William “Boots” Del Biaggio, the San Jose scion who at 37 has already had more lives than a Tenderloin district cat, is back.
His firm, Sand Hill Capital, has raised its first equity fund, called Sand Hill Sakura Fund, to support the firm’s existing venture debt activity, VentureWire tells us today (sorry, subscription required; and we’ve been having issues lately getting direct links, but working on it). It is apparently a small fund, reportedly targeted at around $75 million — the idea is to invest equity into a start-up after it has already taken some debt financing.
A few years back, it seemed William ”Boots” Del Biaggio had abandoned his firm, where he faced disgruntled investors, and jumped ship to MVC, a San Francisco publicly traded venture and debt firm, where there also was much wrangling — investor challenges, ousters,…
and so on.
Here is the story by Sarah Lacy about the rise and fall of Boots, written back in 2002, when things at Sand Hill hit rock bottom. At the time, when we talked with him about that piece, he defended his record, saying he made $300 million in loans over six years and returned all the money to investors, plus a net $50 million in profit. Later, Boots’ investment in the business publication, Business Ink, failed when the publication closed.
Is it Boots himself who carries around so much pandemonium with him? Or is it timing (all these challenges came post Internet boom)? Or is it the fact that he had a debt fund, where things can get especially ugly if you end up with a secured loan, and therefore can run away with all the assets — and get people mad at you (like when he ended up with all the assets of the failed Wine.com)? Or is it a bit of all of that?
Three generations of Del Biaggio’s family have made Silicon Valley their home. Boots’ grandfather arrived in the 1930s and founded a beer distributorship, Santa Clara Valley Distributors of San Jose. In 1994, Boots (Del Biaggio III) and his father started the Heritage Bank of Commerce. Apparently, the idea was Boots’, who at the age of 25, observed that bank consolidation had left the area devoid of local banks where small-business owners could get personal attention. Two years later, Boots started Sand Hill Capital, which loans money to venture-capital-backed tech firms.
Adding to the drama last year was the fact that Boots was among the angry shareholders at Heritage bank — pitting him against his father, Heritage’s chairman at the time.
Earlier this year, he sold of his small stake in the San Jose Sharks, and became lead investor with the Pittsburgh Penguins. (We’re not sure if Boots has the luck touch, or unlucky touch, but we’ll watch the Sharks’ season this year for a measure).
Anyway, we’re sure this cat has got a few more lives left him.