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  • Steven Woda

Daily Roundup for 2008-03-21

The Washington and Baltimore region was the nation’s fifth fastest-growing area for venture capital funding in the last decade, according to a report released Tuesday. In 2007, 180 Washington and Baltimore companies received nearly $1.3 billion in venture capital backing, the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Financial and the National Venture Capital Association said. That number is up 130 percent from $558.24 million put into 105 companies in 1997. The report lists Timonium, Md.-based Grotech Capital Group and Chevy Chase-based New Enterprise Associates as the most active investors in the region. The top industries for investments around the region were software, life sciences and telecommunications.

The rate of affluent US Internet user participation in online social networks increased dramatically to 60% in January 2008, from 27% in January 2007, according to The Luxury Institute’s latest WealthSurvey "The Wealthy and Web 2.0." "While some in the luxury industry are still debating e-commerce, search and banner ads, the majority of their customers have leaped into the online dialogue," said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute. "Luxury needs to catch up quickly."

Ziptronix Inc., which has developed a 3D method for stacking and bonding semiconductor chips, has raised an additional $2.3 million according to Dow Jones VentureWire. Founded in 2000 as a spin-out from RTI International in the Research Triangle, the company previously raised about $36 million from investors who include RTI, Intersouth Partners, Grotech, Alliance Technology Ventures.

Universal Electronics, the largest supplier of remote controls to the cable industry, signed a license agreement with Hillcrest Labs for its patented Freespace pointing and motion-control technology, which allows a wireless device to navigate through an interactive program guide by making computer-mouse-like movements through the air. The UEI deal is a significant boost for Rockville, Md.-based Hillcrest, which was founded in 2001 but has yet to make a big impact on the TV-remote business. So far, it commercialized its Freespace technology in Logitech’s MX Air wireless computer mouse, but it is still wooing cable set-top and TV manufacturers to adopt its approach. The company did receive $25 million in new financial backing in January, picking up a new investor in AllianceBernstein and receiving additional funding from existing investors venture-capital firms New Enterprise Associates, Columbia Capital and Grotech Capital Group.

The Web, for all its usefulness, is still a fairly unorganized collection of information. For years, programmers have been connecting disparate bits of information by making "mashups," websites that combine information from two or more sources, such as Google maps and Craigslist rental listings. But mashup making has remained the domain of geeks who know how to program, or at least highly motivated novices who want to learn. A new research project from Intel Research, in Berkeley, CA, is trying to take some of the mystery out of crafting a mashup. Called Mash Maker, the project aims to let people use their ordinary Web browsers to combine information from different sites.

Many people now create and share content on the Internet or blend services from various sites in their daily tasks, reflecting the medium’s clear evolution from a place for simply consuming Web sites. The upcoming version of Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer, version 8, embraces those trends by adding an ”Activities” feature that makes all that easier for PC users. Although it’s still in a ”beta” test mode meant mostly for Web designers to try out, I’m liking what I’m seeing so far.

One of the most exciting trends on the Internet today is interconnectedness. Application programming interfaces (APIs) help make this possible. For example, if I have created a blog at WordPress, I can get a free key to use the API at Akismet, a comment-spam-prevention service. Additionally, if I have a Flickr account, I can get another free key to access its API to display my photos from Flickr on my new blog. By interfacing with other websites, in other words, my blog is now more functional than it used to be. So what are APIs, and why should I pay attention to them?

The workhorse of digital marketing has been through some muddy terrain. E-mail, a tactical mainstay of many campaigns, saw open rates dip worldwide during the second half of 2007, according to data from e-mail list management company MailerMailer. Overall open rates for messages sent through the company fell by several percentage points from the rates seen in the first half of 2007.

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