Picolight sold, another one bites the dust . . .

JDS Uniphase Corp. on Tuesday agreed to buy Louisville, CO-based Picolight Inc. for up to $125 million, subject to the achievement of certain revenue targets this year.

For JDSU, the deal strengthens its position in the fast-growing market for vertical cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL)-based transceivers, which provide low-power optical interconnections to link corporate data centers with high-speed metropolitan and wide-area networks. JDSU expects to record its first profit in a decade in the fiscal year ending this June.

For Picolight, it provides access to JDSU’s global marketing and manufacturing capabilities. It also provides the company’s investors a modest return on the nearly $120 million in venture capital they’ve sunk into the 12-year-old company, without the challenge and uncertainty of attempting an initial public offering. Picolight was founded in 1995 as a spinout of Vixel Corp. by Picolight’s CTO and Chairman Jack L. Jewell, a former AT&T Bell Laboratories researcher who has been awarded more than 50 U.S. patents.

But for the Boulder area – still digesting last week’s purchase of natural-foods retailer Wild Oats – the sale marks the loss of yet another promising local company. On the plus side, at least PicoLight’s 130 employees at the Colorado Tech Center are expected to keep their jobs.

Colorado has long been a fertile environment for promising startups. Technology entrepreneurs have founded, and sold, dozens of local companies, including such notables as McData, Storage Technology, Exabyte, J.D. Edwards, Conner Peripherals and PrairieTek. But few, if any, have managed to remain independent for long.

Will Colorado ever have a homegrown Cisco, Intel or IBM, or are we fated to always be the farm team for Silicon Valley’s “big league” technology giants?

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