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Friday, May 26, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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For startups, forum a golden opportunity

Seattle Times technology reporter

A full rundown on the WSA Investment Forum is available on Tech Tracks at seattletimes.com/techtracks

The 13th annual WSA Investment Forum, held Thursday, featured a bit of everything.

The event, which lets startup companies give their pitches to investors and potential customers, widened its focus this year to create more opportunities for discussion among participants.

Activities at the all-day event at Bell Harbor International Convention Center included keynote speeches and panel discussions on the latest technology trends.

Here are some of the day's activities.

New and improved: The WSA, the state's software and technology trade association, sponsored the forum and said it is trying to jazz things up by creating an "ecosystem" in which entrepreneurs and investors get conversation flowing while planting seeds of new ideas.

Brian Vincent, an investor at Vulcan Capital who helped plan the event, said the new format drew about 300 people. Vincent said he thought the list of people attending was impressive.

He said $100 million of venture capital had already been raised among the 25 companies making presentations; more than $13 billion was under management among the VCs in attendance; and more than $142 billion in revenues was distributed among companies represented by industry professionals there.

"The three things together provide opportunity and credibility," he said.

Live and in living color: A Living Picture was there raise money for its new product: intelligent picture frames.

The Seattle company's timing couldn't have better after being mentioned during Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' keynote presentation earlier this week at Windows Hardware Engineering Conference. A Living Picture is working with Microsoft and others to enable digital photos to be shown in a slideshow fashion on digital picture frames.

At the investment forum, the company showed off the frames, which can display other information in addition to photos, such as weather forecasts or phone numbers of incoming calls, said Jesse Grindeland, A Living Picture's president and chief operating officer.

Grindeland said the product passes the mom test. He sent one to his mother and he controls it from home by sending new photos of the grandchildren to it whenever he wants.

The company is seeking funding to support orders, which Grindeland says are already in place in Europe, Canada and the U.S. The investment would go toward supporting the product launch in October. A 5 x 7-in. picture frame costs $150 and a 6 x 9 in. costs $250.

The little guy: In addition to the companies presenting, there were also individuals wading through the crowd to find investors and customers.

James Wen said he left Amazon.com about two weeks ago to run his company, Positive Motion, full time. The company puts the concept of flash cards used by students onto the mobile phone. When a class is over, and the student no longer needs the cards, they can be uploaded to the company's Web site for sale. Wen's company takes a percentage.

Does it require a high-end phone or 3G, the high-speed broadband wireless service? Wen said no; he wants to make it as easy as possible so people will use it.

"I got this phone for free," Wen said. "I don't even know what that [3G] is."

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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