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Frontenac Picks Up Wireless Signal –

Frontenac Company, a Chicago-based private equity firm, last month took a piece of San Diego-based wireless company Stellcom. Mission Ventures, Spinnaker Capital and Webber Capital also participated in the $35 million investment, with Frontenac contributing “the vast majority”, according to Laird Koldyke, a general partner at Frontenac.

Stellcom, known for its 400-strong engineering team, is Frontenac VIII’s fourth investment focused on technology-related companies. Employing its CEO1st strategy, Frontenac recognized the growth potential in the wireless sector, a roughly $73 billion market with the Gardner Group projecting a growth rate of 70%, and identified Tracy Trent, Stellcom’s president and chief executive officer, and his business as a strong ally in capitalizing on the sector.

“We see both rapid growth and big opportunity in Stellcom,” said Koldyke. “It’s benefited by having $50 million plus of revenue of which the lion’s share of that is wireless engineering, [i.e.] wireless integration services. They are the largest wireless integrator firm by five-fold their nearest competitor.”

While canvassing the wireless community for an ideal partner, Frontenac was impressed with Trent’s “dead-on relevant experience”. Prior to working with Stellcom, Trent was senior vice president and group manager of SAIC’s e-business solutions organization and was responsible for managing SAIC’s incubator portfolio. Particularly attractive, said Koldyke, was the fact that Trent is “plugged into the San Diego technology community.”

“In a wireless investment like this you can’t underestimate that,” he said. “San Diego is the Silicon Valley of wireless technology . . . everybody is going [there], not only to tap the opportunity, the knowledge-base of the community there, but because that’s where the action is. So to have an executive who spent his entire career in the San Diego technology market place and who gets the wireless joke is really important.”

The equity from the investor group will be used to hire more engineers, build regional offices and expand marketing and sales efforts at Stellcom, Koldyke said.

The $500 million Frontenac VIII fund has also invested in Seurat, a technology solutions company and Advanced Logistics Solutions, a technology consulting company.

Most recently, Frontenac VIII co-lead a $125 million investment in Altrio Communications Inc., a broadband communications provider.