While the local gaming space rises, Cecropia falls

After spending more than five years of work, Lexington-based game creator Omar Khudari plans to officially shut down game software developer Cecropia Inc. in September.

Khudari said he is shuttering Cecropia, a self-funded company that launched an animated game called The Act in 2006. The company, which tested a coin-operated version of the game last year, planned to subsequently create a home version depending on negotiations with publishers.

But interest in the game, which was created with the help of 40 former animators from the Walt Disney Animation Studios in Orlando, Fla., didn’t materialize after Khudari pitched the game to at least 18 publishers. So nine months ago, he decided to begin shutting down operations.

The closing coincides with an unusually active period for the game industry — especially locally — which added to the heartache, said Khudari, a former co-founder of Papyrus Design Group Inc.

“It is extremely hard and very disappointing,” Khudari said. “I was encouraged by the industry getting broader and mainstream.”

Other New England game companies have been active over the past couple of years.

Companies pay millions, whether IPO deal closes or not

Yes, time is money. But waiting to complete initial public offerings is costing local tech companies plenty of both — time and money.

Portsmouth, N.H.-based NitroSecurity Inc. two weeks ago withdrew its application to raise $55 million in an IPO, and the CEO says 10 months in the IPO pipeline cost the security software and hardware company about $1.3 million.

NitroSecurity has had plenty of company. A search of securities filings revealed that local technology firms — both those that registered for an IPO that went unfulfilled and those that have gone public in the past 18 months — incurred costs that ran as high as $4.2 million. The bulk of those expenses represented legal and accounting fees.

For companies that don’t ultimately go public, it’s a hefty price to pay for little return — and that doesn’t include the drain on a management team’s time and resources, say observers.

Going solo: More VCs deciding to invest alone

Like most firms in the collegial venture capital industry, Kodiak Venture Partners regularly seeks out other VC firms to join an investment round. But in January, when it invested $7 million in an Atlanta startup, it chose to go solo.

And Commonwealth Capital Ventures was the only institutional investor when it backed Woburn-based ByAllAccounts in a $5 million February financing round.

Both VC firms are part of a national trend in which venture investors — faced with deploying capital from larger and larger funds — are forgoing syndicate deals and instead are investing alone. The go-it-alone approach is an attempt to boost portfolio returns, but it may come at a price of diminishing the collaborative VC culture that brings a mix of minds to solve business problems.

Last year, 34 percent of the national venture-backed deals were completed as solo investments compared with 22 percent in 2000, according to Dow Jones VentureSource.

Travel search takes off as airlines go into tailspin

As air traffic is dragged down by high fuel costs and airline executives reach for sickness bags, travel-search traffic is picking up online — and that has meant business taking off for New England companies whose Internet search technologies support travel-related websites.

With cash-strapped consumers busy looking for deals, the boost in online travel-search has meant stronger revenue and acquisition activity by local companies. For example, earlier this week, Boston-based Smarter Travel Media LLC, which operates Smartertravel.com and BookingBuddy.com, acquired for an undisclosed amount New York-based Airfarewatchdog.com LLC.

How high are the travel sites soaring? Online travel search engine Kayak Inc., with operations in Concord and Norwalk, Conn., expects to generate revenue of $140 million this year compared with $47 million in 2007, co-founder and CTO Paul English said.

In 2005, the year in which Kayak launched its meta search website that aggregates the results of other sites, the company posted $3 million in revenue, he said.

Web revenue: That was easy!

Among all of New England’s Internet expertise, a local retailer has quietly created a $5 billion web-based business selling decidedly nontechnology products: office supplies.

Staples Inc. in Framingham has built an e-commerce business second only to Amazon.com Inc. among U.S. retail websites — a business that now represents about one-third of Staples’ total revenue. And it has done so by focusing less on the latest web innovations and more on how to make buying online as simple as possible for busy office managers.

Its strategy is working. The company, scheduled to release its 2007 financial numbers next month, generated $5.2 billion in third-quarter revenue — $1.7 billion of which came from its web-based and catalog-based sales. Its website processes 40,000 orders a day, with a typical transaction price of just under $200.

‘Caregiver’ sites launch as boomers seek help with elders

Websites focused on caregivers — from nannies to those taking care of elderly parents — burst on the scene in the late 1990s, then fizzled out quickly among the many dot-coms with faulty business plans.

But in the past six months, three Boston-area companies have launched websites focused on that same online audience, and this time they’re faced with a new challenge: attracting users who don’t identify themselves as “caregivers.”

About 34 million adults in the U.S., or 16 percent of the population, provide care to people 50 or older. The average caregiver age is 47. And about 8.9 million caregivers look after someone at least 50 years old with dementia, according to the San Francisco-based Family Caregivers Alliance.

Two firms to sell rental tech to pay the bills

Local entrepreneurs are designing web-based tools aimed at making property leasing easier and safer than ever.

Cambridge-based FlipKey Inc., for instance, is set to launch in late January or February its online system that collects data about rental vacation properties and enables users to rate them. And Newton-based Investment Instruments Corp. is launching in January a new online tool for tenants to pay rents and report problems to landlords while the system tracks tenants’ records for future references.

The two local software companies are entering a crowded market, but the payoff for more efficient online leasing networks is a big one.

Super Bowl to soccer moms

The founder of a Maynard dot-com whose Super Bowl commercials came to symbolize the excesses that led to the tech economy’s crash earlier this decade is taking a crack at his own professional 2.0.

Mike Ford, a co-founder of Computer.com Inc., has launched a website for suburban families to create their own social networks and schedule anything from block parties to play dates.

Ford gained notoriety in 2000 when he spent $3 million of the company’s $5.8 million in venture capital on three 30-second Super Bowl commercials — only to watch the business hit the skids the following year.

Designs of the times

It was nearly 40 years ago when New England staked its claim as a hub for the computer-aided design industry.

The ripple effect since has led to a new crop of firms that now develop niche software tools in specialty CAD markets to design everything from the latest European motorcycles to selling refrigerators.

It all started in 1969, when industry pioneer Computervision Inc. was founded in Bedford. Three years later, Prime Computer Corp. was started in Natick, and the two companies merged in 1988, eventually adopting the Computervision name.

When Needham-based Parametric Technology Corp. acquired Computervision for $490 million, it formed what remains today as one of the CAD industry giants alongside others like SolidWorks Corp. in Concord.

Iron Mountain scans for new biz

Boston’s Iron Mountain Inc. is bridging its conventional storage business and its digital-storage operations with a new unit that converts paper documents to digitized images.

Although Iron Mountain data centers have been producing digital images for customers for more than a decade, the new division was formed to centralize the business and to produce uniform packaged products.

Known as the document-conversion services unit, already the business is converting 20 million documents a month, company officials said.

for customers for more than a decade, the new division was formed to centralize the business and to produce uniform packaged products. Known as the document-conversion services unit, already the business is converting 20 million documents a month, company officials said.