RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Dave Blivin, who founded Southeast Interactive in 1995, had hopes of launching a new venture capital firm focused on early-stage investments.
Those plans have been put on hold after Blivin and three partners failed to reach their target closing of $30 million by Dec. 31.
The four men hatched plans for Seaboard Ventures. But having secured commitments for only $15 million, they have decided to suspend further fund-raising attempts.
“We had commitments from individuals,” Blivin told WRAL Local Tech Wire. “The initiative as originally constructed set a goal of $30 million by the end of the year. We were half way there. That would not be enough money to fund a Series A round player or enough capital to run the firm.
“We are reassessing where we area and suspending. We also are freeing up each other to pursue other opportunities,” he added.
Blivin, who left Southeast Interactive three years ago, had lined up Hans Davidsson, a former executive with Ericsson; Daniel Friel, who started and ran the strategic investment group for Bank of America for seven years; and Robert Ball, a former attorney with Alston & Bird, as partners.
“This region is very underserved in A round capital,” Blivin said. “We’re disappointed more for the region than for ourselves.”
The major A round investors, who typically come into venture-backed firms that have already secured seed funding and have a management team in place, in the region remain The Aurora Funds and Intersouth.
Had Seaboard been able to attract institutional investors, Blivin said the group could have reached its $30 million goal. “We needed institutional investors for the first fund,” he explained,. “but since we had not worked together as a team before we were unable to secure commitments.”
Seaboard pursued individuals beyond those who said they would put in money, but Blivin said the team encountered numerous individuals still recovering or hoping to make money from investments made in the late 90s at the height of the “dot com” boom.
“The region as a whole is still recovering,” he said.
In launching Seaboard, Blivin said he saw the same need for early stage capital now as he did in 1995.
“My belief is that there will be a vacuum for early-stage capital,” he said. “There are fewer sources of capital.”
That shortfall is coming at a critical time, he added.
“Overall, there are more higher quality innovations now than there were five years ago,” Blivin said. While startups can find angel investors or smaller funds to help with initial funding to get started, Blivin said the A round “is the key to the other rounds. The A round helps companies cross the chasm to the B round as they build management and product.
“To really change the capital economy, you have to solve the A round challenge.”
At least for now, Seaboard Ventures will not be part of that solution.
Rick Smith is editor of WRAL Local Tech Wire.