Cover story: Educational mission fuels rodeos; how much put in tank?

Texas rodeo officials have always been quick to boast about providing scholarships to youths. In the rodeo world, it’s touted as a prime reason for existing. Call it their blue-ribbon program.

But financial reports for the state’s four major rodeos — all of which are nonprofits — show a large disparity in how much they award in scholarships compared with annual revenue. The reports also highlight how well rodeo executives are compensated for leading organizations largely operated by volunteers, making how they spend their money a communitywide concern.

Asure Software sues company it acquired last year

Austin-based Asure (Nasdaq: ASUR), which bought PeopleCube Holding BV in July

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2012 for $9.8 million, demands a reduction in the price paid in December 2012. But PeopleCube officials are claiming Asure is not entitled to the adjustment, according to a Wednesday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It has asked a judge in Massachusetts for a ruling on the issue, and Asure’s federal lawsuit was filed in Austin.

TxDOT reviewing big tech firms’ proposals

State transportation officials are missing the on ramp to privatizing their technology department, contractors say.

The Texas Department of Transportation conducted two pre-bid conferences in February for a contract that could be worth up to $700 million, but vendors said the department was woefully unprepared.

Such conferences typically provide potential bidders with answers so they can set their prices. But TxDOT officials didn’t provide an adequate number of chairs during the first conference and detailed questions were left unanswered, some said. Instead of a conventional informational meeting, representatives from more than 40 technology companies were cycled into the room in smaller groups and presented an eight-minute video.

Former Dell exec now at HP sued over stock options

Dell Inc. is suing a former high-level sales executive to recover more than $780,000 in company stock options he received before going to work for arch rival Hewlett-Packard Co.

The lawsuit involving Round Rock-based Dell and James Merritt highlights the competitive nature of the technology industry while underscoring the intricacies of noncompete agreements required by a growing number of employers.

The suit, which was filed in the Superior Court of the state of Delaware in January, alleges that Merritt, senior vice president and general manager of HP’s enterprise servers and storage and networking sales in Asia Pacific and Japan, engaged in conduct detrimental to Dell.


6 years + $100M = 1 Star Wars game

After six years of development, video game maker BioWare is about to release a “Star Wars” game that parent company Electronic Arts Inc. is betting will steer it away from the financial dark side.

Canada-based BioWare’s entire Austin office has been devoted to the game. BioWare was acquired by Electronic Arts in 2007 and has reportedly spent $100 million in making “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” a so-called massively multiplayer online game, or MMO, scheduled to be released this month.

For California-based Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS), the timing is crucial.


Dell denies shareholder dividends

Linda Bush made her pitch to Dell Inc. executives for the fifth consecutive year in July.

It was a proposal for quarterly dividends just 12 minutes into Dell’s (Nasdaq: DELL) annual shareholder meeting at the company’s Round Rock campus. Bush stood at the audience microphone as CEO Michael Dell and Chief Financial Officer Brian Gladden stared blankly down from the stage.

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HomeAway execs take home millions after IPO

HomeAway Inc. executives and investors quickly capitalized on the company’s initial public offering earlier this month.

The Austin-based company’s top four executives cashed in, selling thousands of shares of HomeAway (Nasdaq: AWAY) stock for nearly $9 million less than a week after the $216 million IPO.

The company’s major shareholders — like others in these cases — are bound by 180-day lock up agreements, meaning they’re prohibited from selling their common stock for the first six months after the IPO. But several investors and executives were mandated by the IPO to redeem preferred stock, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on July 5.

Austin Ventures — which owned 22 percent of the company, or about 18 million shares — generated more than $32 million selling Series A and Series B preferred stock.

Technology often troublesome for Texas

When state agencies buy or upgrade technology they — and consequently taxpayers — usually spend a lot more time and money than originally expected, and the trend is getting worse.

According to a new report, which shows that on-time and on-budget performance for state information technology projects declined last year compared with 2009, 32 of 48 projects are on average 19 months late, and 24 of them average $2.7 million over budget.


Texas Tribunes early performance mixed

A little more than a year after launching, the news on the online political news outlet Texas Tribune is mixed. Memberships have fallen short of expectations, but the organization attracted more donor money and website traffic than it had initially projected.

Despite the head-turning start led by former Texas Monthly editor and president Evan Smith, Tribune executives said the nonprofit website that covers state politics like a newspaper needs to attract more subscribers while it weans itself off contributions — but that’s still a long way off.

“We’re not ready to declare victory,” Tribune investor and Chairman John Thornton said, “but we’re encouraged.”


Austin IT not so big with VCs

The love affair between venture capitalists and Austin information technology companies is cooling, but other sectors are filling the void.

The portion of the capital collected by local IT companies decreased from 89 percent of the total in 2003 to 55 percent last year. It’s not so much that investors are cold on IT. It’s more a function of the next generation of IT firms not needing venture capitalists as much.

Makers of Web-based tools, cloud computing solutions and open-source software simply don’t need loads of capital to pay for expensive development tools, racks of servers or even office space.

So where are venture capitalists turning? Several places, but mainly tried-and-true business sectors such as health care and financial services.