Utah Tech Watch: Utah technology Top 10 for 2003

Published: Monday, Dec. 29 2003 12:00 a.m. MST

Let's jump right into it. Here is my take on Utah's Top 10 Technology Stories of 2003:

10. Leavitt Joins EPA — Walker Named Utah Governor.

There is no question that Michael O. Leavitt was one of the most technically savvy governors in the United States before being named head of the Environmental Protection Agency this year. Certainly he was Utah's geekiest governor ever. And how does Governor Olene Walker rank in technology circles? That is yet to be determined and why this ranks as the tenth most important tech story in Utah in 2003.

9. Rubicon Medical Cuts Deals with Boston Scientific.

It is extremely rare that I ever cover a client in this column, but in this case, I feel I have to make an exception. Salt Lake City biotech firm Rubicon Medical entered into a series of agreements this year with biomed giant Boston Scientific, landing Rubicon $17 million in the process. The deals give Boston (NYSE: BSX) the rights to acquire Rubicon (OTC BB: RMDC) and its Rubicon Filter at up to $3.50 per share (north of $200 million if everything goes through). No guarantees, but this puts both Rubicon and Utah's growing life sciences industry in the international spotlight.

8. Symantec Buys PowerQuest.

When Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec announced this fall that it was buying PowerQuest for $150 million, it signaled the end of nearly a 10-year run for the Orem-based software firm. Founded by serial entrepreneur Eric Ruff, PowerQuest had evolved over the years from a company focused on applications for individual desktop machines to software designed to help manage entire enterprises. With Altiris (Nasdaq: ATRS), LANDesk and Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL) each based here, the Symantec (Nasdaq: SYMC) acquisition of PowerQuest brings even greater emphasis on Utah as the worldwide center for enterprise software management tools.

7. Merit Medical Emerges As Firm to Watch.

For an interesting exercise, go online and lookup a chart that tracks Merit Medical's stock price during the past three years. What's even more interesting is that Merit (Nasdaq: MMSI) has had four stock splits in that same time frame, two this year alone. Coupled with rising sales and profitability, MMSI is now valued at more than $500 million. On top of that, CEO and founder Fred Lampropolous is running for the Utah governorship. Look for more exciting news and events out of this South Jordan-based biotech firm in 2004 and beyond.

6. TenFold Resurrected? Yup!

I admit it. I thought South Jordan-based TenFold (OTC BB: TENF) was dead for sure, destined for the DotCom dustbin like so many other high-flying companies launched in the mid-1990s. Not so fast, Politis, as not only is the company delivering on its promise of rapid application development technology, but it's also gotten most of its financial challenges fixed during 2003. In fact, TenFold announced last week that it had closed on a $10 million round of private equity funding commonly known as a PIPE (Private Investment in Public Equity). Hmmm, do I even venture where TENF will be next December? Nope.

5. Fund of Fund Legislation Passes and Is Cleaned up in November.

After a lot of hard work by a number of individuals and entities, the Utah Legislature passed H.B. 240 early this year, formally known as the Venture Capital Enhancement Act, but generally known as the Fund of Funds. Signed into law by Gov. Leavitt in April and then "cleaned up" during a special legislative session in November, H.B. 240 makes it possible for entities that typically do not invest in venture capital deals to participate in a venture fund backed by contingent tax credits. Similar arrangements in other states have been quite successful, and the expectation is that this Fund of Funds will be up and operational (with funding in place) by mid-2004, potentially providing an additional $100 million in VC dollars for Utah-based enterprises.

4. Novell's Transformation.

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