SD Tech Roundup: ServiceNow Files IPO, On-Ramp Wireless, SwoopThat

Here are some news tidbits from the front lines of San Diego’s tech scene:

—San Diego Venture Group President David Titus could hardly contain his enthusiasm at last week’s Rock Stars of Innovation Summit. His jubilance was prompted by a spate of venture-backed IPOs that came through in the waning days of March. Indeed, there’s a lot of talk that IPOs are staging a comeback, with 19 venture-backed IPOs raising $1.5 billion during the first three months of 2012, according to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and Thomson Reuters. In comparison, 14 venture-backed companies raised $1.4 billion during the first quarter of 2011. To General Doriot of Truebridge Capital Partners, however, reports that the IPO market is heating up are greatly exaggerated. In a post for Forbes, Doriot says he instead sees signs of a return to the post-1997 norm. Still, that’s an improvement over the past few years.

—Speaking of IPOs, ServiceNow is the first San Diego company to file for an IPO so far this year, according to regulatory filings listed by IPO Monitor, an information services Website. ServiceNow helps companies manage their IT operations as a Web-based service. While the company did not disclose the size of its offering in a statement, IPO Monitor estimates ServiceNow will raise about $150 million. Investors JMI Equity and Sequoia Capital together own about 75 percent of the current shares. Fred Luddy, who co-founded ServiceNow in 2003 and served as CEO until last year, holds 14 percent of the company. ServiceNow, which raised a total of $7.5 million in venture capital, increased revenue by 114 percent—to $92.6 million—in the fiscal year that ended June 30. ServiceNow plans to list on the NYSE under the symbol NOW.

—So what other San Diego-based companies are poised to go public? Peregrine Semiconductor, a fabless wireless chip designer, revived its long-dormant S-1 registration with an updated filing just last week. Genomatica, an industrial biotech, filed for an IPO seven months ago, and still appears poised for its stock offering. IASO Pharma, a biotech focused on treatments for infectious disease, last updated its IPO plans about nine months ago. Two other San Diego companies, Ambit Biosciences and Fallbrook Technologies, withdrew their S-1 registrations in 2011.

—When asked to identify what Qualcomm products are in the latest Apple iPhone and iPad during last week’s Rock Stars of Innovation Summit, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said he’s contractually precluded from publicly discussing the components Qualcomm supplies to Apple. He then praised Apple for transforming the mobile Internet market. “One of the things we learned from the mobile Internet is that you really need a catalyst to get things going,” Jacobs said. Qualcomm had established the protocols to provide Internet access in mobile devices in the early 1990s, Jacobs said. “But the iPhone provided that catalyzing moment.”

—The Rock Stars of Innovation Summit, sponsored by Connect and Xconomy, included 10 “quick-pitch” presentations by up-and-coming startup companies. The audience favorite was, a Web-based business that operates as metasearch engine for college textbook searches. Founding CEO Jonathan Simikin says SwoopThat can help students save as much as 75 percent textbook purchases by aggregating online sales offerings from Amazon, Alibris, AbeBooks and other online book dealers.

—On-Ramp Wireless CEO Joaquin Silva told me he’s preparing to raise $20 million to $30 million in a third round of venture funding needed to expand the company’s technology for long-distance, low-data rate, low-power wireless sensor networks. On-Ramp Wireless is ready to launch its technology, and has targeted utility smart grids as its initial market.

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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