June 2007 Archives

June 1, 2007

California Clean Energy Fund to host conference

Press release:

The California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) announced today it will host a full-day conference designed to assess California’s progress in turning clean energy policy initiatives and technology breakthroughs into market realities. Titled “The New Economy of New Energy — California’s Path to a Clean Energy Future,” the conference will take place on Monday, June 18, and consist of sessions comprised of policy, technology and finance experts providing progress reports and detailing specific ways in which public policy and the private market are both working and struggling to bring clean technologies to scale. Keynoting the event will be Dan Reicher, Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives at Google.org, and Elon Musk, Chairman of Tesla Motors and Solar City and founder of PayPal. “Because we are on the cutting edge of all aspects of clean energy development, with the eyes of the world upon us, it is key that California’s policy makers, technology innovators and financial backers come together to take a serious look at the progress we are making in reaching our aggressive goals,” said Michael R. Peevey, CalCEF Chairman and California Public Utilities Commission President. “Just as important is taking a hard look at the tough road still ahead and engaging in a frank discussion that tackles the challenges we face. In critically assessing both our progress to date and the road ahead, CalCEF can help ensure that California remains the bellwether in this burgeoning and extremely important market.”

Filed under Energy Industry, Venture Capital by

Broadcom opens next generation cellular design center in Taiwan

Press release- too bad California didn’t get this center:

Broadcom Corporation, a global leader in semiconductors for wired and wireless communications, today announced a significant expansion of its cellular design center in Taiwan that will help to drive development of a new generation of Microsoft Windows Mobile smart phones based on Broadcom’s highly integrated 3G cellular chipsets.  “We expect smart phones to capture increasing market share as optimized silicon solutions drive handset costs lower,” said Jim Tran, Vice President and General Manager of Broadcom’s Mobile Communications line of business…  The Broadcom Taiwan Design Center is located in the Xin-Yi district of Taipei City… Broadcom is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and has offices and research facilities in North America, Asia and Europe.

Filed under Taiwan, Telecommunications by

Tahoe tourism officials to discuss marketing strategy

Lake Tahoe-area tourism executives will gather in South Lake Tahoe on Wednesday to share strategic information at the 2007 SMG Tourism Conference.  This eighth annual event, which is themed “Sustainability & Authenticity: Marketing Your Destination’s Unique Character,” will address issues critical to tourism, including geotourism, social media and brand building, California tourism trends, and how Indian gaming and economic development trends are impacting destination character, officials said.  Speakers at the event include Jonathan Tourtellot, director of sustainable destinations at the National Geographic Society; Dave LaPlante, CEO of Twelve Horses; and William Eadington, gaming expert at the University of Nevada, Reno. 

Filed under Business Events and Trade Shows, Travel and Tourism by

Two Buck Chuck: five years and three hundred million bottles later

An AP report has noted that “Two Buck Chuck” -the two dollar wine sold in Trader Joe’s, has sold three hundred million bottles in its first five years of existence and now accounts for 8 percent of California’s in State wine sales:

It’s been five years since the first of these amazingly cheap chardonnays and cut-price cabernets started rolling off the line, released by maverick vintner Fred Franzia under the formal label of Charles Shaw wines.  Three hundred million bottles later, Two Buck Chuck is still selling, and Franzia is still preaching his message of wine for the masses.  ‘‘We’re not out to gouge people,’’ says Franzia. ‘‘What I would like to see is every consumer be able to afford to have wine on the table every day and not feel insecure about it.’’  The result — along with the cute ‘‘critter’’ labels and more user-friendly packaging like boxes and screw caps — has helped knock a little of the starch out of the industry, said the wine industry consultant. ‘‘I think it shook up the business in several ways, but certainly it created this interest among consumers to seek out wine values,’’ said Fredrikson. ‘‘It certainly plants a seed in everyone’s mind about what you get for the money.’’ Michael Mondavi, founder of Folio Fine Wine Partners, a Napa Valley-based importer and producer of high-end wines, takes the wine-glass-half-full approach to the Franzia effect.  ‘‘I think Two Buck Chuck has helped to make people aware that wine is not just for special occasions,’’ says Mondavi, son of California wine country pioneer Robert Mondavi and a longtime friend of Franzia’s. ‘‘I also believe that the vast majority of the people who originally start buying Two Buck Chuck, within a period of a year, trade up to better wines.’’

