Sunday, October 22, 2000

Steeltown's new calling (Pittsburgh Cocktails with Courtney)

While Internet World kept New Yorkers busy, I was intent on creating a buzz in all sorts of other top wired towns around the country. We started off with a soiree in Pittsburgh on Sunday and then one in Philadelphia on Monday. Tuesday I flew to Los Angeles, and San Francisco rounded out this week of parties on Thursday.

It was a bright, sunny, crisp and warm fall day on Sunday when I boarded a tiny turbo prop and headed out to Pittsburgh. While the Yanks and Mets battled in their second World Series game at Yankees Stadium, the Steelers were running victoriously over the Cleveland Browns in Steel-town. However, all this game enthusiasm didn't deter a good number of new media netizens from converging at the tres artsy and eclectic Mattress Factory on the North Side of town. This research-and-development lab for artists commissions new site- specific works. The artist also lives there while creating their permanent piece. While its name comes from its former purpose, the Mattress Factory's new mission is educating viewers on the relevance of art in their own lives.

Two major players -- Ripple Effects Interactive and FreeMarkets -- sponsored our first affair in town, and the guest list was peppered with leaders in the Pittsburgh area. In addition to the stunning space and stellar sponsors, one of the major elements of our events was the support and facilitation by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Traveling around the world affords me the opportunity to witness first-hand how our techno-world is developing.

Among the Steel Town digerati who came out Sunday night were Donald Smith, Carnegie Mellon's director of the Center for Economic Development and Steve Bland (who wasn't bland at all!), the City of Pittsburgh's economic development coordinator for the Mayor's Office. Peoplesmith's Brenda Smith, outfitted in a stunning outfit of Chinese motifs, introduced me to's Neil Busis. We chatted about the importance of people, networking and the development of the industry for a bit. Then I met Hayley Jameson, who runs her own professional search firm and who was adorned in a smashing silver and black gown. Paris Lundis, Internet technologies guru for Body Media, was also smashing in his silver and denim ensemble. (Pittsburgh's version of Razorfish's Craig Kanarick!) Paris and Web-Spinners President Michael Davis and VP Steven Crandall came to check out this cocktail soiree -- a new thing for their town. Early on I met Ripple Effects' charming crew, including CEO Louis Malafarina and Paul Magnani. David Charles Ptak, Ripple Effects' chief information officer, and I chatted about his hometown (NY) and about how he's watched the company grow from a one-person staff (him) to 35 in just two years. Ripple Effects' Robert Braughler will be moonlighting as our Cyber Scene reporter for Pittsburgh, so stay tuned for hot stuff about this cool town!

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of Tourism and Marketing Barbara Chaffee mingled with the evening's guests and said a few words about the developments in Pittsburgh over the last several years. Unbeknownst to many (but not for long!), this Steel Town is turning into a Technology Town. With significant initiatives in place, like the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse, Pittsburgh Tech Council, Technology 21 and CyberStart, this town in making major inroads into changing the perception and reality of the city. Significant efforts from the government -- paired with Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science and Engineering's strong programs and uber talented graduates -- increase the impact for change and growth. As Governor Ridge says, Pennyslvania will be (and is) the place where you can "Come Invent the Future."

Louis Malafarina spoke about the talent he gets from Pittsburgh schools and about how local firms could ensure their longevity in the industry by hiring interns. He also told us about world-renowned and other global initiatives. FreeMarkets' Director, Public Sector Global Markets Theodore Carter drove up from DC (where his flight was canceled) in time to let the gathered guests know about the importance of their activities and efforts in town.

Reporting on all this change is Frank Gottleib, news director from KQV AM, who was on hand at the party, along with a reporter from WPGH TV (the local Fox affiliate) and Tim Fitzpatrick of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Attorney Annary Aytch of and her beau, Stanley King Construction Co. president Kenneth Cheatham told me about their Web site and about the interest they're developing in the dot-com realm. I was also introduced to Director of the Governor's Action Team Steven Kohler, who together with his team have more interaction and a direct role in the actual development of Pennsylvania town's cyber development. They are out and about luring people into their bustling towns. KPMG's New York office made sure partner James Bartolomucci and Federal Tax partner Thomas Bone knew about the party and brought some friends along.

Between witty conversations throughout the night and plates refilled with the sumptuous sustenance by The Fluted Mushroom, guests expanded their networks with contacts and expanded their minds with the thought-provoking dramatic exhibit-space of the Mattress Factory. I don't think one person went home unfulfilled. And we hope to come back soon and to continue being a part of the Pittsburgh Cyber Scene!