Qualcomm Ventures Uses QPrize to Fill VC Void, Seed Wireless Startups Around the World

[Editors note: Revises and corrects the terms of QPrize convertible note funding]

When San Diego-based Qualcomm Ventures announced it was organizing a new international prize competition last May, the economy was already reeling and the venture capital industry had slammed on the brakes.

That slowdown in VC activity—especially for early stage startups—was probably the key factor in the company’s decision to set aside $550,000 in incentive funding for finalists in the “QPrize” competition, according to Nagraj Kashyap, who heads Qualcomm Ventures. With the Aug. 21 deadline for “QPrize” applications drawing near, Kashyap agreed to meet with me to discuss the business plan competition and the corporate venture arm, which usually maintains a relatively low profile here.

Nagraj Kashyap

Nagraj Kashyap

Since Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) launched the venture arm nine years ago, it has provided funding for about 30 startups around the world, with investments typically ranging from $500,000 to $10 million, and from Series A to Series C rounds. Kashyap says the fund’s managers look for startups that provide both a strong potential for return on investment and that complement Qualcomm’s existing products and services. Its investments include lithium battery developer A123 Systems of Watertown, MA, video game console maker Zeebo of San Diego, and remote blood pressure monitor startup Triage Wireless in San Diego.

Kashyap says Qualcomm Ventures’ foray into organizing a business plan competition “all started when we saw this precipitous drop in venture funding, which hurts the early stage guys disproportionately.” An additional source of seed-stage funding won’t change the prospects for some startups, such as semiconductor design companies, because the capital costs are so high these days. But Kashyap says seed funding can make a big difference to … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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