Filed under California culture, Wine by

Sonoma State unveils Wine MBA program

San Francisco Business Times reports that:

Sonoma State University, in the heart of the North Bay’s Wine Country, is offering what officials are calling the nation’s first Wine MBA program.  The school said Wednesday that the MBA program is meant to fill a growing need for winery executives and managers who understand both management techniques and the wine business’ unique needs. The program is “100 percent industry funded,” James Robinson, dean of Sonoma State’s school of business and economics, said in a statement. The university’s nine-year-old wine business program, the result of a public-private partnership between Sonoma State and the wine industry, now offers both a B.S. in business administration with a concentration in wine business strategies and the new MBA degree, with a concentration in wine business… Sonoma State’s wine business program is aided by an advisory board that includes industry executives from Diageo Chateau & Estates Wines, F. Korbel & Bros., Gallo Family Vineyards, Girard Winery, J. Lohr Winery, Wells Fargo, the Wine Institute and the Woodward-Graff Wine Foundation.

Filed under Education and Training, Wine by

Ebay buys StumbleUpon for $75 million

Venture Beat reports that eBay has acquired StumbleUpon.  Seems like a good move- Stumble Upon is a fun and interesting community:

Auction giant eBay has acquired StumbleUpon, an San Francisco company that helps people “stumble upon” and share new sites related to their interests, for about $75 million.  In a statement this afternoon, eBay said the acquisition will give it “exposure to a fast-growing community-based service” that has around 2.3 million users, and that StumbleUpon is attractive because it shares similarities with eBay’s concept of community.  The deal size is not large relative to other deals we’ve seen lately, but it is a big coup for the founders, who moved from Canadian to San Francisco more than a year ago, and were self-funded until March of last year. They raised a round of $1.5 million from Google’s founding investor, Ram Shriram, Lotus founder Mitch Kapor, Topic founder Ariel Poler, angel investor Ron Conway… Once people download is toolbar, StumbleUpon shows you Web sites that you can rate as good or bad. It starts showing you more of the types of sites you appear like, based on those sites have been rated highly by other people that have voted similar to the way you have. It does the same for videos, people and product information.  It makes money by showing an ad every hundred or so stumbles.  With no marketing, the StumbleUpon community has grown 150 percent from last year and delivers some five million new recommendations a day to its user base, the company said.

Filed under Canada, Information Technology, Mergers and Acquisitions by

Undisclosed doners finance Schwarenegger’s Canada Trip

The D-Day Blog has weighed in on the Schwarzenegger Canada junket- and if you thought what we wrote was harsh this guy nails it:

This is about the eighth time I’ve seen a report similar to this one that undisclosed donors are financing a Schwarzenegger trade mission… The excuse put forth by the Governor’s spokespeople is always the same: this SAVES taxpayer money because they don’t have to finance these trade missions! Really? What about all the corporate welfare checks that get cut as a result of this access? What about all the watered-down regulations that cost taxpayers, not only with money but with public health and quality of life? What about the state contracts that could go to lower bidders who don’t have the same relationships (read: bribery poke) with the Governor? .. It should frankly be outlawed for a private company with business before the state to finance the Governor’s travel, especially when it’s supposed to be official business. This is government for sale from the guy who was supposed to be such a big reformer because he was richer than dirt. This is also why I’ve been so adamant about the CDP-Chevron donation. Influence peddling in the capital is an epidemic that needs to stop.

