August 31, 2009

Semiconductor Startups Get Squeezed, TheFunded Founder Institute Expanding Worldwide, Algae-Based Biofuels Startups Multiply, & More San Diego BizTech

At a time when semiconductor startups seem to be an endangered species, San Diego’s cleantech sector continues to show unusually strong growth. Get the lowdown on that and more.

—The shutdown of San Diego’s Sequoia Communications is a sign of broader problems that are making it harder to build new fabless semiconductor design companies, according to Sequoia CEO Dave Shepard. As the complexity of system-on-a-chip technology increases, Shepard says U.S. startups are getting squeezed by sharply higher costs and dramatically lower valuations. He says the venture-backed model for semiconductor startups is broken.

—Wade sat down with Boston lawyers Tom Burton and Lewis Geffen to discuss their cleantech corporate practice at Mintz Levin. Partner Carl Kukkonen, who helped open Mintz Levin’s San Diego office in 2006, says he likes to tell people he was working with alternative energy startups before he ever heard the term “cleantech” to describe them.

San Diego now counts more than 20 startups that are specializing in developing advanced algae biofuels, according to Lisa Bicker, the executive director of Cleantech San Diego. That’s more than double the number of algae biofuels startups found in an informal survey nine months ago. Many of those companies, though, remain in stealth mode.

TheFunded Founder Institute is looking to expand its training camp for startup CEOs in San Diego, and eventually other cities, including Boston and Seattle (where Xconomy operates). The program, which is part-training and part-technology incubator, was launched in San Francisco earlier this year by Adeo Ressi, a founding member of TheFunded, an online community for venture-backed CEOs. Jeanine Jacobson and Cliff Currie are heading the startup of the institute in San Diego, and Currie says they plan to enroll their first class and launch the program in November.

Dennis Mudd has stepped down as CEO of Slacker, the San Diego-based online music streaming service founded three years ago. Mudd is handing over his duties to Jim Cady, Slacker’s president and chief operating officer.Mudd plans to remain on Slacker’s board.

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