execute. The idea of fractional ownership is well established in U.S. real-estate circles. Why not in other sectors? 'Seems like a great idea to explore, particularly in these times.

Friday, December 12, 2008

TVA Data Center rate cut

Wait'll Google hears about this: The TVA board has voted to reduce electric-power charges to data centers, on a par with rates paid by manufacturing companies, in the interest of attracting more such business, TVA release here.

Enterprise Park Tech Transfer director named

Chattanooga's Enterprise Park named Chris Daly (left), a Decosimo CPA and Chattanooga Technology Council board member, to head-up tech transfer and economic development, reported at

TW3 in Nashville

That Was the Week that Was in Nashville: PassAlong Networks' Jaworski further illuminates that $30MM capital raise... grows like Topsy... Aequitas is Passport Health's new front-end partner... We add Solidus Co. to our VC file... and, the Chamber sets plans for a business summit in what may be Nashville's worst economic winter in nearly 80 years... Let us hear from you, too, eh?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Paranoiia as Strategic Asset

John Riddell's (at left) columns on business fundamentals in the Times Free Press (Chatta.) have delighted readers for years. This morning's offering stresses if you are now suitably unimpressed by the financial acumen of the folks who got us in our current predicament, and you're realizing that previously 'tight' money is getting even tighter, it's time to bootstrap your business through what, for the moment, passes for our economy. No need to relinquish your dreams, Riddell says, echoing Belmont Prof/Author Jeff Cornwall, who this morning offers the latest report on sentiment among NFIB members, which he believes suggests this recession will not be as bad as the "two other major downturns of the past half century."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Medical Innovation POC grant

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (Kansas City, MO) today announced an $8.1 million grant to the University of Kansas (at nearby Lawrence, KS) to establish the Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation, a unique life science proof-of-concept model that draws support from higher education, philanthropy and industry experts to move medical innovations and best practices in their development from the lab to the market. The Kansas University Endowment will match the grant through contributions from other donors. The grant announced today advances a drug-development partnership. Release here.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Nashville R&D Park?

Keith Gregg of JRG Ventures is spreading the word about an incipient Sci-Tech park for Nashville that could rival similar campuses in Alabama, North Carolina and elsewhere. Gregg told us months ago he'd like to see something done in that category, and there's some evidence our post on IP lawyer Jack Waddey's fervent comments may have sparked renewed interest in such things. Well, it's fun thinking that, anyway.

Plum jobs

There's another hole in the venture ozone, this morning, with Plumgood Foods' purple trucks unlikely to be spotted anywhere. The company, as far as we can tell, ceased all operations yesterday, putting another nail in the online grocery biz coffin. But, CEO and Co-Founder Eric Satz seems likely to seek another gig. Read the story here.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Venture Catchup

My conversation with a VC here, yesterday, brought a reminder the decks are awash with dealflow. It's a buyer's market. Okay, not news. Meanwhile, we, too, have been busy. And tense, if not scared. Pls catch up: Congressman Jim Cooper is staking a bigger claim in the entertainment, patents, copyrights area... CEO, Author, Teacher Rick Oliver is diving into the dealflow with his own D-round American Learning Solutions offering... PassAlong CEO Dave Jaworski really should just be a VC/PE guy, because he's announcing before the close a $30MM round, the kind of touting only a guy who's already raised $40MM-plus can do... Janos Sztipanovits, one of the top scientists leading the exodus from the VU campus to Music Row, is pretty direct about Nashville needing to get its sci-tech act together... Meanwhile, over at SiteMason, co-founders Moses and Conner look as relaxed as two SNL veterans waiting for their cue... Anything going on at your place?