Barbara Bry & Neil Senturia (Blackbird Ventures)

Barbara Bry & Neil Senturia (Blackbird Ventures)

Neil and Barbara are longtime San Diego entrepreneurs and investors. Neil often serves as CEO of their ventures.
Investment focus: High-tech only.
Noteworthy recent investments: Lonocloud (sold to ViaSat), Oberon Fuels, Dealstruck.
Investment philosophy: “We make an investment based largely on the founder, but we insist on a rational ownership structure---shared goals, aligned interests, and no crazy pre-money valuations."

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson

Founding CEO of Tourmaline Networks (acquired in 2007). Investor and adviser.
Investment focus: Mobile, software, IT.
Recent investments: VirtualMetrix, GroundMetrics, Cashie Commerce, LiquidGrids, mSIGNIA.
Investment philosophy: "Innovative technical solutions that solve real problems. Must be exclusively profit-driven, something I understand, and preferably includes IP."

Allison Long Pettine

Allison Long Pettine

President & Founder of Crescent Ridge Partners.
Investment focus: Mobile, SaaS, Internet, Healthcare IT, Biotech, Energy.
Recent investments: Embarke, Saambaa, Ground Metrics.
Investment philosophy: Rock Star entrepreneurs + disruptive technology, and “How I can add value.”

Howard Lindzon

Howard Lindzon

Hedge fund manager and investor. Co-founder and Chairman of StockTwits.
Investment focus: Financial Web, Mobile, Consumer Web, New Media, and eclectically in great teams and entrepreneurs.
Recent investments: Apptentive, MobileDevHq, AnyoneHome, ChartIq, and Kensho Finance.
Investment philosophy: "I invest in companies that make products I use and love. I look for big trends, and invest along the valuation line from angel to public markets."

Blaise Barrelet

Blaise Barrelet

Serial entrepreneur and founder of Web analytics pioneer WebSideStory.
Investment focus: Ideas and products where the value comes from the data created.
Recent investments: Anametrix, Apmetrix.
Investment philosophy: "I invest in experienced people who can benefit from my analytics platform, seed investments, and network of customers, vendors, and employees to quickly deploy technology that sells."

Bill Malloy

Bill Malloy

President of family office Malloy & Co., Aequitas Capital investor and partner, Addepar investor and advisor, avid surfer, and co-founder of PEERs Network.
Investment focus: Financial technology, Social Media, Biotech, Health Care, Cleantech.
Recent investments: The Backplane, Addepar, Aequitas Capital.
Investment philosophy: "While profitable investing is a must, I am always looking for ways to make a positive, lasting impact on local communities through business."

Mitch Thrower

Mitch Thrower

Serial entrepreneur and 22-time Ironman triathlete; Co-founder of Active Network; Co-founder and CEO of Bump Network.
Investment focus: Digital, Interactive, Internet, Cleantech.
Recent investments: Competitor Group, Bump Network, ATDynamics, Mogl.
Investment philosophy: "Businesses with reliable, high-margin revenue and massive data aggregation. I also look for founders who understand entrepreneurship is an endurance sport."

Steve Hart (and wife Sue)

Steve Hart (and wife Sue)

Co-founder and CTO of ViaSat. Investor, advisor, and volunteer at UC San Diego, EvoNexus, Mainly Mozart, and elsewhere.
Investment focus: Enterprise, Mobile, Security.
Recent investments: GROWconnections, LonoCloud, Mogl, Plyfe.
Investment philosophy: "I am most interested in people who want to build a company, versus the quick-turn entrepreneur. I look for profitability and growth, in that order."

Cliff Boro

Cliff Boro

Team Group managing partner; Co-founder and CEO of Zui.com (sold to Saban Brands) and Internet entrepreneur involved at Say Media, mSnap, and Infogate.
Investment focus: Consumer Internet, SaaS, B2B, Enterprise Internet.
Recent investments: Videoegg (Say Media), Luxology (sold to The Foundry), 6 Sense Insights, Chatmeter, DealStruck.
Investment philosophy: "I’m now investing capital and time through Team Group to help entrepreneurs, more like a fractional co-founder."

Kim Davis King

Kim Davis King

Business lecturer at UC San Diego and SDSU; business development consultant and advisor; former IDG Ventures partner.
Investment focus: Software, Web, Healthcare-IT Convergence.
Recent investments: Embarke, Philometron, Verve Wireless, Clenova (Sold to ATG).
Investment Philosophy: "All about the team and market."

