Thursday, September 16, 1999

The Cyber Scene in Washington, DC ~ by Sacha Cohen

Good Cause … and Effect

September 16 -- Washingtonians feel better if they have a reason to socialize. Whether it’s a political fundraiser or an arts benefit, you will rarely find large clusters of people in the nation’s capital drinking and carousing aimlessly (except at bars, of course). At least this was what my friend Alex observed the other evening at a fundraiser for Byte Back, a non-profit organization founded in 1997 that provides computer training for unemployed and under-employed DC area adults and youth to increase their skill sets and marketability.

Despite remnants of Hurricane Floyd, the party was stellar. I had my doubts about how many people would show up considering the inclement weather and steep price of admission, but all my worries were put to rest at the door where I was greeted by charming Byte Back director, Brian Komar. Like most Byte Back board members, Brian wears a couple of hats including that of director of technology programs at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Turns out that just about everyone in the place knew him and between collecting donations, working the room, and making a brief speech, he didn’t sit still all night.

When I arrived at the Childe Harold, there was still plenty of room at the bar, so I tossed aside my umbrella, grabbed a drink (note to the CH: spring for bigger cups), and secured a place overlooking the entranceway. It was the prime spot to scope out all the action. Let’s just say that I was pleasantly surprised by the cute alterna-geek guys streaming in—not to mention the lack of Dockers and loafers. Generally, this type of affair brings out swarms of uber-nerds, but thankfully, this was not the case this evening. In fact, there was an eclectic mix of non-profiters, techies, and media people in attendance.

Just an hour or so after the doors opened, the second floor of the Childe Harold was jamming. Citing the invite’s promise of a DJ and dancing, I convinced a few friends to join me including Helen Wilson of Frontier Global Center, TK Maloy of the Internet Newsroom, Laura Taylor of the Matrix Group, Sam Stainburn, former editor of now-defunct "Who Cares" magazine, and Seth Cohen of "The Washington Post." As soon as Helen (who knows everyone!) walked in, she rushed over to greet a former coworker, Eric Cantor (Regional VP of Marketing at Verio). In fact, throughout the evening, I met tons of people from Verio including Adam Steinback, an interactive account executive at Verio Interactive, and Michael Mann, who founded (and sold) Internet Interstate/Verio Washington, DC. Michael is now president of

Later on, I tracked down dedicated Byte Back founder Glenn Stein hanging out by the dance floor and spoke to him about his organization. I also chatted with Mary Dalrymple, a new media reporter at the Congressional Quarterly, and Jodi Glickman, partnership programs liaison at the Environmental Protection Agency. After the party, I contacted Brian to see how things turned out. He was “ecstatic” with the event’s outcome. Over 150 individuals had forked over a minimum of $20 a piece to help fight the 'digital divide' in the nation's capitol. Together their efforts raised close to $4000 for the organization, he said. Plus, several individuals who attended the event are donating old computers to Byte Back and many volunteers have signed up to teach classes for the organization. "We raised a lot of money and a lot of awareness about a very important issue. With more events like this one, Byte Back will continue closing the technology gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not.”