Canopy regroups for further ventures

Published May 19, 2006 12:00 am
High-tech: The investment firm has hired a former Novell vice president to manage its portfolio
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Just over a year ago, the future of the Lindon-based Canopy Group was in doubt.

Some analysts were predicting the once-premier Utah venture capital firm, battered by months of strife and an internal coup that threatened to unravel its operations, would have to liquidate its holdings.

Those concerns were put to rest Wednesday when two sons of legendary Canopy founder Ray Noorda announced a new executive to manage the firm's portfolio, which holds interest in some of the state's leading high-tech companies.

Canopy's new executive manager is Ron Heinz. He is a former Novell Inc. corporate officer and senior vice president who currently serves as chairman of Helius Inc., a data broadcasting company that counts the Canopy Group as a minority shareholder. He'll be joined at Canopy's helm by Brandon Tidwell, who will serve as general counsel and director of finance.

"We are here to drive and control everything we can on a going forward basis," Heinz said in discussing Canopy's future course.

Canopy currently has an ownership interest in 13 Utah companies, including MyFamily.com, Maxstream Inc. and Directpointe Inc. "We're looking forward to adding number 14 to our portfolio, and then as many as we can," Heinz said. "And we have plenty of dry powder [capital] to go after those companies."

Canopy's new finance director, Tidwell, who has counseled startup companies as an associate in the Silicon Valley office of Latham & Watkins and more recently with the law firm of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll in Salt Lake City, was attracted to the company by its existing investment portfolio and the opportunity to help those companies grow and develop.

In its heyday, Canopy was among the state's leading investors in technology companies. Funded from the fortune of Novell Inc.'s longtime guiding light, Ray Noorda, the venture capital firm helped launch, fund and develop companies that created thousands of new high-paying jobs.

Over the past year, Canopy's absence from the Utah venture capital marketplace was noticeable, said Richard Nelson, chief executive of the Utah Technology Council, a privately funded industry trade association.

With the Canopy Group on the sidelines, the Utah venture capital market was missing a critical link - given its past willingness to invest early on in the growth cycles of startup companies, Nelson said. "There was a real loss without the Canopy Group. There were a number of companies that didn't get funded."

Having Canopy back and having another venture capital firm willing to partner with other firms in helping develop Utah's base of high-tech companies is a good thing for the state, said Thomas Taylor of the MountainWest Capital Network, an organization devoted to aiding the creation and expansion of new Utah businesses.




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