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Tech ‘Rally’ Likely to Draw Fewer Investors This Year

Executives will be reading the tea leaves at the upcoming American Electronics Association (AeA) trade show to gauge investors’ appetite after the global market meltdown.

The 38th Annual AeA Classic will take place Nov. 2-5 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt downtown. More than 300 investors are expected to attend.

Dozens of publicly traded technology companies and a handful of private companies with revenues or market caps of at least $100 million will be making presentations.

Companies represent a broad spectrum, including alternative energy, green technology, social networking and medical technology.

“If you look historically, this event in November has been a little bit of a rally for the technology market,” said Kevin Carroll, executive director of the AeA San Diego Council. “I just want to go talk to them and find out what is going on.”

Last quarter was a tough one for venture-backed companies in San Diego. Investments fell 52 percent to $178 million, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Carroll says many investors are waiting to see how the market turmoil plays out. He said most of the attendees of the AeA Classic are large, institutional investors.

“It’s the largest nonaffiliated banking conference. They used to get 1,200 investors. Now there will probably be 300 to 400,” he said. “So many investors last year no longer exist.”

The AeA event is designed for company executives, research and securities analysts, portfolio managers and other investment professionals.

Carroll says no matter how bad things look in the near term, San Diego’s technology industry should weather the storm.

“We’re a little more insulated from other tech regions. Our eggs aren’t all in one basket,” he said. “Telecom may go down, but software could go up. When things are bad, we have defense spending. Because there are not a lot of Fortune 500 firms having massive layoffs, we’re a little insulated from economic hiccups.”

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Gadgets Reign At Qualcomm:
Mobile voice-over-Internet company Truphone won the “Greatest Gadget” title at the annual GadgetFest by CommNexus, which took place Oct. 23 at Qualcomm’s headquarters.

The London-based company captured top scores among judges and overall crowd vote with its “Truphone Anywhere for the BlackBerry.”

The new BlackBerry application, which is available for download, provides inexpensive international and long-distance calling service over an intuitive user interface on the BlackBerry.

Capturing the GadgetFest crown, Truphone joins recent titlists Google’s GrandCentral, DirecTV’s SlingBox and Motorola’s Q phone.

Mushroom Networks of San Diego placed second with its Internet Bonding Device that provides cost-effective Internet connectivity for mobile and portable deployments wherever a mobile data network is available.

“Capturing the GadgetFest crown is really a credit to our entire engineering and product team that have worked tirelessly to get the application ready for launch,” said Tom Carter, Truphone’s president, the Americas, who handled both award-winning demonstrations.

Judges were SIPphone founder Michael Robertson, best known as the founder of MP3.com and Gizmo5 as well as MP3 Tunes; San Diego TV Channel 6 technology reporter Steve Kovsky; San Diego Daily Transcript writer and author of “From Concept to Consumer” Phil Baker; and former Qualcomm executive Jeff Belk, who is now CEO of ICT 168 Capital.

“All the companies showed off what’s new and next in the world of mobile communications, demonstrating that innovation, imagination and new ideas are still coming from the mobile industry every day,” said CommNexus CEO Rory Moore.

Send technology news items to Ned Randolph at nrandolph@sdbj.com.


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