Archive for November 2006

Video copyright – A recent Update!

November 20, 2006

Two recent cases in the online video market, “EMI shuns YouTube for Gotuit“, and “Universal Music sues MySpace“, highlight the fact, that online video copyright is still a huge, unsolved issue out there to be tackled.

Gotuit, an Atlas Venture portfolio company, has succeeded to sign up EMI. Although three other major labels have licensed their music-video catalogs to YouTube in exchange for a slice of the ad revenues, EMI said in an article “that it still had concerns about YouTube’s ability to combat illicit uploads of copyrighted music videos“.

In another case, Universal Music sues MySpace for infringing on the copyrights of its artists. “The world’s largest record company followed through on that threat today, filing a copyright infringement lawsuit against MySpace and its parent company, News Corp. The suit claims that MySpace allows its users to upload videos illegally and encourages that infringement by re-formatting the videos to be played back or sent to others.”

Takeaway: Copyright, and due to the recent video portal hype – video copyright, is still a huge issue out there. A solution, which might entail better licensing deals, further legislation as well as technological innovation in order to not infringe right holders, does not seem to be in place any time soon.

Otherwise Google would not have reserved $500M according to SpiegelOnline against possible copyright lawsuits against its video services. Less than 1/3 it paid for YouTube recently….

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Identic Solutions connects with Investors – €10M for Austria-based RFID company

November 16, 2006

IDENTEC SOLUTIONS uses the power of RFID combined with tight infrastructure to deliver real-time information on mobile resources which saves customers millions of dollars in operating costsIdentec Solutions, a provider of RFID solutions based out of pretty Austria, has announced a financing round of €10M. The company designs and markets intelligent long-range asset management system. Lead investor was SAM Private Equity with participation from Sustainable Performance Group, RFID Invest, gcp gamma capital partners (well done Oliver!) and an undisclosed private investor.

Takeaway: Identec Solutions focuses on a multi-billon euro market. According to analysts, the total market for RFID (tags, system, sw, hw, etc.) could account for $24Bn by 2015. However, so far, the expectations in this market have not been fulfilled at all. Pilot projects have been stopped or delayed. Implementation cycles take much longer than planned. Often it is necessary to cover the whole value chain with a solution in order to derive substantial cost savings. The initial hype generated by projects such as by Walmart resulted in partly disappointing results and – not surprising – high costs for suppliers. People and industry experts seem to be much more realistic nowadays in terms of RFID’s potential! Which is good of course!

Recommendations: Although the market might take longer to develop than expected, RFID is clearly one of the leading, pervasive technologies ahead of us. Once the initial pilot projects in various industries have delivered the expected ROI, the world should be poised to see more innovation coming from this sector.

Another Cleantech IPO in Germany!

November 16, 2006

Almost unnoted by many here in Germany was the recent IPO by Petrotec, a producer of bio-diesel based on renewable resources (various forms of natural or chemical substances, oil etc.). In 2005, the company delivered revenues of €40.5M and an EBITDA of €8M, and now has a market cap of €180M.

The global market for bio-diesel is poised for explosive growth in the next ten years. Although Europe currently represents 90% of global bio-diesel consumption and production, the U.S. is now ramping up production at a faster rate than Europe. Currently, Germany still has a leading position in the consumption of Bio-Diesel here in Europe (see chart below):

The bio-diesel market, especially here in Europe , has gone through various ups and downs in the last couple of years. Recently, the legislative changes in several countries have lead to a reduction of subsidies, which could potentially hamper demand in these markets.

For example in June of 2006, German legislation was adopted in order to tax bio-diesel going forward:

“Für Biodiesel und Pflanzenöl soll ab 2012 der volle Mineralölsteuersatz gelten. Reiner Biodiesel wird ab August 2006 mit neun Cent pro Liter besteuert. In Stufen von sechs Cent wird die Steuer ab 2008 jedes Jahr bis 2011 erhöht. Ab 2012 greift dann ein Steuersatz von 45 Cent. Er liegt damit zwar um zwei Cent unter dem Satz für fossile Brennstoffe, allerdings ist der Brennwert von Biosprit auch entsprechend geringer. Auch reines Pflanzenöl, das zunächst steuerfrei bleiben sollte, wird ab 2008 in Stufen von acht Cent besteuert.”

Takeaway: After the solar / photovoltaic market, the bio-ethanol / bio-diesel market might be the next big wave in cleantech. The favourable feed-in-tariffs in Europe, especially in Germany , have not only led to an enormous market uptake BUT to an unprecedented increase in innovation and new technologies. Many successful start-ups have grown up and did successful IPOs in the past few years. Bio-Fuel could be another of these opportunities for Germany to spur innovation, if legislation remains favourable and if venture capitalists continue to invest in these emerging areas.

