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Venture capital firm to set up shop at SkySong


April 27, 2007

ASU officials announced April 20 that Finao Capital will set up operations this fall at SkySong – ASU's Scottsdale Innovation Center.

Finao Capital is a venture capital firm that focuses on early stage technology companies. The firm concentrates on first-round financing and assisting companies that are considered to have “hypergrowth” potential. SkySong is an integral part of Finao's business plan to bring early stage ventures and venture capital to Arizona.

Finao will locate at SkySong along with two of their portfolio firms: Telserra Global Inc. and Iamota.

Telserra Global Inc. develops wireless point-of-sale terminals for use in emerging markets. The company provides a turn-key transaction processing solution for retailers of all sizes primarily within cash-based economies.

Telserra's solution is a highly cost-effective automated business process that is mobile and ready to handle microbanking, life insurance transactions, and traditional debit and credit card processing, for example. The firm has a solid “Motorola experienced” executive team and a growing client base in India and Latin America.

Iamota, based in Vancouver, is a rapidly growing mobile application service provider that enables Web content providers (ranging from individual bloggers to large corporations) to move content from any Web site to a mobile phone. With Iamota as an intermediary, content (image or text) such as RSS feeds, concert listings and driving directions can be transmitted to a cell phone. When an image or text message is sent to a cell phone, the original Web content provider receives a payment from Iamota, while the mobile user pays a transaction fee (through his or her mobile phone account).

Both Finao-backed firms are looking to SkySong for development and collaboration opportunities.

“There is a renaissance going on in Arizona for fast-growing, global tech companies, and we believe that SkySong will be at the center of that renaissance,” says John Ballard, Finao Capital's managing partner. “We've felt the success already. Although we are six months away from moving in, ASU continues to create considerable networking opportunities for us with international companies.”

Ballard and his brother, Craig Ballard, are the company's founders, and they have more than 30 years of experience in public and private equity transactions, commercial finance and technology start-ups. They take a hands-on interest in all aspects of their portfolio companies. An average Finao investment ranges from $500,000 to $2 million, and the Finao fund totals $10 to $20 million.

Before founding Finao, the brothers held executive positions with firms such as GE Capital Aviation Services, Logistechs, KPMG Consulting and Holland Chemical International, among others.

“It's critical that venture capital is in the SkySong mix,” says Julia Rosen, ASU's assistant vice president for economic affairs. “The Ballards and Finao bring an exceptional understanding of the needs of emerging global tech companies. Having their expertise at SkySong will be a tremendous asset for all.”

ASU is developing relationships with institutions, businesses and entrepreneurs in Singapore, Ireland, China, Mexico and Germany as part of its strategy to make SkySong a place where international businesses will locate and interact with Arizona companies and university innovators. The first phase of SkySong is expected to open this fall.