Looking for money to launch that great entrepreneurial idea of yours?Good luck you'll need it. Venture capitalists and angel investors who less than a year ago were throwing money at even harebrained ideas have almost completely shut off their cash spigots. They're no longer spending their days and nights poring over business plans. Instead, VCs are busy steering their pre-existing investments away from the rocks, and angels, well, many have returned to their "day jobs."

"The days of, 'If you build it, they will come' are over," said Paul Nadel, managing partner with East West Venture Group.

Still smarting from the dot-com collapse, L.A.-area venture capitalists are now shifting to patentable technologies that have a clear short-term path to profitability.

"If you're not hitting milestones, executing well, getting the proper traction, you're not getting money," said Jeff Anderson, managing director of Mellon Ventures Inc.

Of course, the number of startups achieving all that is miniscule compared to the once-plentiful number of e-commerce and online content startups that in recent years past were clamoring for and getting funding.

The firms getting the attention these days are those that boast sexy, potentially groundbreaking and most importantly patentable technologies.

"I'd say there's been a move towards harder, more intellectual property-rich companies," said Anderson. "Deals that are getting done now are bulletproof."

One such "bulletproof" company is Photobit Corp. of Pasadena, which has licensed patents from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It just completed a $25.6 million capital infusion led by Basler AG, Hitachi Ltd. and Intel Corp.

Photobit supplies complementary metaloxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors, which are used in the PC video camera market, in dental technology and in the automotive industry.

"We've always had a straightforward business model, and it hasn't changed at all," said Sabrina Kemeny, chief executive of Photobit. "What has changed is that now it's in vogue."

Others agree.

Core technology gets hot

"There's definitely a focus on how unique and protectable the technology is," said Brad Jones, managing director at Redpoint Ventures. "You can analyze a core-technology business, figure out how much money it will save the customer and determine how big the market will be. With non-core-technology businesses, the analysis is more difficult because you can't objectively analyze (those factors)."

For core-technology businesses, the current environment may even be favorable than the recent past because there are now far fewer companies that are deemed worthy of consideration by VC firms.


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