Brentwood Associates gifts GoPros to portfolio companies

Brentwood Associates GoPro gift“Santa Claus isn’t the only one handing out presents this season,” reports Lillian Rizza of The Wall Street Journal. Brentwood Associates, a leading consumer-focused private equity investment firm gave their portfolio companies GoPros this holiday season.

“We’re encouraging everyone to use the cameras and do something fun with it,” said Bill Barnum, a partner at Brentwood.

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Private Equity Gifts That Keep on Giving

UT study: The higher your status, the less you use pronoun ‘I’

WSJ_logoNew research from the University of Texas suggests that people who often say “I” are less powerful and less sure of themselves than those who limit their use of the word, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Frequent “I” users subconsciously believe they are subordinate to the person to whom they are talking.

“There is a misconception that people who are confident, have power, have high-status tend to use ‘I’ more than people who are low status,” says Dr. Pennebaker, author of “The Secret Life of Pronouns.” “That is completely wrong. The high-status person is looking out at the world and the low-status person is looking at himself.”

Beware of ‘Social’ Spam When Using Twitter, Facebook

These days, social media is a critical ingredient of most effective PR campaigns. As more and more companies engage with their customers, business partners and other audiences via sites like Twitter and Facebook, it’s important to be on the lookout for “social” spam and not let it spoil your social networking efforts.

As The Wall Street Journal reports in “Spam Finds New Target,” criminals are increasingly drawn to social networks because they can spread the spam through a chain of trusted sources. Traditional spam via email is declining (in November, 70.5% of all email was spam, down from a recent high of 92.2% in August 2010), and spammers are turning to Facebook and Twitter where defenses are weak.

Technology trends in 2012 will focus on making connections

Success for the technology industry in 2012 will hinge on one thing — making connections — reports Joe Mullich in today’s “Enterprise Technology” special section in The Wall Street Journal. Advances in technology will affect how consumers interact with companies, speak different languages to communicate and uncover the hidden meanings in “big data.”

Mullich spoke with numerous industry leaders to define important trends for the new year. Among the most critical: Removing language barriers is becoming more important than ever, according to Louis F. Provenzano Jr., president and CEO of Language Line Services, the largest over-the-phone interpretation services company in the world. One in five legal American residents speaks a language other than English at home, he states in the article. His company recently announced a deal with AT&T to provide live mobile interpretations.

Other trends in 2012 will include major growth in the digital signage market, an increasing shift to cloud computing, greater usage of mobile payment platforms and a shift to virtual call assistance features. Mullich notes that IT departments will become more useful than ever in helping companies ramp up innovation.

Study: Number of female entrepreneuers on rise

Despite the recession, female entrepreneuers are becoming more prevalent in the United States, according to a study conducted by the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Venture Research and reported in a recent Wall Street Journal article and video post by Emily Glazer. Glazer calls attention to a number of female-centric mentoring and investing organizations that have grown significantly over the past few years.

The percentage of women grew to 20 percent last year among those seeking start-up capital, a significant rise from 12.6 percent just 10 years ago. The number of women who actually received funding grew from 9.5 percent in 2008 to 13 percent in 2010. The two top fields where female entrepreneurs are thriving are, unsurprisingly, fashion and e-commerce.

While great strides are being made to level the playing field, there is still a long way to go. Women currently represent just over 15 percent of angel investors and only 5-7 percent of partners at high-tech venture capital firms.

Study identifies key influencers in tech industry

In this day and age when new tech products emerge daily, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. PRSourceCode just published its second annual “2011 Top Tech Publications” study in an effort to identify the key influencers in the industry.

Not surprisingly, the study shows the top five tech trades are InformationWeek, Network World, CIO, Wired and EE Times.

Congratulations to The New York Times’ David Pogue, The Wall Street Journal‘s Don Clark, Walt Mossberg and Ben Worthen, and GigaOM’s Om Malik, who make up the study’s most influential tech journalists.

Is This The Start of Another Bubble?

While the economic recovery is still lagging, one sector has been building steam quickly: Silicon Valley venture capital firms. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “In Silicon Valley, Investors Are Jockeying Like It’s 1999,” Monica Langley discusses the recent trend of deep-pocketed backers vying to back tech startups. In 2010, venture capital investments rose for the first time in three years, to $21.8 billion from a 12-year low of $18.3 billion in 2009, according to the National Venture Capital Association. During the first quarter of 2011 alone, US venture capital funds raised more than $7 billion, a 76 percent increase over the first quarter of 2010.

