Southeast Interactive Technology Funds, which had been stung badly by the dot-com bust, boldly announced a new venture capital fund last April, saying it was moving forward with new personnel and a new focus.
But almost a year later, a key member of Southeast’s management is gone, and it’s unclear exactly how much of the fourth venture fund the firm really has in hand.
Bob Diemar, the Wall Street veteran who was brought in to help manage the new fund who left in December, and Mike Preston, a principal with the firm, both told Local Tech Wire in recent weeks that Southeast hasn’t closed on any money in the new fund. But Managing General Partner Norvell Miller disputed those claims.
“We’ve closed on some money, and that’s all I’m going to say,” Miller said, declining to disclose the size of the fund or name its investors.
Southeast reportedly was weeks away from closing on $100 million when it announced the new fund and its change of direction. Officials said founder Dave Blivin and longtime partner Bill Glynn would be bought out and Diemar would become a general partner in the new fund, which they said eventually could total as much as $200 million and would target later-stage deals.
In December, Southeast announced its first deal from the fund, leading a $2 million investment in BuildLinks, a Cary, N.C.-based developer of software tools for the home building market.
In discussing the deal, Preston told LTW that Southeast “halted Fund IV until we could talk with the limited partners.” He said the firm was drawing on the commitment of $100 million by investors to support BuildLinks, even though there hadn’t been an official closing on the fund.
“There are a couple of deals that we didn’t want to pass up in our space,” Preston said, noting Southeast also was looking at investing in a telecommunications firm in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Miller recently dismissed Preston’s statements, saying, “Mike isn’t a partner here. He doesn’t know what’s going on with regard to the fund.”
Diemar returns to New Jersey
After three decades of handling private equity deals for Dillon Reed, Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette and Credit Suisse First Boston, Diemar was lured to the Durham venture capital firm last spring by Miller, a longtime associate who promised a chance at smaller deals with a lot of hands-on work with startup tech companies.
Diemar told LTW that he left Southeast at the end of December because the firm wasn’t able to put together a fund and decided to concentrate on working with its existing portfolio companies.
“When I joined, it was with the understanding that there was going to be a new fund in place by the end of 2002,” he said. “It just became clear over time that the market wasn’t receptive to a new fund, and so there wasn’t a need for me to be involved.”
Diemar says he still is a board member of Arsenal Digital Solutions, a Durham-based data storage provider that is part of Southeast’s portfolio, and he talks regularly with Miller and others at Southeast. He now heads a financial advisory firm in New Jersey.
“I like to be active, and since no new investments were planned, I moved on,” he said.
Diemar said that he believed the BuildLinks investment came out of unallocated money in Southeast’s third fund.
Responding to Diemar’s assessment of the firm’s activities, Miller said: “That’s a good spin from his side of things.”
“We’re making deals. There’s money there,” he added. “We’ll let you know when we have something to announce, but there’s nothing else to say right now.”
Southeast Interactive Technology Funds: