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eMembrane - IC Report Red Herring Newsletters April May 2004 (Page 11)

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eMembrane - IC Report Red Herring Newsletters April May 2004
be easier and less expensive to color because paint
adheres better to a charged sur face. Static-dissipating
floor coverings are also a potential market, Hannah says,
pointing out that static-electricity damage to manufac-
tured products worldwide, par ticularly to electronics,
accounts for an estimated $40 billion in losses annually.
Plextronics has developed an inexpensive process to pro-
duce Plexcore and is currently delivering it to several major
companies for R&D, though revenues on these shipments
are insignificant. Plextronics has also signed an agreement
with a Texas industrial company to outsource the manufac-
ture of Plexcore. (Hannah declines to name this company.)
The basics of the conductive-polymer concept date to
the mid-1970s. Some of the pioneering work was done by
Plextronics cofounder Richard McCullough, who is now
dean of the Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon
University. The school owns key patents to Plexcore and
Plextronics was founded in June 2002 as a spin-out from
CMU and has an exclusive licensing agreement for the
material. The challenge now is developing the market ­
creating useful products and a demand for them.
Other companies are also developing conductive plas-
tics, notably Panipol, a European firm that's working
with a material called polyanoline. Hannah says it has
proper ties similar to polythiophine but he claims poly-
thiophine's molecular str ucture makes it easier to inte-
grate into manufactured products.
Xerox is also doing work in the conductive-polymer field
but so far seems to be aiming at a different application ­
plastic-based semiconductors. Plextronics sees potential in
this field, particularly in the production of really cheap
RFID tags, but to date the company is concentrating on
the automotive-components and flooring markets.
After an initial funding round of $1 million from
friends and family in 2002, Plextronics expects to close its
first round of angel funding by the end of May to continue
product development and to pay for industrial-scale man-
ufacturing. A third funding round is anticipated in 2005.
Last year Plextronics received an additional $100,000 in
seed-stage funding from Innovation Works, a venture firm
that invests in tech startups in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Bob Starzynski, a director at the fund, says Plextronics'
products are the only inherently conductive plastics in the
world that have both a high level of conductivity and the
physical properties of ordinar y plastics. He adds that the
market for conductive polymers is currently about $2 bil-
lion annually and he thinks Plexcore will enable new
product lines not possible with existing technology.
VOL. 2, NO. 4, 5
Copyright © 2004 Red Herring, Inc. / IC Report. All rights reserved.
The software industry was particularly hard hit over
the past few years as corporations slowed their spending on
technology. But then came news in late 2003 that the top
25 software companies in the U.S. actually posted an 8 per-
cent increase in revenue, a turn of events that helped
reignite venture funding for software startups. Now comes
word from research firm Gartner Dataquest that fluctua-
tions in the value of the U.S. dollar artificially inflated those
growth numbers. Newly revised numbers put revenue
growth at a considerably more modest 3 to 4 percent.
Gartner predicts that the outlook by corporations will
remain cautious over the course of this year ­ and that it
could be many years before the industr y once again sees
double-digit growth. Nevertheless, software managed to
secure more funding than any sector, after falling behind
biotech more than a year ago. Software companies snared
$956 million during the first quarter, compared with $843
million in the same quarter a year earlier, according to the
MoneyTree Survey.
Television Search Engine
Burlingame, California
elevision has changed radically in the last few years.
Today cable and satellite subscribers must wade
through hundreds of channels to find what they want to
watch. And with the advent of digital cable, that number
may soon reach 1,000 channels.
MyDTV, a four-year-old star tup, has developed
search-engine software that allows television viewers to
get the upper hand on the ever-increasing number of
programs. The company's core software, TV Agent, uses
an on-screen crawler to alert subscribers when programs
they want to watch are on.
Here's how it works. The software runs on the ser vers
of a cable or satellite provider and is automatically fed
into the converter box of consumers. No customer instal-
lation is required. Customers use their remote control to
choose the types of shows or even par ticular actors
they're interested in via a graphical inter face. Thus a
viewer who doesn't want to miss the latest news about
the war in Iraq would receive an on-screen alert minutes
before any war-related report comes on. The technology
is granular enough to pick out a segment on Iraq even
within a broader news show, MyDTV claims.
The U.S. Patent Office has so far approved the first of
18 patents filed by MyDTV. That patent is for an auto-
mated process whereby the company can create and gen-
erate real-time descriptive information about program
MyDTV software uses an on-screen
crawler to alert subscribers when
programs they want to watch are on.
IC RATING (scale 1­10)

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