Having spent years courting venture capitalists, Internet entrepreneur Bill Gross has decided to become one.

Gross, the creative force behind Pasadena-based tech incubator Idealab!, teamed up with investment veteran Bill Elkus to launch Idealab Capital Partners LP. The new venture capital fund, which also is based in Pasadena, will specialize in financing fledgling Internet companies, particularly L.A.-based ones. The fund currently is capitalized at $40 million, with a goal of reaching $100 million.

"It's shocking: L.A. is the second most populous city in the nation and we get 10 percent of the money that Silicon Valley sees," said Elkus, who co-founded the Klein Investment Group before becoming a managing director at Idealab Capital.

"We are responding to the incredible dearth of venture capital in Los Angeles," Elkus said. "Actually, in light of the wealth of start-ups and paucity of VCs down here, we feel that we're in a great position."

Idealab Capital's initial investments are in three Idealab! Internet start-ups: GoTo, Cooking.com and Tickets.com. The fund has also invested in Centraal Corp., a non-Idealab! company based in Silicon Valley.

Elkus said Managing Partner Gross will be an invaluable asset in evaluating successful business proposals.

After all, it takes one to know one.

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Now that Microsoft Corp. has finally unleashed its Windows 98 operating system on the computer world, Culver City-based Syncronys Softcorp has released UpgradeAid 98. The utility software is designed to minimize headaches that will hit most computer users upgrading their system, since it allows Windows 95 and Windows 98 to run concurrently. As people learn the new 98 system and figure out its quirks, they can slowly phase out Windows 95 as desired.

"We call it our training-wheels software," said product manager Brandi Flores. "We've all had trouble with Windows, and we want to make the switch as painless as possible for the guy on the street."

Syncronys' stated mission is to "synchronize man and machine." If the company ever fully achieves its mission, Bill Gates probably will be knocking at its door.

Award season has hit Southern California's tech world. PC Magazine recently had its "Editor's Day" in Newport Beach, a competitive show-and-tell for companies south of Silicon Valley. Chatsworth-based Advanced Recognition Technologies Inc. scooped up a Golden Gavel award for its handwriting and voice-recognition software.

"We look for what's the most innovative and promising, and ART's product was both," said Carol Venezia, a senior editor at PC magazine. "You have to be a bit skeptical about software that claims to understand natural handwriting and speech, but it actually worked amazingly well."

Said ART's director of marketing Mark Malloy: "We were pretty excited about getting the award. We could tell by the mob scene around our demo that people were really interested."

Across town, Ed Gavaldon, president and chief executive of El Segundo-based Peerless Systems Corp., was awarded Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the greater Los Angeles area tech industry. Since joining Peerless in 1995, Gavaldon turned the company around to report seven consecutive profitable quarters after a five-year dry spell. Peerless develops embedded-imaging systems for desktop printers.

Sara Fisher can be reached via e-mail at saramf@aol.com

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