Mickey Mouse not a bad venture capitalist

Walt Disney isn’t on our short-list of successful venture capital firms. But we might have to rethink that.
Two years ago, the company began furtively investing in start-ups via its venture arm, Steamboat Ventures, which we first reported here.

In retrospect, it might have been a smart contrarian move. Disney waded in during the midst of the Internet depression, when many VCs were paralyzed with fear. And now Disney’s labor is bearing fruit — in Silicon Valley, no less. Yesterday we learned that one of its start-ups, Iridigm Display, was acquired by Qualcomm for about $170 million in cash. (Iridigm specializes in technology used in mobile device displays.) Iridigm’s 35 employees or so, based in San Francisco, have apparently munched through only $50 million in funding, and even some of that is reportedly still in the bank — suggesting a decent profit for Steamboat and a number of other Iridigm investors.

Better yet, Qualcomm is saying it will keep the employees here in the Bay Area, even though Qualcomm is based in San Diego. That’s good news for our job market, which we could use. With that, we’ll say: “Mickey Mouse, welcome to Silicon Valley!”

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