Staff Falls From Disney’s Steamboat

As the song says, it’s a small world after all. And for Steamboat Ventures, the venture capital arm of The Walt Disney Co., things have gotten a wee bit smaller.

The venture capital group, which was founded in 2000, has seen staff departures and now lists only two employees on its Web site – its founding managing partner and a CFO.

Previously, the firm listed five staffers. Managing Director Michael Banks left the Burbank, Calif.-based group in February. An associate left in July and an analyst has also left, reportedly to attend business school.

Founder and Managing Director John Ball did not return calls for comment. An assistant at Steamboat said that the group as a rule does not speak to the press. There was no information given on the reason for the departures or if any of the departed staff would be replaced.

Though an independent company, Steamboat invests in companies with “broad strategic importance to The Walt Disney Company” according to the limited information the secretive firm makes public. The Steamboat name references the 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie, the very first animated cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse. The firm says it invests in technology companies in the media and entertainment space, though it only lists three companies in its portfolio.

Early last year, Steamboat made its first investment by putting $2 million into Gilian Technologies, an Irvine, Calif.-based Internet security provider. It also invested in Gilian’s $5 million round earlier this year. Steamboat invested in Iridigm’s $21 million Series A round last summer. Iridigm is based in San Francisco and provides displays for mobile devices. This year, Steamboat invested in the $16 million round raised by Rosum, a Redwood City, Calif.-based mobile positioning technology developer.

While Steamboat continues to call itself the venture capital arm of Disney on its Web site, an assistant answering calls said she was not at liberty to describe the relationship between Steamboat and Disney and whether it has changed.

Ball, the managing director, previously ran Disney’s corporate development office before founding Steamboat.

Steamboat Ventures invests between $2 million and $5 million per deal with a maximum of $10 million per company and a requirement of board seats or observation rights.