Demand for tech-company private shares and late-stage investments is also surging. With the secondary market so strong, tech investors are increasingly holding onto their stakes longer instead of prodding company founders to go to market in an initial public offering. Big Wall Street banks are jumping into the game, such as Goldman Sachs’ recent funding deal with Facebook, setting the private firm’s valuation at $50 billion.

To some investors, the mood is reminiscent of 1995 and the start of a technology bubble. But others believe today’s boom is more sustainable. Proponents argue that entrepreneurs are more savvy, and the Silicon Valley investors getting involved can offer more than just money – they can offer advice. But is that enough to prevent the burst of another tech bubble? The jury is still out.

Despite Recession, High-Stakes Situations Warrant $1,000-an-Hour Lawyers for Some

When things get tough, some companies simply aren’t willing to skimp on legal services, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. As law firms across the nation have struggled over the past couple of years to create new billing structures and appease their recession-wary clients, some of the country’s leading attorneys have been charging $1,000 an hour or more.

Data from the Hildebrandt Baker Robbins consulting firm show that the average law-firm partner asks $635 an hour and bills $575. A select few, however, particularly in finance-related practices such as M&A, bankruptcy law and taxes, bill much more than their peers in other specialties. The partners in this so-called “1,000-Plus-An-Hour Club” bill anywhere from $1,000 to $1,250 an hour.

“We’ll keep paying them a lot of money, because they’re worth that,” says Janine Dascenzo, associate general counsel of General Electric Co., about the company’s willingness to pay top dollar when it needs a lawyer with unique expertise. 

For the law firms, financing their star attorneys’ four-figure rates means reaping as much profit from their junior associates, which can then cause tensions with clients unwilling to pay for a dozen associates to work on a single case. But as the economy continues its slow recovery and lawyers explore alternatives to hourly billing, some experts believe top attorneys will continue to increase their rates and, in just five to seven years, a select few might even join the “$2,000-An-Hour Club”.

Cultural Gap Scares Asians Away from Social Media

An estimated 40 percent of Asian companies used branded media channels, compared to 79% globally.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled “Asia’s Digital Dilemma,” MarketWatch’s Senior European Correspondent Aude Lagorce attempts to understand the reluctance of Asian companies to embrace the digital age. A recent study shows that only 12 percent of Asia’s top firms have corporate blogs in comparison with 33 percent worldwide. Even more surprising, only 40 percent of Asian companies use branded media channels (think Facebook or Twitter) for corporate marketing purposes compared to 79 percent of companies globally.

It’s typical for Asians to top the list of technology early adopters. So why is this not reflected in corporate social media? It turns out that the gap is cultural. Industry experts point to three main reasons Asian companies shy away from social media: a lack of control, a hierarchical structure that leaves little room for creativity, and the difficulty in measuring a firm’s return on investment in social media.

In addition, “losing face” is a driving factor in Asian culture, and the inability to control comments by the general public on social media sites troubles Asian executives. These same executives, who often preside over social-media decisions, often are the most out-of-touch with the purpose of social media. Coupled with the fact that measuring their return on investment requires time and money, many executives choose to forego social media altogether.

While the recent recession has boosted the digital campaigns in Asia due to cost factors, Asian companies still have a long way to go. These companies need to understand that social media is a tool for opening dialogue with their customers, not a tool for talking at them. But this will require convincing Asian executives to experiment with social media in the first place, and it won’t be until more large corporations celebrate successful campaigns that they will be willing to do so.

Clean-Tech Ventures See Plunge in Funding

By Yuliya Chernova
The Wall Street Journal
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Venture capital isn’t flowing into U.S. clean-technology companies like it once was, new investment figures show. The sector is suffering from overall uncertainty in the venture market, coupled with fears about investing in businesses that require a lot of capital, insiders say.

“The general trend has been down, but there are a few notable exceptions,” says Paul Holland, a general partner with Foundation Capital, which has backed several companies in the energy-efficiency and smart-grid sectors.

Clean-tech companies, which include everything from wind and solar to biofuel and clean-coal ventures, raised $575.6 million in 53 deals in the third quarter, less than half of the amount they raised in the year-earlier quarter, according to Ernst & Young LLP, based on data from Dow Jones VentureSource, which is owned by News Corp., publisher of The Wall Street Journal. Still, because of a fairly robust first half, the sector may close the year little changed from 2009 in terms of money raised.

Start-ups offering products or services designed to increase energy efficiency attracted the most activity in the third quarter, raising $161.6 million in 17 deals. These companies typically have relatively modest capital needs.

More capital-intensive solar-power businesses, meanwhile, have become less popular with the venture-capital crowd. They have accounted for about a quarter of the total amount invested in clean-tech ventures so far this year, down from about half during 2008.