Rick Cooper

Rick Cooper

Yappert COO, former Xcellis CEO, Tech Coast Angels.
Investment focus: Software, Cleantech (energy), Mobile, Social, Medical Devices.
Recent investments: CRISI Medical Systems, VirtualMetrix, Deal Current, IntraStage.
Investment philosophy: Founders' passion, integrity, and resourcefulness are critical---prior success is very nice too. I look for strong customer value, capital-efficient model, and viable exit.

Tim Rueth

Tim Rueth

Engineer and early Qualcomm executive, now focused on technology commercialization as an advisor and consultant.
Investment focus: No preferred fields, but I’m highly selective.
Recent investments: MicroPower Technologies, Leading BioSciences, Liquid Grids, DriveCam.
Investment philosophy: "I like old-school plays that have real IP and address a real need. The management team is critical in terms of domain expertise and trust, especially the CEO. What is the market size, growth, and maturity? Then, what is the product or service, and what is the IP, value, and stage of development?"

Russ Hall

Russ Hall

Wealth advisor, founder of GROWconnections, and member of Tech Coast Angels board.
Investment focus: Software, health and performance-related technologies.
Recent investments: Rock My World, MOGL, Virtual Metrix, Liquid Grids, Wyldfire.
Investment Philosophy: "I invest in creative concepts with dynamic entrepreneurs in fields that I like and understand. I look for productivity solutions with barriers to entry, large markets, and multiple exit opportunities."

Sergio Gurrieri

Sergio Gurrieri

Life sciences investor and business advisor.
Investment focus: Biotech, Drug Development, Media, Healthcare.
Recent Investments: Anabios, Groundmetrics, Virtualmetrix, Culture Jam, Gemmus Pharma, Deal Current, Savara Pharma.
Investment Philosophy: "I enjoy working with CEOs who accomplish their vision with passion and integrity. I focus on strong and dynamic management with a solid business model.”

Kris Lichter

Kris Lichter

DuMonde Ventures co-founder and principal; IBM, ICG, Palm Ventures, AOL.
Investment focus: Enterprise, industry-specific solutions bearing exponential change, (derivative ideas need not apply!) Early stage.
Recent investments: Ardica Technologies, Bottlenose, Citybot, NanoRacks.
Investment philosophy: “I look for (truly) transformative ideas in any industry, horizontal technology, or geography that are being crisply and intelligently advanced by passionate, committed teams. I like to help as much as I can---a passive investor, I am not.”

Greg Horowitt

Greg Horowitt

Co-founder of T2 Venture Capital, Kauffman Fellow, Co-founder of Global CONNECT at UC San Diego, Co-author of “The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley."
Investment focus: A generalist investor in high tech and healthcare.
Recent investments: Biomatrica, Somark Innovations, Liquidity Corp.
Investment Philosophy: “We invest in the synergistic potential of extraordinary talent, disruptive ideas, and a defensible competitive advantage. I view our entrepreneurs as partners, and believe in fairness, not advantage.

Wolf Bielas

Wolf Bielas

Founded three technology companies after graduating from Mexico’s Monterey Institute of Technology. Now the managing partner of Wolfpack Ventures.
Investment focus: Software and technology.
Recent investments: OurCrowd, Trendlines, Parko.
Investment Philosophy: "I invest on the team, not as much on the idea. If the team is good and has experience they can always pivot."

Brett Helm

Brett Helm

Experienced networking industry executive and CEO at Coradiant, AirFiber, IPivot. An engineer and former Air Force aviator with 26 combat missions in Operation Desert Storm.
Investment focus: Enterprise systems only; almost exclusively Internet infrastructure.
Recent investments: DB Networks, Coradiant (acquired), Sanera Systems (acquired), IPivot (acquired).
Investment philosophy: Limit the trust of others to the amount of skin they have in the game. Invest in opportunities that leverage big markets, significant problems, customer requirements, recurring revenue.

Jack Florio

Jack Florio

Thirty-year pharmaceutical executive; mentor to CEOs, entrepreneurs, and grand-children.
Investment focus: Medical Devices, Biotech/Pharma, Digital Health.
Recent Investments: N-Spine, Amplyx, Aegis, Allylix, Anabios.
Investment Philosophy: It is all about the leader and the team. Great leaders can find the path to make good ideas and technologies successful; poor leaders can destroy any possible value. Great leaders know their strengths and limitations, and surround themselves with people smarter then themselves.

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that an entrepreneur in possession of innovative technology must be in want of an angel investor.

