Corporate Spin-Out Expert Dan Deeney Optimistic Over 4G

If you want to know what’s going with the promise of 4G, the next generation of mobile broadband technology, the VC to talk with is Dan Deeney.

Deeney is partner and co-founder of New Venture Partners, which focuses on corporate technology spin outs.

The firm—which is based in Murray Hill, N.J., but also has offices in Silicon valley, Netherlands and the U.K.—last year struck up a relationship with Verizon about forming a working group that would focus on bringing new wireless technologies into Verizon for potential deployment in its 4G network.

Deeney helped create the Verizon 4G Venture Forum and is on its steering committee. Late last month, he was one of the speakers at the 4G Wireless Evolution Conference in Miami.

I caught up with Deeney to ask him a few general questions.

Q: What is the Venture 4G Venture Forum?

A: The focus of the Venture Forum is to expedite wireless innovation and get them to market quickly. To align the working group with Verizon’s objectives, we work with a few other venture capital firms, as well as Verizon’s infrastructure vendors, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent. We meet quarterly to understand Verizon’s pain points, its networks, and what it wants from the venture community.

Basically, our goal is to fast track new technologies into Verizon’s 4G ecosystem.

Q: What kinds of startups are we going to be seeing related to 4G technology?

A: The major investment themes around Verizon and 4G networks are to increase network capacity and bandwidth for applications, services and devices for consumers and enterprises. Technologies that facilitate the transition from 3G to 4G networks are attractive, such as innovative backhaul systems and baseband processors.

We’re also interested in the mobile supply chain, mobile analytics, and security for 4G networks and devices. Enterprise software will become more interesting as non-standard devices become prevalent with 4G networks.

Q: What are some current companies in your portfolio that are wireless-related?

A: NextG Networks, a facilities-based telecommunications carrier; iome, which delivers a location and event-based social networking service, across Internet and mobile networks; and AirVersent, a provider of wireless software products for managing mobile workers in the mobile supply chain and logistics industries.

Another interesting investment for the wireless community is SiliconHive, which creates tools that enable chip designers to make fully-programmable system-on-chips.

Q: In regard to you portfolio of wireless-related investments, what’s the outlook for liquidity?

A: At New Venture Partners, we’ve had several liquidity events in recent years related to our wireless investments. Celiant was acquired by Andrew Corp.; Flarion acquired by Qualcomm; NextG acquired by an investor consortium; SavaJe acquired by Sun; Vallent acquired by IBM; Sychip acquired by Murata; Vidus acquired by @Road.

In regards to our current wireless investments in our portfolio, the businesses are performing well, and we believe the outlook for these companies to exit is positive, but it will take time.
We believe these sectors will benefit from the explosion of mobile data and video in wireless networks and will be positioned for positive liquidity events in the future.

Q: What’s your outlook for VC investing, in general, in 2010?

A: Since our investment model focuses on spin-outs, we have a slightly different approach compared to traditional venture capital firms.

But our view on VC investing is generally consistent with the recent NVCA survey results. We’ll likely see a modest improvement in investing in 2010 and continued interest in cleantech and health care technologies.

Certain capital-intensive areas on the technology side will continue to be challenging. Through our corporate spin-out model, we’ll continue to work with corporate partners to evaluate where they’ve invested significant R&D dollars over the past few years and help them determine which innovations may benefit from venture investment or a spin-out to help reach commercialization.

Q: What is one thing most people would be surprised to know about your firm?

A: New Venture Partners soon will have deals in six countries [United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Australia, Canada and India], and we’ve executed more than 50 spin-outs.