Category Archives: Money Matters

The First Non-stick, Non-toxic Cookware Line

Most of us have non-stick cookware in our kitchens, and why wouldn’t we? After all it makes cooking faster and clean up easy peasy. But did you know by using traditional non-stick cookware we are putting ourselves, our families, and our planet at risk? And no, I am not referring to my cooking skills (or lack thereof)!

In order to make a pot or pan non-stick, the cookware is coated with chemicals during the manufacturing process. These chemicals known as PFOA (pertluorooctanoic acid) burn off and release toxic gasses into the air during the manufacturing process as well as every single time the pot is put on the burner or the pan in the oven! Studies have shown that these gasses have negative effects on both people and our surrounding environment. Kinda scary to think about huh?

Well there is solution, other than eating frozen dinners 24/7, and it is Ecolution! Ecolution is the first non-stick, non-toxic line of eco-friendly cookware – launched by Epoca, a leader in the cookware industry. Ecolution Cookware is made with Hydrolon – their exclusive PFOA FREE non-stick safer solution for healthy and eco-friendly cooking. Now with Ecolution, you can pretend you are a master chef in the kitchen without worrying about the harmful effects your concocting may have on your family or the environment!


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Solar Stocks: The Next Millionaire-Maker Megatrend?

The Next Millionaire-Maker Megatrend
Will this really be 10 times bigger than the Internet?
By Austin Edwards
Motley Fool
updated 1:00 a.m. MT, Sat., Feb. 13, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to forget what life was like before the Internet.

Think about it. When’s the last time you got a stock quote from a newspaper? Went to the library to track down a fact? Called a travel agent to book a flight?

In a lot of ways, that’s sad. But it’s also incredible to think that a technology that evolved out of the U.S. government’s reaction to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik has come to dominate our lives.

Even more incredibly …
Investors who understood how profoundly the Internet would change our world have made an absolute fortune by buying shares of pioneering companies like Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) and Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE).

That’s why I was so intrigued when I read that a well-respected venture capitalist now sees a megatrend on the horizon that he says could be …

“Bigger than the Internet by an order of magnitude”
In case you’re unaware, an order of magnitude is a multiple of 10 — meaning venture capitalist Ray Lane has found something he thinks could be 10 times as big as the Internet. And he would know.

After all, he’s a partner at the famed venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — an early investor in dozens of millionaire-maker Internet companies, including Sun Microsystems and Intuit.

And he’s not the only one who’s taking notice
Fidelity Magellan manager Harry Lange has outlined several reasons why his fund began focusing more on “cleantech” in general, and on solar energy in particular:

Technological advancements and greater economies of scale are making it cheaper to produce electricity from solar energy.
Thanks to a declining cost curve and the rising cost of conventional fuels, solar energy is becoming more competitive in areas with high electricity costs.
Governments worldwide are providing tax incentives for both producers and consumers of solar energy.
The next great bull market?
All of these factors certainly contributed to Wall Street’s love affair with solar energy back in 2007. But then 2008 hit, and the market began selling off steadily, before heading into an all-out tailspin.

The solar sector was particularly hard-hit, and while those who snapped up shares at the March lows have been handsomely rewarded, long-term shareholders have been crushed.

Stock2008 High2009 LowCurrent PriceJA Solar (Nasdaq: JASO)$25.75$1.91$5.08Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ)$45.88$3.06$22.68ReneSola (NYSE: SOL)$77.70$2.12$4.89MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE: WFR)$91.23$12.06$12.56
Data from Yahoo! Finance. All prices dividend- and split-adjusted.

Granted, much of this poor performance is due to general market turmoil, massive hedge fund sell-offs, cheaper oil and gas, tightening credit, and ever-present recession fears. But it reminds us that just because you recognize a developing megatrend, you’re not guaranteed to cash in on it.

In fact, more often than not, those who jump on board without doing their due diligence will end up losing a fortune.

Just look at the Internet
As anyone who was a 20-something slacker working in Silicon Valley in the late 1990s can tell you, the Internet spawned more big losers than big winners — by an order of magnitude.

