Thursday, August 17, 2000

The Cyber Scene in Denver ~ by Suzanne Lainson

On August 17 I headed down to Denver for the netGoddesses meeting, a networking
group started by Erika Brown for professional women directly and indirectly
involved in Internet activities. A combination of heavy rain and rush hour
traffic stretched a half-hour trip into an-hour-and-a-half trip. We Boulderites
are a spoiled bunch; we don't like to spend much time on the highway. An hour-
and-a-half trip to Denver is almost too much challenge for us to bear.

Still, I persevered and made it to the event just twenty minutes late. I'm not
too familiar with LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver), but the restaurant, Bella's,
looked newly opened and charming. The Italian buffet was very good and much more
than I had expected -- a real dinner, not just the usual networking event finger

I was also surprised on two other counts:

One. The crowd was better dressed than the usual techie stuff I attend. I turned
up in slacks, but business attire seemed to be the norm. Fellow Boulderite Ann
Thompson (marketing director and co- founder, The Jedi Group), clued me in.
Denver is dressier, she told me, which is why she came in a stylish pantsuit.
(Later that evening Ann walked off with a one of the door prizes, a high tech
duffel bag from eBags. Definitely worth braving the weather for.)

Two: The crowd wasn't exclusively female. There were some guys there. I guess
business is business and a networking event is a networking event. One familiar
face was that of Brandon Shevin (marketing director, SpireMedia). He told me
about his recent trip to New York and finally getting a chance to meet with
people from The David Letterman Show and A&E Network, two of SpireMedia's
clients. He also introduced me to Julie Sandberg, who works with Brandon in
Spire's business development department. Not too successfully I fumbled around
trying to juggle my plate of pasta while shaking hands.

The highlight of the evening was listening to three entrepreneurs tell their
stories about obtaining funding. Laura Cobabe (CEO, shared
her experiences explaining collectibles to male investors. Since they can't
relate to the idea that her customers pay premium prices for limited edition
dolls, she uses an example they can relate to: a football signed by John Elway
versus an unsigned one. And when that concept fails to grab them, she says,
"Does a 70% margin mean anything to you?" That gets their attention. (Later in
the evening I had a chance to talk to the man handling her company's PR, Erich
Stein. He deserves kudos for suggesting that I totally rearrange my next day's
schedule to visit the offices, located in Fort Collins, an
hour away from Boulder and Denver. When I said that wouldn't be possible, he had
fifteen other suggestions and a press kit. I was very impressed with his

Pamela Bergeson (president, said that she lived in the same
neighborhood as VCs Pete Estler (iBelay) and Rick Patch (Sequel Venture
Partners), who, in turn, funded her company. She has since been in a position to
turn down offers of more money. Jon Nordmark (CEO, had to self-fund
and was forced to continually hit up family, friends, and employees for money
until he was linked up to the right VCs. The process has taught him to be open
to everyone because you never know who will lead you to the right connections
and also to maintain a tight budget to preserve that capital.

Key sponsors of the event included IT Jazz and Bright Blue Ideas. IT Jazz
specializes in IT management and outsourced recruiting services. Bright Blue
Ideas is a marketing services firm specializing in Internet startups. BBI was
instrumental in setting up this event's speaker panel, sponsors, catering, and
registration. In addition, Joyce Colson, whose law firm, Colson Quinn, works
with technology start-ups, donated legal consulting time as a door prize. I had
a chance to talk to Pam Osborne, BBI's vice president of marketing, and Heather
Wells, director of business development.