Thursday, May 18, 2000

A Soliloquy of the sweetest kind

While it was raining buckets outside, buckets of champagne were being poured inside at the Soliloquy launch party on Thursday, May 18, at the rich Bloom Ballroom. Right at the door, as I was packing up my umbrella, I was greeted by Catherine Winchester's mother. She was acting as a gracious hostess, directing people to check in. After promptly receiving my champagne, I chatted with Diana Butler of iXL, Alfred Leach of iframe and Ed Guy of Venture Resources. After sampling some dumplings and sushi, I meandered towards the back, amidst deep, red velvet curtains, and chatted with Daniel Zen of Zen Digital and Amy Brownstein, who’s taking her publicist career in new directions. She was wearing a fabulous brocade suit.

And now the moment we'd all been waiting for. The lights dimmed and the microphone was turned on. Co-founder,  CEO and CTO, our gracious and elegant hostess Catherine Winchester, walked onto the stage in a gorgeous maroon gown. She was joined by the dashing Mark Lucente in classic tux. Together they began taking us through a demo of the site. Currently working on Acer, with plans to work on on C|net, users can have "conversations" with an intelligent agent online. You can ask it various questions, in normal human language, and the agent will prompt you for more questions to narrow your search. You can ask for things like a "fast laptop" and it will know you mean a Pentium III with 600 megahertz. Or maybe it will ask if you want a Celeron chip. The agent will create tables of the results that you can view and compare them. After Mark's demo, Catherine announced the launch of their new logo. Yes, sadly the little portly man has gone the way of discarded logos. He has been replaced by an equally elegant Shakespearean theme with the purple curtains. If you look closely, the "S" resembles a dollar sign. Those Soliloquists are so clever! Before the networking resumed, Mark revealed some of their future plans: scaling the software to include other languages, speech and pictures -- so you can really hear and see the agent.

After this impressive display I was introduced to the charming Mark’s fiancee, Cathleen, and his parents, Edward and Helaine, in from Mobile, Alabama, and on their way to Italy for their anniversary. On the other side of the room, I met Gabrielle Kelly, VP of The Health Accord, fresh in from Australia. She was chatting with Alein Stein, director of international licensing for Scholastic. Stephen King of Virtual Growth made a rare appearance with his brother Neil, who works at King-O'Rourke car dealership, the family business. Christina Dolan of told me she is definitely coming to the Black tie next week, and John McGann of JMD Interactive told me about his new office/retail space. Sounds neat! Just before dashing back out into the torrential downpour, I met Richard Cullingford, the natural language engineer who comes from a seasoned and several times tenured career at the U of Connecticut and Georgia Tech. His wife, Sylvia, does programming for business applications for direct marketing. I also had a lovely chat with Anna Wheatley of AlleyCatNews, who looked like her business's success is treating her well. And as the 80s music got louder and the heady cocktail chatter turned into sexy dancing, I bid adieu and went my way.