That’s why at Motley Fool Rule Breakers, we’ve been doing plenty of research on cleantech and keeping a close eye on solar stocks in particular — but you won’t find us recommending every solar stock under the sun.

Among our recommendations, you will find a few carefully selected cleantech companies, including Suntech Power (NYSE: STP) — a proven leader in the solar industry.

We’re also recommending another Chinese company that is taking the lead in forays into new clean-coal and nuclear power technologies. And we’re encouraging investors to take advantage of major discounts on an alternative-energy exchange-traded fund that gives you exposure to a wide range of companies involved in cleantech (you can get both of their names absolutely free, by accepting a 30-day Rule Breakers guest pass below).

Granted, nearly all solar stocks are still selling well below their 2007 highs. But as the economy recovers and the Obama administration begins to make good on its promise of massive investments in green energy, these stocks present a compelling profit opportunity.

10 times bigger than the Internet?
Only time will tell — but at Rule Breakers, we’re always on the lookout for the next millionaire-maker megatrend, and the next great growth stock.

If you’d like to sample our research and get all of our recommendations, including our top alternative-energy picks, we invite you to take a free 30-day guest pass.

There is no risk, nor any obligation to subscribe. Stick with us if you like what you see, and pay nothing if you don’t. To learn more, simply click here.

This article was first published March 24, 2008. It has been updated.

Austin Edwardsdoesn’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned — but he doeslook forward to a world powered by sunshine. Suntech Power is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. And yes, even the Fool’sdisclosure policysneered at that pun about “recommending every solar stock under the sun.”


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Clean Energy Stimulus Beats Cap and Trade

Clean Energy Stimulus Beats Cap and Trade: Davos Roundup Part II

Posted By Environmental Leader On January 29, 2010 @ 8:20 am In Climate, Conventional Energy, Financial, Global, Strategy & Leadership | No Comments

Cap and trade legislation should go the way of the dodo bird [1], and emphasis should be put on building renewable energy as availability of fossil fuels wanes, business leaders said at the World Economic Forum [2], which runs through Jan. 31 in Davos, Switzerland.

Tom Donahue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that 2010 being an election year should hamper any further efforts to pass a U.S. climate bill that includes cap and trade, reports Reuters [3]. Donahue said he supported climate legislation, just not “like the one that came out of the House.”

John Rice, a top exec at GE, said in the same article that trying to push through a cap and trade option this year would result in a “very incomplete solution.”

Instead, observers expect the U.S. to continue down the path of offering economic stimulus for renewable energy and clean energy projects.

Still, Stephen Green, group chairman at HSBC, sees a future for emissions trading. He said that banking reforms designed to prevent off-balance-sheet trading proposed recently by President Obama should not be used to squelch the carbon trading market, Reuters [4] reports.

Indeed, carbon trading and other elements of “green” business are squarely in the limelight at Davos, as evidenced by chatter at a late night party, reports Business Week [5].

Alstom, which makes power equipment, expects demand for technologies related to renewables and nuclear to far outstrip growth in conventional coal and gas-fired power plants, Reuters [6] reports.

To that end, the International Energy Agency said in London that oil use in rich nations will never return to 2006-07 levels because of fuel efficiency and alternative energy, Reuters [7] reports.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia says not to worry about a lack of oil in the world. They still have it covered, reports Reuters [8].

At an annual gathering of money managers, agreement came that energy markets would provide robust growth in 2010, reports BBC [9].

The 2010 Environmental Performance Index [10] was released at Davos, with Iceland receiving the top score. The U.S. placed 61 out of 163.

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Slack U.S. Power Prices Slow Renewable Energy Funds-bankers

NEW ORLEANS, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Sluggish U.S. electricity prices are crimping a resurgence in financing for new renewable energy projects, according to energy bankers.

While the bond market’s appetite for project debt has returned and federal incentives have attracted spending from the private sector on new projects, weak electricity demand has made it difficult for project developers to lock in long-term sales contracts at prices needed to make new wind and solar farms profitable.

“Clearly power prices are down, and people are hesitant,” John Eber, managing director of energy investments at JPMorgan Capital Corp, told the Projects & Money conference. “That’s putting a lot of pressure on project economics. There’s a lot of wait-and-see to see if those prices come up.”

