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Quarterly investment in Utah firms surges

Driven by a hot technology sector, investments in Utah companies by venture capitalists surged to $78.4 million during the third quarter of this year, their highest level since 2005, according to a survey released this week.

The investment amount was a 48 percent increase over the same July-through-September period last year, when venture-capital investments were $53.1 million, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers' MoneyTree Survey.

The numbers also show that the increase in venture-capital investment in Utah is becoming a trend, because the $78.4 million invested in the third quarter follows strong investments in previous two quarters this year. Nationwide, venture capitalists invested $7.1 billion in 887 deals in the third quarter of this year.

"While software and biotechnology upheld their historical placements as the top-funded industries, venture capitalists seemed to diversify across various industries this quarter," said Tracy Lefteroff, global managing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers' venture-capital practice.

More than half of the 10 deals in Utah were given to technology-related companies. About $40.1 million went into the telecommunication sector, $16.7 million went to software developers, $1.7 million went to biotechnology companies, and $1.1 million went to computer hardware companies. Venture capitalists invested $17.6 million in financial-services companies, and $1.2 million in companies that deal in business products, according to the survey.

Almost all of the companies were along the Wasatch Front, in either Utah or Salt Lake counties. For the most part, the money was also going to companies characterized as expanding, rather than start-ups or mature companies.

American Fork-based Move Networks Inc. received the largest investment, at $40 million. The 2-year-old company has developed technology that will deliver high-end online video that is already being used by television networks ABC and Fox for streaming their shows.

"Move is a very young company, but it is attracting a lot of attention," corporate communications manager Mary Kay Evans said Wednesday. "Online video happens to be one of the most exciting industries."

Utah ranks 17th in the nation for venture-capital investments, the survey said. The only state in the Rocky Mountain region that ranked higher was Colorado, with $196 million invested.

California, fueled by rapid growth in Silicon Valley, was the highest ranked state, with $3.2 billion in investments.