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Montgomery Tech: Upbeat Entrepreneurs

The mood is upbeat and venture capitalists, media and tech giants are out in force, hunting for deals at the seventh annual Montgomery Tech Conferencein Santa Monica, California.

There are 800 investors here, including venture capitalists, private equity firms plus representatives from tech giants including IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo, and media conglomerates News Corp, Disney, IAC/Interactive Corp, Comcast, and game-maker Activision/Blizzard. There are 150 startups, most of which had revenue between $10 and $100 million last year, the majority of which identify themselves as digital media, software as a service, or cloud computing companies.

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A poll of the companies presenting here indicates a return to optimism and just how different the startup community is now than during the first Internet boom.

Instead of trying to go public before they have a revenue stream, companies here are profitable and still don't want to, or expect to IPO. Two thirds of these companies expect to be EBITDA positive in 2010 and more than a third expect to double revenue this year. And after several years of very limited activity, the survey finds that 75 percent of these CEOs plans to exit the company through a strategic sale. IPO’s are so 1999: only 12.5 percent plan to go public. And these companies are generating enough revenue that they're not desperate for cash; less than a third plan to raise money this year.

All the VCs and startups I've talked to are optimistic about 2010, saying businesses of all types seem to be picking up after struggling (or being stuck at a plateau) over the past two years. But tech entrepreneurs in particular say they've found great opportunities even in the worst economic environments. Coupon Cabin, a Web site that connects shoppers with coupons for online purchases, tells me that business boomed during the recession as consumers tried to get more with less.

Cloud computing companies are trying to profit from the same trend on a much larger scale -- companies trying to spend less on storage and I.T. from switching from servers to the cloud. Cloud Computing is one of the most popular types of companies here. "Right Scale," "Engine Yard" and "Service Mesh" that say that they help companies save and avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in costs by switching from servers to the cloud.

People here can't stop talking about the fact that giants like HP and Cisco are committing billions *each* to this category, wondering which of these start-ups they'll snap up.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com