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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


TVC Capital

February 21, 2013

San Diego Venture Group gathered a diverse panel of San Diego-based venture capitalists recently to talk about their focus, how they spend their time, and what they recognize as red flags for prospective investments.

Jason Brown of Thomas McNerney & Partners made the first meeting/first date comparison with the comment that the venture investor/company relationship is like a marriage of sorts, except that you don’t want it to last … Compatibility is important when you’re going to spend so much time together. Brown concentrates on life sciences investing which carries huge risks and costs. “Getting to ‘yes’ is difficult. The elements of risk have to be achievable,” Brown said, “We have to look at clinical risk, scientific risk, regulatory risk, commercial and competitive risk.” Later, when a question came up about healthcare reform, he added reimbursement risk to the list. Despite these daunting odds, Brown said he spends as much as 50 percent of his time looking at new investments.

Steve Hamerslag of TVC Capital invests in software and software services. TVC Capital looks for investments where there is already $2 - $10 million in revenues and the company has reached a point where it is time to professionalize the organization. Hamerslag said TVC invests anywhere from $4 - $10 million in each company and expects to take an active mentoring role. Red flags for Steve? Issues with bad management or trust and inconsistent answers to questions about the business. He spends about 20 – 25 percent of his time looking at new deals and said that a recommendation from a trusted source really helps a company get his attention.

Afif Khoury of Scatter Ventures invests in many different areas. A quick look at the firm’s portfolio shows everything from farming to pharma. He spends about 20 percent of his time looking at new investments and will probably make two new investments in the next 12 months. Red flags for Afif? Too rosy an outlook and overselling. When asked what was most important – team, idea or opportunity, he answered that all are important. While he made it clear that Scatter invests in people, they’re looking for markets as well as management.

David Wise of Qualcomm Labs invests both internally (Qualcomm Life, Qualcomm’s wireless health subsidiary, originated in Qualcomm Labs) and externally with a focus on platforms that will drive new business for Qualcomm technologies. Wise spoke about their venture with EvoNexus, an incubator program within CommNexus where Qualcomm Labs @ EvoNexus has funded three companies. Wise says creating companies outside the walls of Qualcomm gives small start-ups more freedom while still having access to Qualcomm’s business and technology resources. Wise estimates he spends 30 – 40 percent of his time looking at new investments.

San Diego Venture Group and San Diego Regional EDC share office space. It’s great to have someone as knowledgeable as Dave Titus, SDVG’s President, within easy reach. Access to capital is a key requirement to maintaining and growing an innovation economy. Dave’s insight and connections within the industry help us work more effectively with entrepreneurs.