Power demand is typically linked to the economy, and the recent recession helped knock usage down as much as 20 percent in some spots last summer, he said.

Data from the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Agency shows overall 2009 U.S. electricity consumption fell 3.6 percent, the biggest drop in more than a decade. That decline came a year after power consumption dipped 1.6 percent.

Financiers typically demand that developers of renewable power projects secure contracts for electricity sales years into the future in order to lock in revenues at prices sufficient to pay off any project debt.

Still, the amount of money spent on new projects will climb from 2009 as the credit crisis that choked off bank lending eases and financial institutions are drawn back to the industry, which includes solar companies such as Suntech Power Holdings (STP.N) and SunPower Corp (SPWRA.O) and wind turbine builders Vestas Wind Systems (VWS.CO) and Suzlon (SUZL.BO).

“The biggest challenge in the market is not the availability of finance,” Raymond Wood, managing director for alternative energy at Credit Suisse, told the conference.

“The real challenge in the market (is) can you generate a superior return on invested capital.”

Financing was very cheap for many projects in 2007 and the early part of 2008, particularly for wind farms, which have better returns than photovoltaic solar systems.

The Obama Administration’s move to change a tax break for renewable energy plants into a cash grant for developers helped overcome the financing problems caused when most banks exited the market. Nearly $2 billion has been spent so far on the federal program that can cover up to 30 percent of a project’s costs.

Still, project developers rely on banks to finance about half the start-up costs for renewable energy systems, which typically are syndicated in the debt markets.

To tap into that market, the debt levels must typically start near $100 million, a threshold that many smaller projects will not reach. That could make it difficult for some of those projects to win funding, according to Steve Bissonnette, first vice president for DZ Bank AG.

“I still think that that segment is not being as well served by the market,” he said.

While the banks focus on the U.S. market, funding for new wind and solar plants in Canada is more difficult, said William Sutherland, senior managing director at Manulife Financial Corp.

“North of the border (there is) little funding available, south of the border lots of funding,” he said.

Bank interest in buying debt could evaporate after two or three large syndications come to the market, Bissonnette said, since banks are allocating less money to the sector than they did in 2007.

“I think we’ll see improvement in the markets, but I’m not sure it will be everything everybody wants this year,” he told the conference.

(Reporting by Matt Daily; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

By Matt Daily
Reuters, January 13, 1020

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Redefining Luxury: Your Piece of Paradise

Looking for the rebound in the vacation home market? Some experts water luxury fractionals will lead recovery in this sector.

The concept underlying fractional ownership is straightforward. “You get to own a piece of a multi-million dollar property,” explains Rudy Valli, an owner at The Reef’s Club in Southampton, Bermuda. “We have a beautiful home, maintained by someone else, that we get to utilize for a core set of weeks, as well as other times on a casual basis, in a place we love.”

Few ideas align better with luxury consumers’ new quest for value more than the “cost commensurate usage” fractional mantra. Couple that with gorgeous multi-million dollar homes in stellar locations, a high degree of personal service, and the potential of enjoying more than one destination and it is easy to see the appeal.

“It’s a concept that really fits well with the economic times we’re in and it makes a lot of sense to the buyers,” says Rob Harper, real estate investment and development manager for Unity Hunt Inc., the developer of El Corazon de Santa Fe, which includes whole ownership residences as well as a fractional residence club, steps from the plaza in Santa Fe. Harper has witnessed the evolution of luxury’s new attitudes. Many of those inquiring and buying today would have opted for whole ownership two years ago, he says.

When appreciation was being clocked at 15 percent it was easy to justify a vacation home purchase even if the actual usage was only a month or a few weeks out of the year. “The days of buying for glitz and show are over for some time,” says Richard Ragataz, Ph.D., who has followed the fractional industry for decades.

