Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Cocktails with Courtney -- the London debut

 I've been hearing more and more that the London cyber scene has been taking off. And my interest in coming to the UK was also increasing. When Susan Boster, a colleague from early Silicon Alley days and now at News Network approached me about doing a "Cocktails with Courtney" in London, I jumped at the opportunity. When we landed on a date to launch my soirees for the digitally inclined in the UK, their obvious choice for where to host it was in one of the trendiest clubs in London. Not yet open to the public, this $1+ million renovated club hosted a party each night this past week, which was also Fashion Week. My event was on Tuesday, February 15 and was followed by a Models 1 party. The next night Kate Moss and other fashion and music celebs took over the elegant 150-year old listed Georgian building. It began its life as a pump-house--pumping water out of the adjacent Embankment Tube Station and then served time as a prison during World War Two. 

Owners Piers Adam, Ben Elliot and Giles Baker took the fantastically situated building (right on the River Thames across from the famous London Eye) and styled it as a retro 60s Studio 54/James Bond bachelor pad. Large video monitors displayed images of seas, fires, forests and deserts. The "sound-activated" waterfall changed color according to music being played.

This night, we attracted some of London's new media community's hottest executives for the fine affair, which included oodles of inspired conversations and equal doses of champagne. Simon Jones and Andrew Wayland of Harvard PR made sure all the right people met each other and I chatted for a while with Keith Mitchell, executive chairman of the London Internet Exchange and Evan Rudowski, VP & MD of Excite@Home Europe. Robert Buchanan-Black and Guy Redwood, two fun loving guys, of flg21 (Fun Loving Guys 21) came down from their home base just a bit North in Leeds. Jeffrey Rubins, chairman of Netcall plc, told me how their technology is enabling people to call each other (in office or cell phones) via a link on a webpage. This was just one of the many interesting companies utilizing wireless application protocol (WAP) technology in Europe. Matt Key of MyWapWorld was another WAP-er present. Mike Bloxham of Netpoll told me about his company's online polling capabilities. Maggie Rosen, a writer and consultant, introduced me to Julian Ha, executive VP of Dawnay Day Lander, a brand new VC company looking for hot properties and Craig Peel of Real Design, a cutting-edge web design shop. Maya Hart and a colleague from Zinc, another hot web shop, came to check out the new networking event.

From the News Network offices I had the chance to meet Chris Lloyd, COO; Andy Coulson, chief content officer; Richard Reeves, advertising director and Stephan van Rooyen, business development director. Susan Boster, the chief marketing and commerce director, arrived fashionably late with her hair in a lovely upswept do' and clingy silk black cocktail dress. Katie Walker, chief marketing officer of eVentures Ltd. and Toni Spinazzola of Cunningham Communication Inc. were visiting from Cambridge, Massachusetts and as I was talking with them, who should I see come in the doorway but another Alley-elite, Clay Shirky. In town for a few days consulting with clients, it was perfect timing for him to pop by a "Cocktails with Courtney!"

Later in the evening we moved downstairs to get prime seats for when the models showed up. Before then, I interviewed Alasdair MacLeod and Tony Hall, News Network's managing director and marketing director, respectively. Alasdair told me of their recent growth and newest venture, their auction site FiredUp.com. Tony educated me on the mission of their initiatives. Simon Murdoch of Episode 1 Partners, Kim Bull, founder of Toroco.com, Beate Vogt and Siwan Jonas came from Magna Consulting and Jeremy Lee, director of Art & Industry filled me in on some of the range of his ventures.

As we continued to sip our champagne, the stickly-sparkly models and the mass of ooglers arrived. Some of us stayed a bit longer, but the special closeness from the intimate event earlier lost its quality when the cameras began flashing and the music turned up. As the guests departed, there was interest in more like this, and based on the rate of growth in the industry, and to quote Arnold Schwarzzenager, "I'll be back!"