Filed under Business Events and Trade Shows, California Politics, Canada, Governor Schwarzenegger, Opinion by

June 6, 2007

UCSB Receives $12.5 Million Gift for the California NanoSystems Institute

The University of California, Santa Barbara has announced that Virgil Elings and Betty Elings Wells have made a $12.5 million gift to UC Santa Barbara to support pioneering research at the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). In recognition of their recent gift, the new building that is home to the prestigious California Institute for Science and Innovation will be named in honor of Virgil Elings.  The CNSI is a multidisciplinary research partnership between UCLA and UC Santa Barbara established by the state in 2000 with the support of the state legislature and California industry.  Virgil Elings is a former UCSB professor of physics who made
fundamental contributions leading to the scientific revolution at the nanoscale. In 1987, he co-founded Digital Instruments (DI), the first company to make the power of atomic scanning probe microscopy readily available to scientists and engineers, enabling them to view and
explore nanoscale features and structures never seen before – a critical starting point in nanoscience and nanotechnology.

Filed under Philanthropy, University of California by

Barry Diller’s IAC Interactive starting new VC firm in Silicon Valley

Media mogul Barry Diller’s IAC Interactive is reported to be starting up a new venture capital fund to invest in internet and Silicon Valley technology companies, according to a report in Mercury News.  Jim Safka, chief executive officer of online dating service Match.com, an IAC subsidiary, will head the fund, which will be called “Primal Ventures and will be located in Palo Alto, California.

Filed under Media and Entertainment, Silicon Valley, Venture Capital by

Disney’s Steamboat Ventures growing in China

Steamboat Ventures, established a few years ago to invest on behalf of Disney, is working behind the scenes with some big players in the world’s second-largest Internet market. According to a report in the International Herold Tribune, the Burbank, California, firm opened a Hong Kong office last year and has since taken stakes in three Chinese start-ups with a strong presence in Internet broadcasting. China had 137 million Internet users last year, according to the quasi-governmental organization China Internet Network Information Centre, and a large number of those eyeballs are turning to Internet television for programming not offered on local TV.  Last week Steamboat invested alongside Silicon Valley firms Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Sequoia Capital in CTS Media, a Shanghai-based company that inserts advertisements into streaming online video. CTS is the exclusive advertising platform provider to Internet TV provider BestTV. Disney and several other studios reportedly have inked a deal with BestTV to distribute movies through a video-on-demand platform in development. That would be a boon for U.S. studios, which are eager to create a new channel for legal film distribution in China.  Steamboat also put money into video-sharing Web site 56.com in December, and in March it invested with Draper Fisher and Sequoia in UUSee, China’s largest Web TV operator with more than 36 million registered users. Importantly, UUSee is the only peer-to-peer network approved by China, and it distributes programming from state-run CCTV.

Filed under China, Venture Capital by

Bank of America names California president

Bank of America Corp. has named Janet Lamkin, currently president and CEO of the California Bankers Association, as its California state president effective June 25, 2007.  Lamkin previously spent 10 years with Bank of America, where she led corporate communications and public affairs for the company, including the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. She left the bank in 2004 to lead the CBA.  As California state president, Lamkin will oversee Bank of America’s presence across all California markets and will provide state-level leadership for 15 California market presidents who represent the bank in local communities.  While no longer headquartered here, Bank of America is still the largest bank in California.

Filed under Banking and Financial Services, People on the Move by

Hmong leader charged with trying to overthrow Government of Laos

General Vang Pao, who once commanded a CIA-backed “secret army” of hilltribe fighters and mercenaries during the Vietnam war, has been arrested at his home in Southern California and charged with plotting the violent overthrow of the Government of Laos.  When the Washington-backed Lao royal government fell in 1975, General Pao was airlifted to Thailand and, along with other Hmong, resettled in the United States.   From exile, the fervent anti-communist remained a leader of the Hmong community and a defender of the minority, many of whose members, according to human rights groups, are still persecuted and killed in isolated Laos.   On Monday, at age 77, Pao was arrested along with eight others, charged with plotting to overthrow the Lao government using explosives, AK-47 assault rifles and Stinger surface-to-air missiles.  The nine suspects, according to the criminal complaint, wanted to bomb Lao government buildings and make them “look like the results of the attack upon the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.” 

An undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives secretly recorded a Feb. 7 luncheon meeting with Vang Pao, former California National Guard Lt. Col. Harrison Jack and others at a Thai restaurant a few blocks from the state Capitol in Sacramento, according to the agent’s affidavit.  They then walked to a recreational vehicle parked nearby to examine machine guns, grenade launchers, anti-tank rockets, anti-personnel mines and other weapons, the agent wrote.

California’s large Hmong community are said to be stunned by the arrest.  “People don’t know right now whether the charges are justified or a witch hunt. We just want people to remember that for 20 years the Hmong community has worked to make sure that this is our home,” said Peter Vang, refugee community liaison for Fresno County, home to about 30,000 ethnic Hmong.   US Attorney McGregor Scott, announcing the arrests, said: “The United States cannot provide a safe harbour to those plotting to overthrow a government with whom we are at peace.”

Filed under Laos, Legal and Criminal Issues by

Schwarzenegger on HIB Visas- he gets it wrong again

Governor Schwarzenegger has written a letter to the U.S. Senate criticizing the proposed reforms of the H1B visa program.  His letter says in part:

Although I support the bill’s effort to increase temporary H-1B visas it is critical that the annual level be based on the actual workforce needs of these sectors and not an arbitrary cap. The current caps of 65,000 for skilled professionals and 20,000 for holders of advanced degrees have proven to be far less than what is needed. Future levels for these visas must be based on the demands of the market or this policy will strangle these important industries, forcing them overseas. The H-1B program must also be enforced in a way that does not impose unnecessary, costly administrative burdens on law-abiding U.S. businesses. I am concerned that the current bill may make the H-1B program harder to administer, especially for smaller businesses, such as technology start-ups, and force these companies to consider moving critical functions, including product development, to facilities offshore. My greatest concern, though, is with the proposal for a new points-based “green card” system designed to encourage the immigration of workers with training and skills in key areas. Replacing the current employer-based system, where companies can identify the specific skills needed and sponsor qualified immigrants, with an untested system run by the government threatens the very foundation of the program and must be amended. I strongly urge the Senate to retain an employment-based application process and consider authorizing a smaller points-based pilot program prior to any wider implementation.

This opinion could be expected from a Governor who takes all his consul from large Corporations and campaign donors, but he has absolutely NO right to claim that he is representing the opinions of small business. The current H1B Visa program is a modern version of indentured servitude- a throwback to this seventeenth century system that was long ago banished from our society. Naturally big Corporations love the current H1B visa programs as it gives them a ready supply of something akin to slave labor- employees that are completely beholden to them and under their complete control. Ask anyone who has worked on an overseas contract as a small business or independent contractor- you must completely shut down your life to work on one of these contracts and you are completely at the mercy of your “Corporate Sponsor”.

In 1999 and 2000, at the tail end of the dot com boom, I worked as a Program Manager in Silicon Valley. The firm I worked for imported large numbers of technical workers from a large Central Asian country. My job was to try to manage these poorly trained workers who were assigned to companies in California cities outside of the Silicon Valley, and I can tell you from first hand experience that any claims that these workers are more qualified then Americans- or that they can’t find Americans to do these jobs, is simply laughable. They want the cheap slave labor- it is as simple as that.

If we need to let people into our country to fill workforce needs, then they should be allowed to work where ever they want in our economy for some specified period of time, and a comparable number of Americans should be allowed to go to those countries to work. If these corporations really must hire foreign workers instead of Americans, then they should be required to provide at least some re-training of American workers. What we are seeing here is a sad example of what happens when big Corporations hijack our Government and political system. Governor Schwarzenegger probably doesn’t know any of this as he has closed himself off to all business opinions except those expressed by large Corporations and select business associations, such as the California Chamber of Commerce. As a result, he presides over a State Government that has become increasing hostile to small business interests, and is well on its way to becoming far more corrupt then the Davis administration ever was. Please call or write Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and tell them to that on this issue, Governor Schwarzenegger is once again sadly misinformed and his opinions in this letter represent Corporate interests, not the interest of the people of the State of California.

