Friday, June 23, 2000

The Cyber Scene in Atlanta ~ by Frank Wrenn

An Evening at the Hatch

Thursdays at the Hatch are becoming quite famous these days. On June 14, a front-page New York Times article featuring eHatchery founder Jeff Levy mentioned the hot e-social event, saying it attracts “a crowd of Atlanta movers and shakers.” The very next night I found myself in eHatchery’s new downstairs expansion of their snazzy digs on North Avenue, listening to jazz and enjoying delicious Southwestern hors d’oeuvres.

Founded in 1999, eHatchery is a full-service incubator that incorporates a strategy of integrated capital investment, functional consulting and active involvement, creating a collaborative partnership with its portfolio companies. It’s housed in a hip converted dairy that screams “I work for a hip Internet company.” Its social soirees have become the talk of the town.

eHatchery’s Neal Wilder greeted me at the door with my official pre-printed name tag to the “gathering of the best and brightest professionals in Atlanta's tech community.” This particular event was co-sponsored by Oracle, who also supplied nifty glass beer mugs sporting the Oracle logo as party favors. Neal estimates that about a hundred people were in attendance.

After grabbing an icy cold beverage to fill my Oracle mug, I ran into Michael Weaver of The Camelot Technologies Group, whose site ( brings together buyers and sellers of heavy power generation equipment. Take a look at that site to witness how vital the new economy can be to the old!

Then I talked with Dennis Kunkle, who introduced me to Paynter Higgins, both of Encore Development ( Encore Development provides web powered business solutions to eHatchery’s portfolio companies.

Seeing a “Simply Collectible” name tag, I approached Elizabeth Searcy, Director of Marketing, to find out how life was for an eHatchery in-house client company. She seemed to really enjoy working there. Simply Collectible (, an e-tailer featuring high-quality collectibles and gifts, was founded in 1999. Elizabeth introduced me to Helen Swint, wife of Simply Collectible CEO William Swint. We had a delightful conversation on Atlanta, some of its great restaurants and other offerings, and how she and her husband came to be Atlanta residents.

Earlier in the day, I had read a front-page article in the Atlanta Constitution Journal featuring Venture Consulting Group Principal Ron Lau and his plans to host similar social events. I spoke briefly with him, then chatted for a while with VCG’s Jason Parham and his buddy from B-School, Kurt Stephens.

Strolling over towards the Jazz Pioneers, the jazz trio comprised of high schoolers Noah Pine, Kabir Sehgal, and Colin Fagan, I ran into Matt Gilliss, Wesley Nichols, and Evita Smith of Ant Farm Interactive (, a full service advertising agency for dot-coms. They were impressed by how good the young musicians were—a theme I heard buzzing around the room. The other buzz of the evening was the rumor that Charles Brewer, Chairman of EarthLink was in attendance. While yours truly did not have the pleasure, Ant Farm’s Jed Broitman is said to have “signed in” with him.

Briefly stopping the music, Jeff Haynie, eHatchery’s Director of Technology, introduced Neil Graham of Oracle who spoke of Oracle’s involvement with eHatchery portfolio companies, and Oracle’s opportunity of growing with them. I got a chance to talk with both Jeff and Neil later in the evening. After the beer was gone, Neil and I had just decided to switch over to wine when the bartender started packing up. So, left holding my empty Oracle mug, I struck up a conversation with Nicole Courtemanche, also of Oracle.

Walking towards the back room (which featured ping-pong tables and other games for late night play) I again spotted Helen Swint. This time she was talking with her husband Bill Swint (CEO Of Simply Collectible) and Ricky Steele, Atlanta’s Director of Technology for PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Steele and PWC have gotten quite a bit of press lately for their “Shaking the Money Tree” events which bring together investors from all over and local entrepreneurs. We discussed Atlanta, its place in the technology industry, and how right now it’s the greatest place to be.

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