Last week marked the inaugural "Cocktails with Courtney" in a place other than Silicon Alley. Thinking big -- I went straight for the largest state of them all -- Texas. Or, rather, was invited to Texas. I met Brad Gray and Kem McClelland of Wayport Inc. at the AlleyCat News Salon last month, and after some initial discussions we realized there was a connection and interest on both sides to forge into new territory. In addition to Wayport, which provides high-speed access to places people travel (airports, hotels), the May 19th event was also sponsored by Primus Associates (executive recruiters), Novare (high-quality back end networking), R.R. Donnelley Financial, and Trellis Partners (a VC firm). Set in the Promenade room at the luxurious Mansion on Turtle Creek Hotel (rated the country's best hotel), the Dallas event drew a select group of high-tech industry players. The Dallas Cyber Scene isn't as advanced as ours in Silicon Alley and Austin (as you'll soon read). Nonetheless, I had the opportunity to chat with Leland Murphy of Trellis Partners about the community. Seth Palmer -- an Alley transplant -- of Viant brought some other Vianters. Carol Curley of the Women's Growth Capital Fund and Marianne N. Radwan of Seven Rosen Funds introduced themselves and I met Tommy Welch of J.J. W. International. Pliny Gale, relationship manager at IBM e-business, who I met last week at the Earthpledge function, came out for some scrumptious hors d'oeuvres and Felix Racca, President & CEO, Fuego Technology Corp., in a smashing red tie, brought some friends. Cheryl Miller of R.R. Donnelley Financial, a sponsor, was in a beautiful springy suit and representatives of Primus Associates (another sponsor)--Becky Gates, Charles Leadford and Sam Gassett--were out in full force, as were Arlyn Samuelson of Turner Collie & Braden and Michael Segrest of Silver Creek. And while the reception at the Mansion is one of the finest hotels and the service is impeccably prompt, we discussed other venues that might be fun for the next one. Personally, wherever the next "Cocktails…" is, I'd recommend staying at the Mansion--the service, the big fluffy hotel bathrobes, the luxuriously big tub, and the complimentary carrot cake and passion fruit ice tea upon arrival are all little things that make a world-weary traveller happy. High speed Internet access from Wayport really helps too, for those moments when you absolutely *must* check e-mail!
More familiar with the Austin scene, having spent some time there during the South by Southwest Conference this year, I had a bigger list to draw from and more guests. Over 100 guests filled the spacious Veranda Ballroom at The Driskill hotel on Thursday, May 20th. This historic grand-dam hotel oozed old Texas. Cow-fur covered sofas with real saddles as bar stools decorated the lobby and lobby bar. Dark woods, Lone Star state star-patterned carpeting and antique memorabilia in cases and hallways decorated the halls, bookshelves and rooms. My room, while completely renovated, did not have Wayport's services yet, but did have a big iron bed. The Veranda Ballroom also lead out to a grand balcony and the entranceways to this old hotel (with a resident ghost apparently) were impressive as well. Austin's party was sponsored by Primus, Hoovers On-line, R.R. Donnelley and Trellis Partners in addition to Wayport. All the sponsors were so wonderful with their support and help in producing two flawless events and Shannon Martin of Wayport deserves special mention for all her help at the events. In addition to all the exciting Austinites, I got to spend some time with Eric Gould, President of MonkeyMedia, which incidentally won the Silver in Self-Promotion last week at the Clio awards, and Nick West (formerly of NYU's YORB program).
Jon Lebkowsky, communications director at WholeFoods.com, and Honoria, who also works at Wholefoods.com and is the initiator behind CyberOpera.org, came with Knut Graf a new media developer for the hot design shop FrogDesign.
Honoria's CyperOpera "honoria in ciberspazio" is about "isolated and lonely internet travelers who entreat the oracle of cyberspace to transform their dreams of virtual reality into a beautifully woven sexy operatic climax. The opera depicts humans looking for love in cyberspace. Their words generate clones which mirror their desires."
Karen Kreps of NetIngenuity.com and Emily Sopensky of The Iris Company and Cindy Goldsberry, VP, Marketing, AcrossFrontiers International, Inc. came to see the newly refinished grand ballroom. Shane P. Cook (http://home.austin.rr.com/cannibal/) helped out immensely by taking digital photographs at the party. All the other pictures were snapped by Eric Olsson--my Texas colleague, and Anne Yoakam--my NYC friend, who drove down from Oaklahoma City during her wedding preparations for the party). Duncan Hopkins of Syndetic Design, Ingrid Vanderveldt (Dryken Technologies), and Rosie VonZurmuehlen (Alchemy Interactive) all came out to meet and greet other Austinites like Kim Crisler (Fyrehead Creative) and Clay Goodwin (House of Moves). I also got a chance to speak with Andrew Dillon, pres. of Unmall.com, who has been working hard with the other people at Thought Interactive to create on online shopping concept that focuses on high quality, unique and artistic shopping with a local feel.
Some guys from startup Works.com, Bo Holland (pres. and CEO) and Duncan Van Dusen (biz dev. manager) came out with their VC. Will Kreth of Agillion.com, Pam Knight of ISIS Multimedia, and Glen Coleman of KDi had a nice chat. Another hot web development company, FGSquared, had a presence at the party with Doug Collins. After my toast to Texas and my sponsors, Jerry Sullivan of Adams Capital told me I should've had my signature martini glass in hand as I stood at the podium Governor Bush stood at just recently, with the great star of Texas behind me and a banner saying "Friendship," which is the original definition of Texas (tejas) as I was informed.