Filed under California Government, Governor Schwarzenegger, Immigration, Opinion, U.S. Politics by

June 7, 2007

Tioga Energy gets $10M to offer more solar power

Tioga Energy, a Sunnyvale, Calif. company that wants to makes solar power financing easier for mid-sized businesses, has raised $10 million in a first round of venture financing, according to BlogForward.  

It is just the latest of several players entering the hot solar market to make it easier for companies to buy solar power. Chief executive Paul Detering says the market is so robust that new players focusing on a niche should have no problem attracting customers. Tioga’s niche is solar installations of 50 to 500 kilowatts — which are mid-sized projects. Tioga seeks to partner with solar installation companies. Leading the investments were venture capital groups NGEN Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Rockport Capital, DFJ Frontier and Kirlan Ventures.  Competitors include SunEdison, which focuses on larger installations, MMA Renewable Ventures and Recurrent Energy

Filed under Energy Industry, Venture Capital by

Ebay Bans the Trade of Ivory

According to IFAW’s Animal Rescue Blog:

As these things happened, however, the pace picked up dramatically with the receipt of a call from one of our media contacts asking us if we could comment on some information he had received indicating that ebay would be announcing a global ivory ban. After a flurry of activity, including calling San Jose, California, speaking with journalists and confirming details, we were elated by the news that ebay had indeed (and not a moment too soon), decided to announce global policy banning sales of ivory across international borders, in compliance with CITES regulations. Their quote, regarding ivory, was a resounding ‘it’s the right thing to do,” a refrain that we have been repeating for quite some time now! The message is clear for us here in the trenches; both public opinion and commercial trends indicate a move towards decisions based on responsible conservation practices. Not bad for a day’s work (plus all the work over the course of two years; well done all of you who spearheaded this effort)!

Filed under Africa, Environment and Climate, Internet by

California Foreign Policy

The San Diego Union News Blog writes that with upcoming California advisory measure on the Iraq occupation- supported mostly by Democrats, and a public retirement fund divestiture from Iran- supported mostly by Republicans, that the State already has a foreign policy:

California’s economy and population are so large the state is often compared to a nation/state. If that’s true, California lawmakers reason, why not start setting our own foreign policy? On Wednesday, the California Senate took a step in that direction by approving legislation The vote was 23-11. Democrats favor the plan, proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata, D-Oakland, while Republicans oppose the measure. “It is important that we stand up and lead the way,” said state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco. Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman of Fullerton said state lawmakers should get out of foreign affairs. “For people who want to handle federal issues, they should run for Congress,” he said. Yet on Tuesday, it was a fellow Republican leading the charge into foreign policy. Assemblyman Joel Anderson, R-Lemon Grove, sponsored legislation that would divest California’s public retirement funds from foreign businesses that invest in Iran. The measure passed the Assembly unanimously. that would ask voters on Feb. 5 to decide whether they support an advisory measure urging the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq.

The Schwarzenegger administration seems to relish the publicity it gets from its foreign adventures- including a possibly unconstitutional treaty with the United Kingdom.  Unfortunately, by their use of their own non-profits and private business network, it is also rapidly turning into a corrupt Foreign Policy. If California is to have its own foreign policy it  needs to mean much more than just plastering Arnold Schwarzenegger posters all over Tokyo- it needs to involve and represent all of us.

