No WiMax Home Run for VCs

Despite its $330 million price tag, Cisco’s acquisition of WiMax networking equipment developer Navini Networks, won’t deliver big gains to venture backers, who poured $195 million into the Richardson, Texas company to date.

Cisco said the planned purchase will likely close in the second quarter of next year. It will be acquisition No. 124 for the networking giant.

For Navini, the exit has been a long time in the making. The company raised its first round, of $15.5 million, in 2000, with backing from Sequoia Capital and Austin Ventures. It raised $180 million over nine more rounds in the next six years, drawing capital from investors including Lehman Brothers, TI Ventures, Intel Capital, Motorola Ventures, Granite Ventures and Investor Growth Capital.

Navini is one of a few WiMax companies that have raised big wads of venture funding. Aperto Networks, a developer of WiMax base stations, has raised $145 million since 1999. Beceem Communications, in Santa Clara, Calif., has raised $109 million in the last four years. And Telsima, in Sunnyvale, Calif., raised $50 million in April. The company, which develops technology for delivering rich media over WiMax, previously raised $18 million.

So far, the only really big exit has been of WiMax network operator Clearwire. The company has a market capitalization around $3.6 billion nearly eight months after its IPO, but is down more than a third from its July high of $35 a share.