Canadian Company Creates Camera that Has 360-degree, Spherical View

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A pair of Anchorage angel investors with a bent for science and finance have helped a high-tech company go public on a Canadian stock exchange.

Mead Treadwell and John Wanamaker, with partners, recently invested $750,000 in Immersive Media Corp., according to documents filed with Canadian securities regulators. Immersive makes a cutting-edge camera that shoots 360-degree images in real-time. The camera was used by the U.S. Capitol Police in President Bush's inauguration motorcade in January, the investors said.

Alaska - a rough-around-the-edges bastion of fishermen, loggers and oil-field roughnecks - seems an unlikely venue for venture capitalists.

"People say you can't do venture capital in Alaska," Wanamaker said. "Well it turns out, you can!"

Immersive, based in Portland, Ore., and Calgary, Alberta, sold its first stock to the general public in March. Its shares are traded on the Canadian venture-capital exchange, a sister organization of the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Treadwell, Wanamaker and some Canadian investors recapitalized Immersive early last year as the company made its first sales of the camera and prepared to go public this year, they said. The fresh money helped take the company's technology from a research project to a commercial product, said Myles McGovern, Immersive's chief executive.

The company has lost $8.5 million since its inception, including $1.7 million in the last six months of last year, according to financial statements filed with Canadian regulators.

The market for Immersive's camera is primarily the law enforcement, security and defense sectors, according to Treadwell, a former Alaska deputy commissioner of environmental conservation. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the need for high-tech surveillance equipment has apparently skyrocketed.

"The homeland security market has just burgeoned," he said.

The camera, called Dodeca 200, looks like a small soccer ball with lenses all over. The lenses are actually wide-angle video sensors that capture a spherical image of whatever they're looking at.

The cameras can be mounted atop police cars or military vehicles, for example, to capture 360-degree images that can be either transmitted live to people monitoring the pictures on computers elsewhere or stored for later use. People watching the images feel like they're at the spot where the action is happening.

Besides law enforcement, the technology also has applications in the communications, entertainment and video game industries, Wanamaker and Treadwell said, in an interview at their downtown Anchorage office.

Companies that offer mapping services are particularly interested in licensing the data Immersive is gathering in a slew of U.S. cities, McGovern said.

Imagine planning a trip to Los Angeles and trying to figure out how to navigate the freeway system there, he said. In the not too distant future, the Internet will have Web sites that allow people to enter a proposed route and go on a virtual tour from point A to point B, McGovern said.

Treadwell and Wanamaker have started an investment company, called Venture Ad Astra, that plans to help launch other promising startups. The business name - translated from Latin - means venture to the stars.

Its initial $750,000 investment for 3 million shares in Immersive is now worth about $4.5 million.

Wanamaker, the son of a retired Anchorage judge, calls himself a "serial entrepreneur." He says he has built and sold four companies in the aerospace, wireless and electronic security industries.

Treadwell is a former board member of the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation, a state-run seed capital fund dissolved in 2003. He's a commissioner with the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and a senior fellow at Institute of the North, a think tank at Alaska Pacific University.

Treadwell said he's has been an angel investor for more than a decade.

Venture Ad Astra plans to make early stage investments in a variety of companies, particularly ones that focus on imagery and mapping companies.

"In some ways, it's like a mother hen sitting on a bunch of eggs," Treadwell said.

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