Filed under California Government by

June 11, 2007

Food buying group from Shanghai coming to Long Beach

The Chico Enterprise Record reports:

Area exporters and businesses have an opportunity to put their wares before the eyes of retail buyers from Shanghai, China next month.  Butte College’s Center for International Trade Development is one of the state’s centers putting out a call to exporters.  “Retail growth is extremely strong in the Chinese market, creating tremendous incentives for California exporters,” said Chico center director Jim Wilson.  Businesses must register by Thursday.  Suitable products include cheese products, nuts, frozen products, canned foods, wines, cereals, bakery products, premix flours, snack foods, condiments, dried foods, cookies, chocolate, fruit jam, oil and oil products, seafood, organic food products, and juices.  The buying mission is organized by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and U.S. D   epartment of Agriculture, in addition to the California Centers for International Trade Development.  The event itself is July 2 at Long Beach City College.Questions can be directed to Wilson at 879-9049, or to Priscilla Lopez at the Center for International Trade Development at Long Beach City College, 1-562-938-5018.

Filed under Agriculture and Food, Business Events and Trade Shows, China by

China to grow for two more decades, Stanford Noble Laurate Says

According to China Business Daily:

China has been in a high growth mode since it started economic reforms in the late 70s. Its almost three decades of high growth is the longest among the 11 high-growth economies in the world and part of “a recent, post-World War II phenomenon”. And the Chinese economy will sustain its fast growth for at least two more decades.

These are the words of no less a person than Stanford University professor Michael Spence, who shared the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics with Columbia University professor and former senior vice-president of World Bank Joseph E. Stiglitz and University of California (Berkeley) professor George A. Akerlof.

In the post-War period, 11 economies have recorded high growth, with eight of them being in Asia: the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, Spence says. Going by gross domestic product (GDP) figures, “high growth” means above 7 percent expansion, and an economy is said to have “sustained growth” if it keeps growing for 25 years or more. Growth at such rates produces very substantial changes in income and wealth.

Filed under China by

Iran confirms arrest of California peace activist

This is bound to harm U.S. Iran relations, according to this report in the Guardian, and it will certainly harm California-Iran Relations, with our huge population of Americans of Iranian descent- many of whom are reaching out in a positive way to the Iranian people.  

Mohammad Ali Hosseini, the spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, confirmed at his weekly news briefing that Iranian-American Ali Shakeri is being held.  On Friday, the semi-official ISNA news agency first reported the detention and investigation of Shakeri, of Lake Forest, Calif., by the security department of the Tehran prosecutor’s office.  Shakeri, a founding board member of the University of California, Irvine, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, is the fourth dual citizen detained in Iran in recent months.  Iranian officials previously confirmed the detentions of three other Iranian-Americans: scholar Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with George Soros’ Open Society Institute; and Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works for the U.S.-funded Radio Farda.  All three are accused of endangering Iran’s national security and of espionage, according to a judiciary spokesman. It is not known if Shakeri has been accused of specific wrongdoing.

The United States broke ties with Iran after the storming of the U.S. Embassy there in 1979 and the seizure of U.S diplomats as hostages, however the Bush Administration was recently forced to begin talks with Iran because of public and congressional opinion and the Baker Hamilton Report.  Since political extremists now control the Federal Governments of both countries, it is thought that these people-to-people contacts may offer the best hope for better relations between the U.S. an Iran.  This action by the current Government in Iran, however, could put a chill on those relations for many more years to come.

Filed under Foreign Relations, Iran by

June 12, 2007

California Consumer Confidence Dropping

More indications the Californians aren’t exactly thrilled about the economy these days.  From the Los Angeles Business Journal:

Consumer confidence in California evaporated during the second quarter thanks to the one-two punch of a soft housing market and record high gas prices, according to a survey from Chapman University.  Chapman’s consumer sentiment index rating for the second quarter was 82.8, down 19 points from the first quarter, though slightly higher than the second quarter of 2006 when gas prices also were high and the housing slowdown had just begun statewide.  n index level below 100 reflects a higher percentage of pessimistic consumers in the survey as compared to those who are optimistic.  “Continued housing market woes coupled with higher gasoline and food prices are negatively impacting consumers’ assessment of current and future economic conditions,” said Esmael Adibi, director of the Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman and the author of the survey.

Filed under California Economy by

Made with an easy to customize WordPress theme • Blues skin by TechieCoach