Microsoft launches Zune – Initial feedback disappointing

November 15, 2006

Microsoft today launched its “IPod-Killer” – ZUNE. The initial feedback from US Bloggers and the High-Tech Press is disappointing.

A real-time poll done by readers on SpiegelOnline shows a gloomy pictures for Zune. Asked whether Zune will have a chance against iPod, the majority of readers seems to be very sceptical.

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Takeaway: Good try, but still a long way to go before they might be able to successfully compete with Apple on their home turf!

Have you tried Photosynth?

November 14, 2006

Try itHave you tried this cool demo? Photosynth, a new technology from Microsoft Live Labs that takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed three-dimensional space. The idea is to put “hyperlinks between pictures on the internet”. The images with the same content create a 3D model, and this model now allows the user to move and navigate between pictures like in a film.

Takeaway: Pretty amazing core technology, which could enable a lot of new ideas and applications on top!

Mascoma – revolutionizing the Ethanol market!

November 13, 2006

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Mascoma Corporation is a promising start-uptrying to become the first commercial developer of cellulosic ethanol. Atlas Venture joined the recent financingroundtogether with follow investors General Catalyst Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Vantage Point Venture Partners, and Pinnacle Ventures, as well as existinginvestors Khosla Ventures and Flagship Ventures.

Current ethanol demand today is around 4B gallons, estimated to grow to 9.0b in 2011 in the US alone. This demand is federally mandated and also being driven by (1) phasing out MBTE as oxygenate; (2) increasing gas prices; (3) increasing tax subsidies.

Today ethanol in the U.S. is made primarily from corn, a resource with multiple uses with limits to its long term capacity. If all the corn in the US was converted to ethanol it would lead to only 12% of fuel requirements. The economics of corn feedstock limit continued growth for continued corn based ethanol.

Ethanol made from cellulosic biomass (e.g. grass, wood, and various agricultural and forestry wastes) – seen by many experts as the holy grail in the Ethanol market – takes advantage of significantly lower raw material cost, more plentiful and varied feedstocks, and expands the potential for ethanol to blend with and displace gasoline with a cleaner, renewable, domestically-produced liquid fuel.

Jeff Fagnan, Partner in charge at Atlas Venture for the Mascoma investment, believes that: “Cellulosic ethanol is widely viewed as the future of ethanol given the cheaper and more abundant feedstock it uses. Mascoma, based on its novel approach and its strong, experienced management team, has great potential to become the leader in this fast growing, multi-billion dollar bio fuels market.”

Takeaway: After the photovoltaic / solar market boom, the ethanol / bio-diesel market could potentially be another market with rapid future growth and subsequent technical innovation, triggering further start-ups as well as investments from the venture community.

Conergy to invest €250M in PV module plant!

November 13, 2006

What a surprise! Conergy recently announced the investment of €250M into a PV module manufacturing plant! Conergy, in the past focused on system integration, installation and distribution, now joins the ranks of the cell and module manufacturers.

Laut Unternehmensangaben vom Sonntag entsteht damit die weltweit erste vollintegrierte Massenproduktion, die vom Wafer über die Zelle bis zum Modul reicht. Mittelfristig werde Conergy mehr als 1.000 Arbeitsplätze schaffen.Mit dem Vorhaben sichere sich Conergy die Kosten- und die Qualitätsführerschaft auf dem Weltmarkt und schafft die Basis für weiteres dynamisches Wachstum im Kerngeschäft. Das Projekt werde mit einem syndizierten Kredit finanziert. Mittel für die weitere Expansion des Unternehmens würden nicht in Anspruch genommen.Die ersten Module mit einer Gesamtleistung von mehr als 50 MW sollen in Frankfurt in der zweiten Jahreshälfte 2007 vom Band laufen. 2008 werde die Produktionskapazität von 300 MW bei Wafern, 275 MW bei Zellen und 250 MW bei Solarmodulen erreicht. Ziel bei monokristallinen Modulen sei ein Wirkungsgrad von über 17%. (Source: Dow Jones)

Takeaway: This is a bold move by a player, who traditionally was focused on the downstream parts of the PV value chain. Moving now upstream means increased competition with established cell manufacturers such as Q-Cells or emerging thin-film cell / module start-ups such as Miasole. The strategy follows existing examples such as Solarworld, who cover the whole value chain from the raw material, to cell and module manufacturing to integration into the final PV system. Consolidation will clearly affect the PV value chain as well, but it remains to be seen how quickly companies such as Conergy are able to become technology and cost leaders in all (most competitive) parts of the value chain.

Recommendation: The continuous growth and demand in the PV market is spurring innovation and investments in this emerging, promising industry. There are lots of opportunities out there to succeed as a swift, innovative start-up with novel technology, as all established players have to remain on their toes in terms of competitive advantage and cost leadership.