As Startup Considers IPO, Mission Ventures’ Leo Spiegel Sees End to San Diego’s VC Lockdown

9/2/09Follow @bvbigelow

Leo Spiegel says he’s sensing a change in San Diego’s listless venture capital sector.

Spiegel quickly adds that he doesn’t have the data to back it up. It’s just a feeling he has, a sailor’s instinct for a freshening breeze in the horse latitudes. Yet as a managing partner at San Diego’s Mission Ventures, Spiegel’s instincts count for something.

The San Diego venture capital firm, which specializes in early-stage software, IT, and technology-driven service companies, has seen firsthand the harsh effects the economic downturn has had on the region’s technology-based startups. During the first three months of 2009, there was a single $4 million investment in San Diego’s IT sector, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. In the second quarter, four IT startups in the region got a total of $50 million.

Leo Spiegel

Leo Spiegel

“My success in life has been due to the fact that I see the glass as half-full. You have to feel optimistic in this business,” Spiegel tells me. Yet in the economic collapse that began last year, he adds, “I was being challenged to see that, and to feel that. But over the past month or so, it just feels different. I’m cautiously optimistic.”

While Mission Venture’s offices overlook the El Camino Real, the famed “royal road” linking California’s Spanish missions, Spiegel’s view has been shaped chiefly by his experience as a CEO and entrepreneur. Before joining Mission Ventures in early 2001, he was president of Digital Island, a San Francisco-based Web hosting service provider with 1,100 employees. Before that, Spiegel was the CEO of Sandpiper Networks, a Thousand Oaks, CA-based provider of Internet hosting, content delivery, and network services that was acquired by Digital Island in a 1999 stock deal valued at more than $1 billion. (The British telecommunications company Cable & Wireless, in turn, acquired Digital Island for just $340 million in mid-2001.)

When I talked with Spiegel’s partner Robert Kibble a few months ago, San Diego VCs didn’t have much to be optimistic about. But Spiegel attributes … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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