First Tuesday - 09/12/00
This week I had the pleasure of attending the First Tuesday (www.firsttuesday.com) event at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica. First Tuesday is an international organization started two years ago in London and bills itself as "the global meeting place and marketplace for entrepreneurs." The LA chapter just started holding meetings in April, but they have no lack of interest in this area of the country judging by the hundreds of attendees at Tuesday night's meeting. I'm sure many more were online watching the festivities via a live webcast provided by one of the event's sponsors, Broadstream.com.
The Museum of Flying made for a spacious and intriguing venue, and delicious hors d'oeuvres were served throughout the networking session by a very polite, attentive staff.
Sponsors of the event were ChickClick, Women in Film, Webgrrls-LA and the Women's New Media Alliance. First Tuesday made my job easier by having speakers and sponsors hang white ribbons from their nametags, so by continually encircling the interior of the museum I was able to spot the VIP ribbons and start a conversation. I spoke briefly with Rhonda Rubinstein (creative director, ChickClick), who told me she was there to promote ChickClick's current focus on the political race and their endeavor to educate young women on the issues so they can get out and vote. "Vicki for President" buttons were strewn about the scene, and I was one of the lucky few to leave that night with a very hip ChickClick lunchbox.
I had time to speak briefly with two of the organization's main sponsors before the lively, exciting panel (read: heated debate) took the stage. Janet Grant and Michele Beuerlein of Perkins Coie, LLP (www.perkinscoie.com) were on hand to promote their large law firm that focuses on the entrepreneurial community. Just in from New York, Shai Stern (managing director, Yazam.com) informed me that Yazam recently merged with First Tuesday. The networking organization will maintain its brand and will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Yazam, which is run by First Tuesday CEO Reade Fahs. Interesting! But, as I was soon to find out, not half as interesting as the speaker panel, moderator, and audience was going to be.
The panel of speakers included Lynda Keeler (managing director, Redleaf Group), Emily Hancock (publisher, Moxie Magazine), Mable Yee (president and CEO, KiraCom), Lisa Atkinson (founder, Soliton Images), Tony Winders (president and CEO, Interactive Agency), Kellie-Bea Cooper (owner and director, Webisode Academy), and Louise Wannier (chairman & CEO, Enfish).
The topic of the evening was "The New Majority: Women on the Web," and it was discussed via a distinguished speaker panel with ample participation from the audience. The panel moderator, Sylvia Paull (founder, GraceNet.net) surprised the audience and panel with her confrontational demeanor. While the panel discussed what each of their companies were doing to reach out to and assist women via the Internet, Sylvia interjected with biting inquiries to get past the fluff factor and hit the meat of each discussion. Some of her comments were fairly off-key, and her sharp humor delighted some audience members while deeply offending others.
Attempting to be heard, several irritated audience members stepped up to the open microphone to request a more friendly discussion, but in the next breath more than one plugged their company or their current profession. One member went so far as to step up and introduce herself as a recruiter, gave her web address, slipped in the fact that she was very single, then complained that the panel wasn't discussing pertinent issues as advertised. I think First Tuesday might benefit from posting some ground rules when asking for audience participation!
The evening proceeded with many women-relevant topics being brought up and briefly discussed. Sylvia's harsh moderating style continued with the panel and the audience to my delight, but by the end of the evening more than half of the audience had shown their displeasure by leaving the event. I had the chance to speak to Dahn Tamir (soCal co-founder and leader, First Tuesday-LA), after the panel dispersed and asked him how he felt the event unfolded. He said he knew full well that Sylvia's style could be tough for some to swallow, and though he might not have expected her to be so rough on the panel, he thrives on the unexpected at every event he runs for First Tuesday.
Dahn told me he could ensure every event he hosted would run perfectly smooth, but if he did there would be little challenge or opportunity for growth for him or his audience members if he didn't seek out different ways of showcasing people and topics. He stated that he feels the benefit of learning from each speaking event keeps his audiences interested and he relishes the experiences as well! In a town where there can be eight events to attend to on any given day, Dahn is trying to entertain his organization's members as well as educate them, and that's why they keep attending his events in droves.
eBrew - 09/13/00
I wasn't planning on attending this month's eBrew (www.e-brew.homepage.com) at first because last month's event was so crowded you could barely move through the space provided at the Westwood Brewing Company. Much to my delight, I found out they had moved the venue to the much larger UCLA Alumni Center and that this month marked the first anniversary of the group. How could I resist?
eBrew's purpose is to provide a marketplace for the exchange of ideas concerning what's hot and what's not in eCom. The event is also known as "eBrew" because it began in a microbrewery in Westwood. The original two eBrewers, Duke Bristow and Michael Krieger, expected 40 people at the first event in the September of 1999, and over 200 came. Successive events have proved that they are a great place to network given that over 300 people in the new-media industry regularly attend their monthly gatherings.
I spoke to Dr. Duke Bristow about his organization and he informed me that the group started out to be like most, planning to host monthly speaker meetings and paying for member dinners through sponsors and membership fees. Fortunately(!), the speaker ended up canceling at their very first event, and the response was enormously favorable. They became a group that met for the sake of meeting, and because the event was so popular sponsors came out in full force.
The group now has many dedicated sponsors now and offers several tables at each meeting for their marketing materials. I spoke to representatives from Enfish (www.enfish.com), Opus360 (www.opus360.com) and KPMG (www.kpmg.com), just to name a few of the 18 sponsors that were present that evening. Other sponsors included NetGiro (www.netgiro.com), GoingVirtual (www. virtual.com), and Direct Stock Market (www.dsm.com).
While the sponsor tables were woefully under-presented by some companies and over-embellished by others, the dining chairs and tables near the indoor buffet were beautifully adorned with creative balloon arrangements. I'd never seen such amazing balloon sculptures! The buffet was better-than average too, being filled with international tidbits such as mini-focaccia breads with a thick pesto/cheese dip, delicious spanakopitas, and some crËme-filled grilled zucchini rolls that I couldn't get enough of.
After filling my dainty plate, I headed to the pretty outside courtyard and found a bar to complete my dinner fare. I wasn't sure which one of the two white wine vintages I desired that evening, but the very attentive bartender poured me a sample of both to help me choose. While waiting, I had the opportunity to meet Victoria Adams and Greg Freisen, two representatives from uScope (www.uScope.com). They said they came to eBrew in hopes of finding new funding for their company, which is involved in the clinical world of telepathology. They seek to use the power of the Internet to improve the quality of healthcare in pathology. I had a great time talking to them about the event and, being a newcomer to the area, the exciting things they see and do in LA.
Nearing the end of the night, I sauntered back in to the main room, bumping into Dr. Bristow and being introduced by him to Terrence Dibble of KPMG. Terry is a partner in the LA office and focuses his teams on validating business strategies and models of enterprising new companies. I also met Stephen Graham, a management consultant who is focused on strategic planning and profit improvement. He told me he'd met Courtney Pulitzer long ago at an event in New York so he knew what I was up to regarding the reporting angle.
As the evening progressed, it was more and more apparent to me that although people were there to network, having fun and being social was high on the agenda. Before I left, Dr. Bristow told me he hoped to see me at the upcoming eRoad Trips that eBrew is hosting outside of Westwood. They include Santa Barbara (10/2) and Pasadena (10/24) for now, and by demand more will be planned. In all, it was a leisurely yet informative night, and this time there was plenty of room to move about!