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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS | HEARD ON THE BEAT / SMALL BUSINESS

Start-Ups Get Record Funding

March 01, 2000|MARC BALLON | Marc Ballon covers small business and entrepreneurial issues for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7439 and at marc.ballon@latimes.com

Orange County's fledgling businesses garnered a record amount of venture capital funds last year, and the money should continue to flow in.

Investors poured $538 million into 72 county start-ups in 1999, nearly double the 1998 total, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Data firm Venture Economics, using a different method for calculating this funding, put the figure at more than $1 billion.

"There are no clouds on the horizon, and I don't see any reason why anything will slow down there," said Massoud Entekhabi, managing partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

For the fourth quarter, venture capitalists sank nearly $127 million into 22 county businesses, compared to nearly $49 million for the same period a year earlier, the Pricewaterhouse survey found.

Predictably, the lion's share of venture dollars in Orange County flowed to Internet and other technology firms. In the last three months of 1999, those sectors attracted nearly two-thirds of the money.

Among the Orange County up-and-comers that received capital in the fourth quarter:

* SenoRx Inc. in Irvine landed $8.7 million. The 3-year-old firm is developing minimally invasive instrumentation for the early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.

* GoShip.com in Laguna Niguel received $3 million in seed capital. The company offers a product allowing online buyers to compare shipping rates and services.

* IntraLase Corp. of Irvine took in $7.5 million. The business, which was founded in 1997 and has 20 employees, is developing a new laser for corrective eye surgery. IntraLase's laser, which has already received governmental approval, is expected to become available in October, said Eric Weinberg, vice president of sales and marketing.

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