Wireless Wrap: Tough Time For VC-Backed IPO Hopefuls –

With no strings to hold on to, wireless communications companies seem unable to hang on in the public markets. In fact, the market is so bleak that only one VC-backed wireless company is currently planning an initial public offering this year.

That firm is Brience Inc. (Proposed NNM: BRIE), which filed its S-1 last Sept. 29 and still has not set a date for its IPO. It has received three rounds of financing, the most recent of which was $3.52 million in a deal led by Greylock Management Corp. Brience provides a software platform that enables the delivery of Web-based content and the extension of business software applications to wireless mobile devices. The company has net losses of $17 million from its March 8, 2000 inception to Aug. 31, 2000, but hopes to offset those numbers with $100 million from the public markets.

As for its anticipated public performance, however, the recent experience of its wireless peers may point to disappointing news.Of the 11 venture-backed wireless firms that went public last year, only two have current stock prices above their offering price.

The best performer of last year?s VC-backed wireless IPOs came from Rochester, Minn.-based Pemstar (NNM: PMTR). The electronics manufacturing service provider, which has received funding from Lehman Brothers among others, opened trading Aug. 8, 2000 at $11.38 per share, and closed trading on Tuesday at $12.63.

Also trading above its opening price is Redmond, Wash.-based Metawave Communications (NNM: MTWV), a provider of smart antenna systems to wireless network operators. It began trading at $10 April 26, 2000, and closed up 81 cents as of Tuesday. Metawave was backed by such investors as Merrill Lynch Capital Partners, Oak Investment Partners, Patricof & Co. Ventures Inc., Seven Rosen Management Co. and Venrock Associates.

The worst performer of last year was Telaxis Communications (NNM:TLXS), a South Deerfield, Mass.-based company which develops broadband wireless access equipment used by network service providers to deliver integrated voice, video and data services to business and residential subscribers. The company — which was backed by Advanced Technology Ventures, Prism Venture Partners and 14 other venture capital firms — debuted on the NASDAQ Feb. 1, 2000 at $46 per share. Over the past 12 months, Telaxis had fallen to a paltry $1.94 by its Tuesday close.

Frank Musero can be contacted at