Over the last six years, scores of new Private Residence Clubs (PRCs) and a dozen or more Destination Clubs debuted, making fractional ownership the fastest-growing segment of the vacation home market. As with any emerging industry, there have been shake ups, particularly among Destination Clubs, with the demise of some clubs and the merger of others; but, overall, fractionals have held their own during the downturn. In 2008, sales in the shared ownership sector of resort real estate were down year-over-year by 34 percent, which actually compares well with whole ownership, which was off by 40.5 percent. Among fractionals, PRCs were the most resilient with a decrease in sales of 24 percent, while Destination Club sales fell 43 percent, according to the Ragataz Associates annual survey of the industry.

Making the Case
Steve Dering, a partner in Dering Elliott Associates, which pioneered one of the first PRCs in 1992, the Deer Valley Club, expects demand to grow. “Affluent households will always want a vacation home. Research shows it’s second only to college educations for their children as the most desired, big-ticket discretionary expenditure. Residence Clubs are going to be seen as a more rational decision, a choice that makes sense. The logic of the purchase is going to resonate with new consumer values. Additionally, we are a green product since one home serves eight different buyers,” he says.

“The economics work for us,” says Tim Reilley about his membership in Ultimate Escapes, a club that resulted from the combination of Ultimate Resort and Private Escapes Destination Clubs. “We were used to having a second home but we decided that the economics of joining a club with the variety of destinations made sense for our family,” he says.

“It takes away the responsibility of owning a second home. Plus it is more affordable,” says Carol Kadison of her ownership at the Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences, Aspen Highlands.

“It’s chic to be smart with your money right now,” says Phil Meckelburg, CEO of Equity Estates, an equity destination club that offers members an interest in the club and the real estate it owns.
Beyond the financials, shared ownership matches the lifestyle and travel desires of upscale consumers. Like many, Reilley and Kadison first experienced their clubs as guests of existing members. Both frequently travel with friends or extended family. “With a vacation home you have to have something large enough for 10 or 12 but most of the time it’s only two people using it. Plus, we are the kind of travelers who like to do many different things from boat excursions to climbing to the top of a mountain,” explains Reilley.

Amping Up Service
PRCs and Destination Clubs incorporate a level of personal service that would be hard to match either with whole ownership or luxury vacation rentals. “It’s all about the customer. We go out of our way to make sure every detail is taken care of,” says Harper.

Even the Ritz-Carlton had to step up its legendary platinum service. “Members expect more,” says Bob Phillips, chief customer officer for the recently launched Ritz-Carlton Destination Clubs.
Travel planning and concierge service is standard and it goes way beyond planning trips and pre-arrival grocery shopping. Compared to typical upscale consumers, fractional owners and members are “less traditional and much more experiential in their vacationing,” observes Gregg Anderson, vice president and global marketing director of The Registry Collection luxury exchange program. Members expect concierges and travel planners to come up with vacations and activities tailored to their interests.

Reilley was surprised with the level of expertise of his planner at Ultimate Escapes. “I have found it to be much more sophisticated than I had expected. It’s been over the top.” Although this service didn’t even figure into his decision to join Ultimate Escapes, Reilley admits it plays a big role in his satisfaction.

Making It Work for You
Understanding the reservation system and ensuring enough weeks are allocated in prime season are essential due diligence for prospective members of both PRCs and Destination Clubs. Members say learning the system, often booking dates ahead of time, finding a planner you like and continuing to work with them is important to making it all work for your benefit. When Reilley first joined, he actually flew out to his club’s membership center to meet his travel planner.

Unlike Destination Clubs, most PRCs are tied to a single location, but typically owners can exchange time with affiliated clubs or through exchanges such as the Registry Collection. Already, Valli has planned a week in Florence.

Kadison often trades winter weeks in Colorado for St. Thomas. She always has received the time she has requested, including a prime week at the recently opened club in Maui. “It’s just a matter of being organized,” she says. Most importantly, whether she is staying in her unit or another, Kadison really does feel as though she’s going home.

One region in demand from both Americans and Europeans, according to Anderson, is the Caribbean. Both the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons have clubs there. Opening in December in St. John is Pond Bay on 15 acres overlooking Chocolate Hole Bay. Developed by FOLIO Collection and managed by Auberge Resorts, Pond Bay joins FOLIO’s other club located on St. Barts.

