Tungle Under the Radar

I will once again be travelling later this week to (hopefully) sunny California, this time to attend the Under the Radar conference. The theme for this one is Office 2.0, or the gradual adoption by us working folks of the web services we so enjoy in the comfort of our homes. I think this particular topic is fascinating, both as an investor and as a user, and now is a good time to place your bets on which 2.0 type services will be able to penetrate Microsoft and IBM's fortress, and perhaps achieve a monetization that is hard to accomplish with the MySpace and Facebook crowds.

(In other words, if Debbie, from accounting, starts podcasting from her cubicle anytime soon, the possibilities are endless.)

The phenomenon is also having a deep impact on how users relate to the IT-powers-that-be of their organizations. Check out this editorial from CIO Mag on users that know too much, and the shadow IT department.

I'll be at the conference with hot new company Tungle, who are coming out of stealth mode and hopefully will get ON the radar with the launch of their beta. I'll write more about Tungle later but for now let me say that I am very excited by what they have developed, a solution to a very common problem that most of us live with every day, which they want to make better in a very creative, efficient and user-friendly way. Can't wait to use it.

Finally, if anyone reading this happens to also attend the UTR conference, don't hesitate to come and say hi, for I don't get to mingle with Valley folks too often and enjoy every opportunity to do so.

Quebec, # 4 in worldwide VC rankings…

... behind California, Massachusetts and the UK. That's according to the Worldwide VC Rankings recently published by consulting firm Library House. Link to the complete table.

This ranking is certainly something I'll slip into cocktail conversations for a while, even though the methodology behind the rankings seems almost as debatable as the one behind the dreaded FIFA rankings.

Still, Venture Capital in Quebec is indeed an industry (more than just a community) and there's lots of deals made annually. Réseau Capital, Quebec's VC Association, has an ulgy-ass website and all the stats if you want to find out more (and if you can read numbers in French).

But, in general, the Quebec VC industry does a lot of deals, but with typically much smaller amounts invested than in the U.S. Lots of IT, lots of biotech and pharma, not enough cleantech, but also a large number of institutional VC investments in more traditional industries, including more and more sub-debt financings... deals that might not get categorized as venture capital in other countries/states.

I'll definitely write more about VC in la Belle Province in the near future, especially the IT side of it. In the meantime, let me stick out my tongue to Texas, New York, Washington State, Ontario, Israel, France and Germany. #4, baby.

APEX tradeshow feedback

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday of last week at the "IPC Printed Circuits Expo, APEX and the Designers Summit" with the fine young gentlemen of Cogiscan, one of our portfolio companies. I spent most of the 2 days on the APEX / electronics manufacturing side of the Expo, where Cogiscan's booth was neatly located between Siemens' and Panasonic's, two of our major OEM partners. Cogiscan's smart feeder RFID technology was also displayed in Juki's booth, giving them great visibility.

Some thoughts:
  • It was my first time attending, but everyone says the show is getting smaller every year, becoming more of a regional affair. A lot of the decision making still happens in North America, but the bulk of the production is now in China and a handfull of other developing countries. Asian and European tradeshows are getting more traffic. Productronica seems to be growing fast.
  • China has most of the high volume / low mix production, but the EMS there are also starting to offer more flexible, limited run, production.
  • North American (and Mexican, even, it seems) EMS plants are more and more focussed on highly specialized, verticalized, more complex, low volume / high mix, higher margins manufacturing.
  • Walt Custer's conference on industry trends and macro-data was a powerpoint slidefest like I hadn't seen in a while and if you e-mail him, you can probably get them. Bottom line: a small lull in growth this year, back at higher levels in 2008-9.
  • The tradeshow moved from Anaheim to L.A. and apparently this negatively affected attendance. From Cogiscan's booth, though, I have a feeling that attendance (and sales leads) was of better quality than before... less people in town to just browse and kick the tires before taking the kids to Disneyland. I saw a lot of people from EMS and OEMs looking for solutions to specific problems and they seemed to have budgets for new technology.
  • The area around the L.A. Convention Center is incedibly bland and boring. I guess I can recommend the Figueroa Hotel, 3 blocks away. Interesting decor and very affordable, but don't expect either luxury or friendly staff.
  • I am pretty much an outsider to the industry and don't get some of the subtleties in the different tech offerings but it looks to me like a lot small and larger guys offer very comparable products. There's probably going to be a wave of consolidation and acquisitions in the next few years, where the major players (Siemens, Panasonic, Fuji, Juki, Yamaha) acquire technologies left and right to try and give themselves an edge.
  • Finally, I didn't see one other VC in attendance. Low margin industries usually don't attract much VC money.

A2M named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies

Artificial Mind & Movement, one of our portfolio companies, and one of the first deals I got involved with when I came on board, was just named one the country's 50 best managed companies. Like founder and CEO Rémi Racine says in the press release, the A2M team have succeeded in creating and implementing a very structured approach within a usually chaotic industry. In other words, they're really good at what they do and they make a profit doing it. And they have been managing their fast-paced growth very well, consolidating Montreal's position as major hub in the video game development scene.
(Now, let's see the spectacular exit they're going to create for their investors)
Congratulations guys !

A2M named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies

Artificial Mind & Movement, one of our portfolio companies, and one of the first deals I got involved with when I came on board, was just named one the country's 50 best managed companies. Like founder and CEO Rémi Racine says in the press release, the A2M team have succeeded in creating and implementing a very structured approach within a usually chaotic industry. In other words, they're really good at what they do and they make a profit doing it. And they have been managing their fast-paced growth very well, consolidating Montreal's position as major hub in the video game development scene.
(Now, let's see the spectacular exit they're going to create for their investors)
Congratulations guys !

thingsmyboyfriendsays.com

While we're cuddled up in a corner of a local brew pub, reading books, exchanging neck kisses:

Christy: Do you think people sometimes think I'm your retarded sister ?
Dav: Of course not, sweetie.
Christy: Really ?
Dav: Yeah I'm sure they can tell you're my girlfriend.


Earlier this week Christy sent me a link to thingsmyboyfriendsays.com, and I have to admit it's pretty hilarious. And apparently more so because the boy in question is French Canadian.

Funny was important this week since work was kind of a bummer; I learned that my boss André, who I really enjoy working with, is going to work for our newly formed buy out and major investments group, and I also had to pull the plug on a 2 M $ investment in an early-stage company I had been working on for months, after weeks of due diligence and a lot of efforts on both sides. Never a fun phone call to make.

Oh, and my dad called with the news that Lulu had left us for a better world, a world full of juicy doggy treats and unlimited petting behind the ears.

At least I won both my soccer games with the Celtic and FC Fabrose, and got to play my first games of shinny of the year at Parc Lafontaine.

But, more funny stuff:
We watched both seasons of the "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" sitcom over the last 2 or 3 weeks and it's the best TV comedy I've seen since Arrested Development. It's been described as "Seinfeld on crack" and it's sortof accurate. It's a very lo-budget, politically incorrect production about 3 guys and a girl who own a bar. Danny DeVito also has a role in the second season. Downloadable here, but only for U.S. customers, so I had to find it somewhere else...

MP3 for your Sunday evening: Radio Dept. - Worst Taste in Music