Yet the process of finding an angel who is willing to invest more than just capital—a person who possesses the proper character as well as expertise, experience, interest, and passion—is a complicated affair with all the makings of great Romantic literature. Think in terms of a novel that is ostensibly about matchmaking (entrepreneur meets angel; entrepreneur loses angel, etc.) but more broadly describes the social hierarchies and mores of our time. Misunderstandings abound in the parlors of the Internet, and a tweet to win the heart of Dave McClure, after all, must be done just so.

The nuances of this courtship ritual are particularly arcane in San Diego. For entrepreneurs, the paradox of San Diego is that angels flock here like snowbirds in the winter—and yet they seem as difficult to find as a California Clapper Rail (an endangered shorebird found chiefly in Northern California).

“I don’t know what it is about San Diego,” says Allison Long Pettine, who is among a handful of local angels working to strengthen the ecosystem for tech innovation in San Diego—and to draw her fellow investors into the light. “There is a lot of hand-holding going on. Nobody wants to make the first move.”

The reticent nature of San Diego’s angels makes them difficult to approach, even if they belong to the San Diego chapter of Southern California’s Tech Coast Angels, which claims to be the largest angel investment organization in the United States. Pettine and others also lament that San Diego’s angels rarely act in concert. “There are all these people doing things, but they are just out there doing them on their own,” she said.

As a result, Pettine and others have been working to strengthen the ties among San Diego’s angels. She believes the innovation ecosystem here could benefit from the power of networking.

As TechStars founder David Cohen said recently in San Diego, “The way early stage activity is getting financed today is through networks”—and the networking effects can be as powerful as anything happening in social media on the Internet.

“If you become part of the network, you contribute more than money—you contribute ideas,” Cohen said. “The investors and VCs who come in as mentors are also more likely to invest in the companies they’re seeing. So being part of the network is what gets you exposure to the emerging technologies and the deals.”

Cohen predicts that in the not-too-distant future, venture capital investors won’t learn about emerging technology startups by getting pitched. They’ll learn instead by getting involved with startups from inception—an approach already taken in many of the life sciences startups funded by San Diego’s Avalon Ventures.

An appreciation for the synergies of this network effect has led Pettine and others in San Diego to help mentor local entrepreneurs, and to encourage San Diego’s angel investors to build ties to angel networks beyond San Diego. Xconomy has supported these efforts, in part by working with Brant Cooper of San Diego Tech Founders to organize events featuring prominent innovation leaders.

In addition, as you can see above, I’ve put together a slideshow of prominent San Diego angels that includes a brief summary of their investment philosophy, technology focus, and a few recent deals. Conspicuously missing from this list is John Belmonte, who emerged last year as a key figure in the local startup ecosystem. Belmonte told me he’s been on an angelic hiatus since May, when he  returned to the San Diego based Active Network (NASDAQ: ACTV) as interim CEO. He plans to return, however, and I’ve saved a place for Belmonte in our slideshow. I’m happy to add other angels to the slideshow who are active investors in technology innovation; just send me the pertinent details.

We hope this slideshow will help strengthen the angel network in San Diego, and also serve as a resource for local entrepreneurs. But I won’t respond to requests from entrepreneurs seeking an introduction to the angels featured in our slideshow. You’re supposed to use the power of your own network for that.

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

  • patgiblin

    Good piece. Wish there was a more “open network” down in these parts but it is good to see the profiles you have given here. There are others out there. The more Angels talk, work together and help move these start ups out of crippling positions the greater the ecosystem and business economy becomes…

  • sdlocal

    You lost me at Barbara Bry and Neil Senturia.

  • Melani

    Great roundup Bruce. Thanks for this. People may complain there’s no money in San Diego. But if you’re building a company with real traction and a real product it shouldn’t be too difficult to raise a seed round IN San Diego.

  • Dave

    Is anyone or any organization tracking the closed seed rounds (not speaking to friends/family) by San Diego companies and who was involved? How many in 2013? Would be nice to see how things pick up and the startup ecosystem gets stronger.

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  • Xander

    I have been to two meet and greet events with hopes of meeting an angel interested in Xander Pet Products. All of them reminded me of the trading floor of the NYSE with an added barrier being that of Techno Speak. Having been in the tech industry for 20 years I understand the hypnotic attraction of potential. Everyone wants to place their bets on a google number, but how many googles are there, really!

    Fast growth and high profits are not limited to software and phone apps. I would love to find a blog talking about consumer soft goods.