Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Exit strategies by San Diego firms

I was quoted heavily in Sunday’s story in the UT on the origins of the San Diego telecom industry. The interview was done last July with Kathryn Balint, who apparently left the UT in August.

Despite the lag, I still stand by what I said then. The only problem is that the book on the local telecom industry, Digitizing Communications, is moving forward but running behind schedule.

One of the points I made (also made by Martha Dennis) is that local firms are being acquired rather than seeking an IPO as has happened with so many famous Silicon Valley companies. The companies need liquidity — or must have it to fulfill promises made to VCs — and thus take the best route available.

For the book, I sat down this afternoon and tried to update our record of public San Diego-based telecom companies. (The definition of “telecom” here is as loose as possible, including defense electronics and computer networks).

Market Cap†
S&P 500 stock
Leap WirelessNasdaqLEAP

S&P 600 Small Cap stock
Novatel WirelessNasdaqNVTL
S&P 600 Small Cap stock
Maxwell TechnologiesNasdaqMXWL

Dot Hill SystemsNasdaqHILL


Quoted 0-1¢/share by various sites
† Market cap at 4pm EST Monday, according to WSJ.com

This does not include companies that were acquired after IPO (like Applied Digital and Copper Mountain) or moved to SIlicon Valley after a local IPO (both AMCC and Copper Mountain). Remec IPO'd but eventually liquidated itself. I gave up on making sense of the Woody Norris companies (American Technology Corp., Norris Communications/e.Digital, Jabra).

As it turns out, the use of acquisition (rather than IPOs) as an exit strategy seems to be becoming more the norm, even in Silicon Valley. As I remarked this morning after Nokia bought Trolltech, IPOs are becoming more scarce in software. It may turn out that the roaring 90s was the last rush of startup-to-IPO miracles; very few San Diego companies made it before the 2001 NASDAQ crash, fueled by the end of FCC’s policy fantasy known as the CLEC.

I remember when Charlie Jackson sold Silicon Beach to Aldus back in 1990. Charlie told me he’d been planning on doing an IPO, but the markets weren’t favorable. Charlie did it again later with FutureWave and Macromedia — although the FutureWave sale was an opportunistic exit with the invention of Flash.

Of course, Linkabit also exited via acquisition (by M/A-COM), but after the new owners mucked it up, Irwin Jacobs and Andy Viterbi didn’t make that mistake a second time.

No comments: