The technology behind Pasadena-based Materia remained relatively low profile for the first seven years after its birth in a Caltech lab.


Then its co-founder and board member Robert Grubbs won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on Materia.


The last three years have been a boom time for the chemical catalyst company. Over the past 18 months alone its employee base has doubled to 80 people.


This month, the company announced that it raised $40 million in venture funding for a startup called Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc. The joint project started three years ago with Cargill Inc., one of the world's largest producers of agricultural oils, after Elevance received a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.


For the Elevance startup, Materia will apply its technology to Cargill's renewable oils, such as those from soy, canola and corn. The Materia process will replace petroleum in production of commercial grade waxes, lubricants and additives. Candles manufactured in this way are already being sold under the name NatureWax. They burn cleaner and hold more fragrance than those made with petroleum.


This recent round of funding for Elevance was led by investments from TPG Star and TPG Biology Partners II.


Materia holds 350 patents worldwide related to metathesis, a chemical process that allows rearrangement of carbon bonds. The company applies this technology to new chemical, pharmaceutical, and plastic products. Its revenues flow from licensing its technology, sponsoring research, and sales of active ingredients. One such product is insect pheromones, an alternative to pesticides.

Drive Through

Brentwood-based LeadPoint, an operator of an online marketplace for leads, has seen buyers double to 3,000 over the past year. Sellers have grown by about 70 percent.

Buyers are auto dealers, for example, who purchase leads from Yahoo Autos, which sells the contact information of a consumer that filled out a form to get a quote about a car through the site. LeadPoint serves as a marketplace for that transaction and takes a commission usually under 20 percent of the sale.

"Our technology allows our site to function like a real-time auction," said Marc Diana, co-founder and chief executive of the company. "It's a marketplace where consumers are matched with service providers."

Before LeadPoint, Diana was on the founding team of LowerMyBills.com, a comparison shopping site that sold to Experian for $380 million in 2005.

Brentwood-based LeadPoint started four years ago but it's already 100 employees strong.

LeadPoint has raised about $9 million from venture capitalists, including RedPoint Ventures, also in Brentwood.

Diana said the company has raised more money this year but declined to disclose the amount.

Sound of Music

Buzznet, a social networking Web site around all things music, has been one of the fastest growing sites on the Internet, now drawing an average of 16 million visitors every month.

A year ago, the site had only seen about 2 million visitors a month. Buzznet now ranks as one of the top 10 music sites on the Internet, according to comScore.

Based in Hollywood, the company has doubled its number of workers to 65 over the past year.

Riding on this growth, the company has acquired Stereogum, a music blog that gets about 650,000 visitors a month.

"Our goal is for Buzznet to become a music site that covers all genres. Stereogum is the preeminent blog site out there on music," said Scott Boyd, general manager of Buzznet. "What we'll do is bring our technology, infrastructure, and ad sales and marketing expertise to the site."

Buzznet.com is built around popular music acts such as My Chemical Romance, whose page one day last week had more than 273,000 photos, 14,350 videos and 12,250 blog entries all uploaded by users around the world. The information is updated every few minutes.

The idea is to build communities around bands so that people can stay on the site and get excited about music en masse. This is particularly attractive to advertisers who seek a targeted, passionate audience. A majority of the site users are between the ages of 18 and 34.

Overseeing Oversee

High-tech marketing company Oversee.net, which has built a $200 million business around generating traffic for domain names, has done so over the past seven years without a chief technology officer.

The company's board recently appointed David Subar as the 200-person company's first person to hold the title.

Subar was previously chief information officer at Interthinx, a fraud detection company that served financial firms. He has more than 18 years of experience in software development, mostly at startups, including PeopleLink, an Idealab company, where he served as chief technology officer.

Oversee.net, which started in a USC dorm room, has experienced explosive growth in recent years. Until now, the responsibilities of the chief technology officer were shared by co-founders Laurence Ng and Fred Hsu. Ng remains chief executive, and Hsu recently retired and has joined the board.

Staff reporter Booyeon Lee can be reached at blee@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 230.

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