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OpVista reportedly is getting more than $20 million in a second round of funding

The big names of optical networking may be in the dark for now, but startups in Orange County are basking in the glow of venture funding.

The latest: Irvine-based optical gear designer OpVista Inc. is said to be nearing the close of its second round of funding.

Sources say the round,OpVista’s second,stands to top $20 million.

Previous investors Incubic of Mountain View and Sevin Rosen Funds of New York are said to be taking part in the latest round, along with U.S. Trust. The company plans to use the funds for manufacturing, hiring and other costs, sources said.

OpVista executives are trying to decide whether to increase the size of the round, but hoped to close the funding by Aug. 15, according to sources.

The company joins a list of optical gear upstarts that have drawn the eye of investors. Last week, Newport Beach-based Newport Opticom closed its first round of funding worth $7 million. The investment marked the first local round of funding for Sienna Ventures Southern California office, started by former Apple Computer Inc. chief executive Gil Amelio. Sienna led the round, which also included investments from the Irvine office of InveStar Capital Inc. and others.

This year, Irvine chip designers 3DSP Corp. and TransDimension Inc., as well as VSK Photonics Inc., an Irvine components maker for optical networks, closed new rounds of funding totaling nearly $35 million. A handful of smaller photonics companies and chip designers also have received money in recent months.

Venture capitalist say last year’s venture focus on Internet-based ventures has given way to a new emphasis on companies that make the plumbing for the Internet and other networks,companies such as optical gear makers.

In OpVista’s case, the company plans to make optical components that help pack more wavelengths of an analog signal, which will allow more data to be transferred across the Internet.

“It basically enhances the network capacity,” said OpVista Chief Financial Officer Gerald Houston.

The company’s product comes at a time when communications chip designers,such as Irvine-based Broadcom Corp. and Newport Beach-based Conexant Systems Inc.,are looking for ways to pack more data through their products to allow for the transfer of data with high memory requirements,such as voice and video.

Like other recently funded optical gear startups, OpVista is a company of engineers. The company boasts its research team as “certain to position OpVista at the forefront of Optical Networking technology,” according to company literature. The company plans to hire more engineering talent.

Unlike a year ago, much of the new funding is going to companies that have a strong engineering background. One byproduct of that trend is the new funding climate: the quality of entrepreneurs is rising, venture capitalists say.

“You can’t be a freshly minted MBA anymore and get funding,” said Fred Selby, president of the OC chapter of the Tech Coast Angels, a group of private investors.

In all of last year, venture capitalists sunk $1.5 billion in OC companies. n

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