In the future, Ragataz expects more clubs in urban locations and in regional destinations. Good examples are new clubs on Florida’s panhandle — which draws visitors from New Orleans, Atlanta and Memphis — and Mission Bay in San Diego.

Looking ahead, Anderson says there is a lot of development in the pipeline in Europe. Under construction is the newest entry to the Timbers Resorts, The Links Cottages at Doonbeg, County Clare, Ireland. Florence and Tuscany are two popular club locations, as is Mexico and Costa Rica.

Among Destination Clubs, most don’t expect to see many new clubs in the U.S. And any new clubs are apt to offer some type of an equity arrangement as the Ritz-Carlton has done with its Portfolio Club, which gives members an equity interest in a real estate trust that is subject to the same regulations and oversight as timeshares.

In the end, like beauty, value is apt to be in the eye of the beholder.

PRCs Vs. Destination Clubs
Upscale fractionals include Private Residence Clubs (PRCs) and Destination Clubs. PRCs offer a share in a specific property that guarantees usage for a definite number of weeks (determined by the size of the fraction) in prime seasons and often unlimited usage on a space available basis.

Destination Clubs offer a membership that guarantees a specific length of stay in club homes and often usage on a space available basis. The largest, Denver-based Exclusive Resorts, owns more than 400 homes, a portfolio valued at approximately $1.1 billion, in 37 locations. Member perks include special opportunities such as a private journey to Antarctica aboard Lindblad Expedition’s National Geographic Explorer or a family winter ski ranch vacation in the Rocky Mountains.

The average cost for a PRC share is $331,475, according to the most recent industry survey compiled by Ragataz Associates. The average cost for destination Club membership is $326,500, although most clubs offer different levels of membership.

Both PRCs and Destination Clubs charge annual maintenance fees or dues. A PRC interest can be resold just like wholly owned real estate, while most Destination Clubs have some type of an exit policy in place. Looking ahead, developers are still tinkering with equity models for Destination Clubs so members would actually own an interest in real estate.

Before Buying
•Spend time researching both PRCs and Destination Clubs to determine which would be the best match for you.
•Perform due diligence through researching the property, club history, financials and management company.
•Research the reservation system. Ask to see how it works and how you would use it. The more transparent the better.
•Interview current members.Ask about any special fees or assessments.
•Decide how much service is important to you.

By Camilla McLaughlin
Unique Homes magazine

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LED Bulbs Save Substantial Energy, a Study Finds

Does the latest generation of energy-saving light bulbs save energy? A comprehensive study conducted by Osram, the German lighting company, provides evidence that they do.

While that may seem self-evident, until the release of the report on Monday the answer remained unclear.

That is because no one knew if the production of LED lamps required more energy than needed for standard incandescent bulbs. While it is indisputable that LEDs use a fraction of the electricity of a regular bulb to create the same amount of light, if more energy were used in the manufacturing and distribution process, then the lighting industry could be traveling down a technological dead end.

The study results show that over the entire life of the bulb — from manufacturing to disposal — the energy used for incandescent bulbs is almost five times that used for compact fluorescents and LED lamps.

The energy used during the manufacturing phase of all lamps is insignificant — less than 2 percent of the total. Given that both compact fluorescents and LEDs use about 20 percent of the electricity needed to create the same amount of light as a standard incandescent, both lighting technologies put incandescents to shame.

“We welcome these kinds of studies,” said Kaj den Daas, chief executive of Philips Lighting North America. The Osram study “provides facts where we often have only emotional evidence.” Philips recently became the first entrant in the Energy Department’s L Prize, a race to develop the first practical 60-watt LED equivalent to a standard light bulb.

To calculate what is know as a Life Cycle Assessment of LED lamps, Osram compared nearly every aspect of the manufacturing process, including the energy used in manufacturing the lamps in Asia and Europe, packaging them, and transporting them to Germany where they would be sold. It also looked at the emissions created in each stage, and calculated the effect of six different global warming indexes.

Those included the amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by each process, the acid rain potential, eutrophication (excessive algae), photochemical ozone creation, the release of harmful chemical compounds, and the resultant scarcity of gas, coal, and oil.

