An attractive write-down

The Pulse Smartpen, a James Bond-style gadget, is the latest example of technological whizkiddery to attract venture capital investment.

The product is the brainchild of California-based firm Livescribe, which has just closed a $7.5 million Series B funding round led by Switzerland's Aeris Capital just a month after its Series A round collected $11.1 million from venture firms inc luding Silicon Valley's VantagePoint Ventures Partners and Lionheart Investments.

The pen records an audio version of conversations that are being noted down. The notetaker can then digitally transcribe the notes onto a computer and compare the written contents with the audio, ensuring that – as the firm's advertising tagline claims – you “never miss a word”. The company was launched in 2007 with seed capital of $23 million provided by VantagePoint: “We launched the company at a consumer market targeting students. There are around 18 million college students in the US alone,” says Tom Bevilacqua, a managing director of VantagePoint.

The pen, which went on sale last September in US university bookstores and on Amazon.com, has exceeded sales expectations, Bevilacqua says, “even in spite of the horrible economy”.

Cash from the funding rounds will be used to expand the retail distribution of Livescribe into Europe and Asia. It will also fund the development of an “application store” system – not di s s imi lar to Apple's – where programmes can be downloaded into the pens to aid different professions.

LIVESCRIBE AT A GLANCE
Founded: 2007

Headquarters: Oakland, California

Financing: Seed ($23 million); Series A ($11.1 million);

Series B ($7.5 million)

Investors: VantagePoint Ventures Partners, Lionheart Investments, Aeris Capital

THE 10 MOST ACTIVE US VENTURE CAPITAL FIRMS IN 2008

Firm Location No of Deals
1. Draper Fisher Jurvetson Menlo Park 96
2. New Enterprise Associates Baltimore 82
3. Polaris Venture Partners Waltham 77
4. Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Menlo Park 74
& Byers
5. Venrock Associates Palo Alto 60
6. U.S Venture Partners Menlo Park 59
7. Intel Capital Santa Clara 58
8. InterWest Partners Menlo Park 54
9. Domain Associates Princeton 49
10. Sequoia Capital Menlo Park 49