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VC watch: Sphera attracts $20 million

Sphera attracts $20 million...Trillium Photonics closes a $29 million second round...Banter raises $20 million.

Which companies will be the trendsetters of the future? The following list is the latest news from start-ups here and abroad that have received venture funding. This page is updated frequently. Keep checking back for the latest.

Has your company just completed a round of financing or received other venture capital support? E-mail the editors at News.com.

Thursday's deals

• Sphera, a Web-hosting software maker, attracted $20 million in its second round of financing, the company said Thursday. The round includes a $5 million infusion from Vision Capital and Bank of America Equity Partners, on top of the $15 million raised earlier in the round from lead investors TLcom Capital Partners and Jerusalem Venture Partners. Gemini Israel Funds also contributed. Sphera's main product, HostingDirector, helps automate the Web-hosting process and reduces costs, it said, by allowing customers to manage hosting services themselves.

Tuesday's deals

• Trillium Photonics closed a $29 million second round of funding led by Spectrum Equity Investors, along with JK&B Capital, Mitsubishi and previous investor Mohr Davidow Ventures, which led the company's $6.5 million first round. The company plans to use the financing to invest in product development and to expand its sales, marketing and manufacturing efforts. Ottawa-based Trillium makes optical amplifiers for telecommunications networks. The company expects prototype equipment will be available to customers around mid-2002, and aims to reach full production by the end of 2002.

Monday's deals

• Litchfield Communications announced that it claimed $10 million in its second round of funding. Kodiak Venture Partners led the round along with contributions from Commonwealth Venture Partners, chipmaker PMC-Sierra and Emerging Alliance Fund, which is managed by VentureTech Alliance, a firm backed by chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. PMC-Sierra also provided $2 million of initial funding for Litchfield in October 2000. The company makes chips and software for telecom and networking equipment.

• Customer service software maker Banter raised $20 million in a second round of funding led by Mayfield, which also led the company's first round of $15 million with Lucent Venture Partners in March 2000.The San Francisco-based company makes software that automatically handles customer service interactions such as e-mail and online customer service. Banter's software electronically processes customer questions received via e-mail and sends out the appropriate reply, according to the company. The software also monitors the kinds of questions a company's customer service center receives to seek out patterns and determine if customer questions are being answered correctly.

• Telica raised $60 million in its third round of funding, the telecom equipment maker said. Highland Capital Partners and Oak Investment Partners co-led the round. Highland has invested in all of Telica's funding rounds while Oak led the company's $50 million second round. Other investors include Prism Venture Partners, Nassau Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners. The Marlborough, Mass.-based company makes switches for optical telecom networks that help direct voice calls and data traffic. The company will use the financing to improve its Plexus 9000 switch as well as grow its production facilities and sales force. Telica's customers include Verizon Communications, Western Pacific Telecom and KMC Telecom.

• Lamina Ceramics raised $12 million in its first round of funding. Morgenthaler and venture capital firm and research lab Sarnoff, a major communications gear maker, participated in the round. Lamina specializes in making chips for telecommunications equipment that enable the bonding of ceramic and metal materials within the chips, a technology originally developed at Sarnoff. Lamina says this bonded ceramic-on-metal design helps prevent a chip from generating excess heat, a problem that can impede performance and becomes more common as chips consume more power and operate at higher speeds. Lamina expects to have a new manufacturing facility in Westampton, N.J., ready for full production by mid-2002.

• Integres received $15 million in a first round of funding from Technology Crossover Ventures. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Integres develops software designed to let companies track heavy-freight shipments over the Internet. The company's strategic partners include United Airlines, US Airways and UTi Worldwide.

• Matrics said it has closed its $14 million second round of funding, led by Novak Biddle Venture Partners and The Carlyle Group. Other investors included Venturehouse Group, Polaris Venture Partners, The Washington Dinner Club, eCentury Capital Partners, Allied Capital, Apgar Investments, WomenAngels.net, Capital Investors, Silver Haze Partners and Riggs Capital Partners. Columbia, Md.-based Matrics has raised a total of $17 million. Matrics' labels, which contain thin semiconductor chips, are embedded in products, boxes and pallets, enabling companies to track items as they move through the supply channel.

• ProfitLogic received $20 million in a third round of funding led by Battery Ventures and JPMorgan Partners, both of which will receive seats on the company's board. Previous investors Bain Capital, General Catalyst and Athena Technology Ventures also participated in this latest round. Cambridge, Mass.-based ProfitLogic has raised a total of $38 million. The company develops software designed to enable retailers to analyze their merchandising process.

• Synchron Networks said it has received $10 million in a second round of funding led by Onset Ventures and previous investor 3i. Onset will receive a seat on the company's board. Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Synchron Networks has raised a total of $18 million. The company develops software designed to enable companies to send secure files and applications to distributed networks on any platform or across any protocol.

Last week's deals

• DenseLight Semiconductor has clinched $30 million from international venture capital firm 3i Group. Singapore-based DenseLight provides services for optical networks and has built an integrated optical subsystems on a single chip. The investment is expected to be issued over a 15-month period, although the initial seed fund of $1.2 million was made last October. 3i is the biggest individual shareholder in DenseLight. DenseLight is expected to introduce several of its new products in the United States and Europe in the coming weeks.

• AmberWave Systems received a $25 million second round of funding. Adams Capital Management, Arch Venture Partners, Dow Chemical, TeleSoft Partners, and the Hillman Co. contributed to the latest round. Salem, N.H.-based AmberWave has raised a total of nearly $50 million. The company designs chips and then licenses the technology.