Compact fluorescents also contain harmful mercury, which can pollute the soil when discarded.

In addition to the amount of electricity needed for each process, the energy used and the emissions created as a result, were also calculated. In China and Malaysia, where part of the LED production took place, that meant coal and natural gas respectively. In Germany, where the lamps would be sold, electricity is created from a mix of coal, nuclear and renewable sources.

The methodology followed the procedures set down in ISO 14040/44, an industry standard. The results were certified by three university professors in Denmark and Germany as adhering to the standard.

“The difference in energy use between incandescents, compact fluorescents and LEDs is definitely significant,” said Dr. Matthias Finkbeiner of Berlin’s Technical University and chairman of the study’s review committee. “The results are very stable.”

While 60-watt lamps are more popular light sources, they were not used in the study as Osram does not yet have a commercial version. The amount of energy used to illuminate 60-watt-type lamps would increase, but the increase would effect all types of lamps and therefore not change the relative results, according to Dr. Berit Wessler, head of innovations management at Osram Opto Semiconductors in Regensburg, Germany.

Dr. Wessler expects the results to shift even more in favor of LEDs, as newer generations of that technology become even more efficient, requiring less energy to produce the same amount of light.

“Everything I’ve seen strengthens the assumption that LED efficiency will increase,” she said. “There has not been much improvement in incandescent efficiency in the last 10 years.”

By Eric A. Taub, The New York Times, November 29, 2009.

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People Power Launches into Crowded Home Energy Monitoring Field

If any one thing can be learned from the deluge of events, conferences, articles and blog posts on the emerging Smart Grid, it’s that home energy monitoring companies are the sexiest startups in the space. Consumer-facing, colorful and sleekly-designed, they are more appealing than clunky meters or cryptic networking and software startups. But the household monitoring field is getting crowded, with Tendril, Control4, EnergyHub, SilverSpring’s Greenbox, OpenPeak, Gridpoint and still more duking it out. And today it got even more so with the launch of People Power.

Peddling an open-source home area network platform — the open-source aspect being a key difference from many of its rivals — the company has said that its focus on serving consumers exactly the information that want will distinguish it from the rest — something that almost every other company in the space has said when asked the same question.

People Power will draw data from all home appliances and power-sucks into a central online portal where users will be able to view how much energy they are using, where, and how much it is costing them. It has also mentioned that it will be churning out various sensory devices that can be attached to appliances to monitor their energy use. This sounds a lot like British AlertMe, which does something similar, but perhaps not exactly.

Right now, the challenge for companies hoping to transmit energy data from appliances is that not all home devices, like refrigerators, washing machines, etc. come with ports or the uniform technical specs needed. Some startups are working on sensors that can be stuck to and report from any power-using device.

For now, People Power has introduced affordable devices like “GreenVent” to measure HVAC systems, “GreenHeat” to keep tabs on water heaters, “GreenSentry” to turn electric meters into smart meters, and “GreenDog” to gauge clothing dryer energy use. It also makes a special power strip that can measure how much energy is going to TVs, computers and other wall-plug electronics. The idea is that these sensory devices would learn people’s patterns over time, and eventually be able to turn appliances off and on at certain times in order to trim electricity use and bills — a very similar proposition to smart thermostat company EcoFactor.

Based in Palo Alto, Calif., People Power does have several advantages. It has teamed with top-tier researchers at UC-Berkeley and Stanford to work on a longer-range open-source wireless network that it has dubbed the Open Source Home Area Network (OSHAN). The service would be free to download online. The company says it hopes that the open-source structure will help it gain traction and inspire others to build applications on top of the platform, making it an even more valuable tool.

People Power has to make sure this happens in order to stand a chance even among its startup competitors, not to mention General Electric, Google and Microsoft, which are each hard at work developing their own home energy monitoring services. General Electric has joined forces with Tendril to make appliances that funnel energy data into web portals, while Google and Microsoft have launched consumer-facing energy dashboards PowerMeter and Hohm, respectively.

So far the company has raised an undisclosed first round of funding from New Cycle Capital and several angel investors.

By Camille Ricketts, Venture Beat, November 9, 2009.

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