Steve Nelson shares something in common with Mark Twain, at least when it comes to business. Nelson proclaims Wakefield Group, one of the best-known venture capital firms in the southeast, is not dead as some people have believed.

“Firm is absolutely alive and quite well,” Nelson, its managing partner, told Local Tech Wire.

“Nothing new for me or Wakefield at all,” he added. “We even had a successful exit – the sale of APEX Analytix of Greensboro in late April – so life is actually quite good, all things considered.”

APEX was acquired by PNC Equity Partners, a private equity firm in Pittsburgh, Pa. Wakefield and Noro-Moseley in Atlanta were investors in APEX, which formed in 1988.

Rumors about the possible demise of Wakefield began circulating earlier this year when the firm’s Web site disappeared.

“Web site is down – by design,” Nelson explained.

“We were getting too many, inbound and unsolicited, national requests for funding, from folks we do not know.”

Wakefield is backed by Charlotte mogul C.D. Spangler who has suffered his own setbacks in the recession. Spangler, meanwhile, didn’t make Forbes’ “World’s Billionaire" list earlier this year. Last September, his worth was cited as $2 billion. Spangler owns National Gypsum and C.D. Spangler Construction. The construction industry has been among the hardest hit by the economic meltdown.

The downturn has hit the venture capital industry with numerous firms across the country cutting staff and funds. Recent VC statistics show sharp drops in fund raising as well as investments, although action in North Carolina has been pretty robust in recent months. In June alone, at least eight deals were disclosed.

Nelson remains active on several boards, including Pocketgear which Jud Bowman spun out of Motricity last year. Nelson has been an investor in Bowman-led tech ventures since Bowman dropped out of college to go into business for himself.

Pocketgear is growing quickly, working with developer of applications for smart phones.

Wakefield also is a backer and Nelson sits of the boards of Liquidia and rPath.

Liquidia is focused on proprietary nanotechnology for use in medicine and vaccine delivery as well as other users. It has raised more than $20 million in venture financing.

rPath is among the leaders of virtualization technology, enabling the use of multiple operating systems on single devices as well as collaboration of servers and computers over disparate locations.

Nelson also played an active role in organizing the Council for Entrepreneurial development’s most recent venture capital conference. He chaired the selection committee charged with picking the 40 presenting ventures as well as helping recruit John Denniston, general partner at investment firm Kleiner Perkins, to speak.

Despite the ongoing economic downturn, Nelson prefers to remain optimistic.

“Doing great, especially all things considered,” he said. “Challenging times for sure.

“That said, the sun will rise again.

“If I squint hard enough I might even be able to see it!”