The Best and Worst of Business 2009

Remembering the good news and bad in a year we won’t forget.
By Leslie D. Helm, Chris Winters, Talia Schmidt, Kate Vesper, David Volk, Randy Woods, Elizabeth Economou and Art Thiel |   December 2009   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Illustrations by Mark Brewer

Live Messenger raked in $520 million in revenues in fiscal 2009. The bad news: It lost $560 million.

And then we wonder why there are layoffs in Redmond. But it may be a small price to pay for hot internet properties. At least Hotmail remains more popular than Google's Gmail service ... just not as popular as Yahoo Mail. —David Volk


Best Sign That Venture Capital Isn't Dead: Biotech Firms Rake In Most of the Cash

The year 2009 will go down as the time of the Great Recession, but there remained a few signs of life. In particular, venture capital still provided a bit of money for startups. As was reflected in the public markets (see p. 35), biotechnology and medical sciences proved a popular draw for investor capital, with networking technology and video games following.

The top venture deals of the year:

  1. Calypso Medical: The company, which is developing ways to reduce the side effects of radiation therapy for cancer, raised $50 million in September from Skyline Ventures and original investor and founder Frazier Healthcare Ventures.
  2. Pathway Medical Technologies landed $42.5 million in March to build devices used to treat diseases of the arteries. Investors include WRF Capital, Forbion Capital Partners, HLM Venture Partners and others.
  3. NanoString Technologies, a spinoff of Leroy Hood's Institute for Systems Biology, scored a cool $30 million in June to boost sales of its product, a device used to measure gene activity in tissue samples. Investors included Clarus Ventures, OVP Venture Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.
  4. Calistoga Pharmaceuticals, a Seattle company that got its start licensing drug technology from now-defunct Icos to make cancer therapies, raised $30 million in May from Frazier Healthcare Ventures, Alta Partners, Three Arch Partners and Amgen Ventures.
  5. NewPath Networks, a Seattle maker of wireless infrastructure technology, raised $30 million in April from the private equity firm Charterhouse Group and venture company Meritage Funds.

Other significant deals this year: Smith & Tinker (games): $29 million, Popcap Games (games): $22.5 million, Telecom Transport Management (networking): $20 million, Audience Science (advertising): $20 million. —Chris Winters


Best Silver Lining to a (Really) Dark Cloud: Entellium Postscript

It isn't often that the people left holding the bag after a business bankruptcy get anything more than heartburn, but some of the workers at ill-fated software maker Entellium walked away with something a little more lucrative.

Fourteen of the people who kept the company going during its final days received an unexpected

    Subscribe Free     Free Insight Newsletter