Amerindo scandal; the Silicon Valley ghosts of 1999 and 2000 linger
But this morning's news, including about the demise of San Francisco firm Amerindo Investment Advisors, brought it all screaming back.
Amerindo invested in Internet companies during the top of the Internet boom, and its co-founders were slapped with an SEC complaint on fraud allegations last year and then ultimately charged for bilking clients. Now the remainder of its pitiful portfolio -- the struggling companies it had backed and still on its books -- has been sold off for what looks like pennies on the dollar: $7.7 million in cash, according to a VentureWire story today (subscription required).
Among other things, we recall, Amerindo hooked up with big-name valley venture firm Kleiner Perkins, co-investing in several deals led by former Kleiner partner Vinod Khosla -- including OnFiber, Asera and Zambeel -- all of which had wild rides. While Khosla and his team arrived to invest early, Amerindo was almost always late to the party, investing in companies like LoudCloud at very high valuations, only to get killed later on when the market crashed.
(Clarification: To be fair to LoudCloud, shares in that company, now called Opsware, eventually fell to around $0.47, but have since recovered to $8.24. Amerindo invested at a price of $17.06.)
So who cares? The Amerindo co-founders Alberto Vilar and Gary Tanaka have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and so the outcome of that case is unknown.
Well, the news keeps fresh how many companies are still sorting through the post-bubble wreckage, even as most of us have moved on.
One of Amerindo's investments was in broadband asset company, OnFiber, a company founded in 1999 and sold to Qwest last month for $107 million, or less than what its backers put in -- marking another loss for Amerindo. (Kleiner's Khosla was on the board of Qwest, and an investor in OnFiber, which is a whole different story. No, we're not hiding anything here; Khosla was quite clean, we were convinced.)
Qwest was to through its own legal tumblings and CEO resignations.
But today's funding announcements at VentureWire include a trio of other companies founded in the 1999 or 2000 era that are still raising funding, and pushing forward. They include Fluidigm, a South San Francisco medical company, which is raising $15M, led by Alliance Bernstein; Sanrad, a San Mateo enterprise storage company, raising $10 million from Foundation and Sequoia; and Los Gatos' Cranite, which provides wireless access to corporate networks, and picked up $12 million from Warburg Pincus and others. They may be more mature and less sexy, and unpleasantly remind us of the ugly days, but they're still getting lots more cash than most Web 2.0 companies -- and are a reminder that there's a lot more here going on in the valley than we sometimes realize.
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