Wednesday, October 04, 2000

The Cyber Scene in Denver ~ Suzanne Lainson

On October 4 I headed down to Denver to catch the inaugural meeting
of the Rocky Mountain TiE Chapter, an entrepreneurial networking
and mentorship group for those with an interest in the Indian
subcontinent. (The first TiE chapter was started in the Silicon
Valley in 1992.) It was downtown in the Qwest Tower. Not knowing my
way around very well, I parked near a skyscraper with Qwest
emblazoned across the top. Turns out that wasn't the right
building. Evidently more than one skyscraper has Qwest across top.
In fact, as I looked up at the sky, it looked like half of downtown
Denver had been taken over by Qwest.

When I found the right building, I headed up to the 38th floor,
otherwise known as the Top of the Rockies Club. I was surprised to
see the Denver Petroleum sign outside the door. I thought it had
closed up a number of years ago. Evidently not. While the oil bust
forced the Petroleum Club to open its doors in 1996 to non-oilmen,
it is still here. Having been established in 1948, it's a part of
Denver's history. And as the site of the TiE meeting, it was
definitely old economy meets new economy.

I got to the meeting late and didn't have time to talk to many
among the more than 150 who were there. I spotted Jon Fetzer, whom
I had seen the night before at the Colorado Internet Keiretsu
meeting. He is VP of operations and product development for TamTam,
a website that facilitates international trade. I introduced myself
to one of the TiE-Rockies founders, Vipanj Patel, managing partner
and co-founder of the wireless incubator/venture capital fund
iSherpa. He had also been one of the founders of the TiE chapter in
Atlanta, where he lived before moving to Denver earlier this year.
I also introduced myself to another TiE-Rockies founder, Sapna
Shah. She co-founded and was CEO of MentorPath, an employee
retention software solutions provider. I had remembered her from
the Denver Cocktails with Courtney in July, where I learned that
she had also been director of strategic planning and business
development for Ann Taylor (she definitely adds some New York high
fashion to Denver tech meetings). For more info on all the TiE-
Rockies founders, go to the following URL:

After hitting the buffet table, we all moved into the presentation
room to hear Vinod Khosla, a general partner at VC firm Kleiner
Perkins Caufield and Byers and founding CEO of Sun Microsystems. He
had a number of thought-provoking things to say on entrepreneurship
and new economies. Examples:

While a telecom infrastructure is necessary to provide access to
worldwide resources via the Net, it is not practical to provide
everyone with the same access. It makes more sense to provide it to
5000 regional cities than to provide it to 500,000 villages. We
should not slow down access for the five percent who drive ideas in
order to network the bottom fifty percent. By making sure they, the
entrepreneurs, have the necessary resources, their contributions
will impact the other 95 percent. Many of them will fail, but the
ones who succeed will more than make up for the failures. They can
change the whole world in twenty years.

We must break away from traditional business models. It makes no
sense to optimize for cost and performance because those are
constantly changing. Rather we should optimize for evolvibility.

The hottest business area in ten years will be remote services,
which can be provided from any location in the world.

On being a venture capitalist: He reads every business plan that
comes to his office, but he doesn't invest in every good plan that
he sees. He looks for exceptional people, backgrounds, and ideas
that intrigue him. He never does a ROI analysis because the margin
of error is so large as to render it meaningless. Risk is the
essence of success.

On what Silicon Valley thinks of Denver: There isn't much of a
perception; there haven't been many successful large ventures
coming out of this area. But, he noted encouragingly, it's probably
a good time to be starting a TiE chapter here. Considering the
amount of talent represented in the room, I'd have to agree.