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Airstrip announced the round -- its first outside funding -- this week, and although neither Airstrip nor Sequoia will discuss the details, including the amount, you can bet this was a competitive investment. Co-founder and president Dr. Cameron Powell says Airstrip has been working on the funding -- and the FDA clearance it got last month for its remote patient monitoring technology -- for years. He also says there's been a lot of interest in Airstrip from investors. Two VCs (neither one of them from Sequoia) have singled out the company to me recently as being interesting. Another Airstrip fan is Apple -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs featured Airstrip's technology onstage last year at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, which Powell says posed a challenge for the startup because it opened "floodgates of interest" that had to be handled and sorted through.
One widespread conviction in Silicon Valley is that failure is something to be celebrated, in the sense that failure is a requirement for success. Good VCs and entrepreneurs learn from their failures, the story goes, and (ideally) go on to create great successes. There's even an annual conference in San Francisco that celebrates failure -- Failcon ("Embrace Your Mistakes. Build Your Success.") So I was startled to hear that new NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun plans to have the space agency celebrate failure.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt told Bloomberg this week that he's doubled the pace of Google's acquisitions and expects to keep it up. Just this month, Google acquired Slide -- one of Facebook's top application developers, even though it had trouble making money -- and Instantiations, a tools developer for Java/Ajax. Google is rumored to have acquired Jambool, which makes social currency for games, and invested in the game developer Zynga. There are probably others.
Xcel Energy has been testing sodium-sulfur (NaS) batteries for storing renewables -- wind, in this case, which is more plentiful than sunshine in Luverne, Minnesota -- and reports positive results so far. This is good news for investors in renewable energy and batteries -- and for anybody who wants to see the U.S. cut its dependence on oil -- because the inability to capture variable energy like wind and move it into the electric grid right when it's needed has been one of the energy industry's big headaches.
The "platform for new journalism," as the company called itself, debuted in March as part of Y Combinator's winter crop of startups and was shut down in June. Co-founder Paul Biggar, who now works on the Javascript team at Mozilla, says he's not ready to talk about the situation yet, but will write his own blog post on NewsLabs soon. Perhaps because it was about journalism, and thus attracted attention from journalists, NewsLabs launched with quite a splash.
That's because the space agency has completely reorganized the way it handles technology and may consider working with VCs again, according to NASA's new Chief Technologist, Bobby Braun, who visited NASA Ames today as part of his nationwide tour of all the NASA centers to get to know the local folks. NASA has had limited success with VCs in the past -- a partnership with Silicon Valley's Red Planet Capital, which was set up as a non-profit with a $75 million investment from NASA over five years, beginning in 2006, was discontinued, Braun said. (More on that later).
The Russian government is working hard to lure foreign investment into the country, along with foreign and Russian expatriate scientists and engineers, although the success of this long-term project remains to be seen. Representatives of 19 U.S.-based VC and private equity firms -- along with people from Wilson Sonsini and Silicon Valley Bank -- visited Russia in May, and representatives from three of those firms, along with five to eight new ones, are scheduled to return in October, according to Mikhail Chuchkevich, the project director of the Russian Corporation for Nanotechnologies (RUSNANO).
In June, Venture Capital Journal profiled Cindy Padnos as one of five female VCs who braved the male-dominated world of venture capital to become investors. Padnos launched her firm, Illuminate Ventures, last year as a way to bridge what she saw as a growing gap -- the difference between the amount of venture money going to women entrepreneurs (falling) and the number of women joining business and technology-focused organizations for women like the Anita Borg Institute, Women 2.0, Astia and Springboard (growing fast).
Check out the story I wrote here on China's new combination bus/train, which is due to debut in Beijing next year. Powered by either electricity or solar energy, it will carry as many as 1,400 passengers on the top level as it straddles cars that drive along the road underneath. The bus/train tackles two big problems in urban China -- air pollution (because it gets people out of their cars) and traffic jams (because it moves along with the cars underneath it rather than adding to traffic) -- and can be built in a third of the time it would take to build a subway.
Venture capitalists invested $4.85 billion in clean tech this year, according to Greentech Media -- a 36% drop from 2008, when they invested $7.6 billion. The number of deals was up slightly, though -- by six -- to 356 deals, and 2009 was still a more active year for investors than 2007. Solar power attracted the most money -- $1.4 billion -- followed by biofuels at $976 million. Smart grids, energy storage and electric cars also drew more money, as did wind, lighting and water. Water is declared to be on "venture capital radar screens" -- it attracted $130 million.

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