Monday, November 20, 2000

The Cyber Scene in Denver ~ by Suzanne Lainson

On November 20, the Internet Chamber of Commerce held its last
event of the year. This time it was at the new Westin Westminster
Hotel. Since we entered through the convention center entrance, I
didn't see the main lobby, but the back end was quite nice. And
upscale restrooms, as I recall. As usual, the event attracted lots
of attendees (almost 1100 registered). Plus forty-one exhibitors.

Among the familiar faces were Mike Gellman and Brandon Shevin of
SpireMedia, Ann Thompson of The Jedi Group, and Jon Otsuki of
Otsuki Group. Don Cohen, founder/owner of the Tool King, introduced
me to Amy Berk, president of I also chatted
with John Sierwierski, who runs, a Boulder-based
sporting goods site.

There were several breakout sessions and I chose to sit in on one
presented by Chris Wand and Dan Feld of Softbank Venture Capital.
Among the points they made were:
.....Softbank is committed to Colorado.
.....They look for companies with a strong management team, a
market opportunity, and sufficient market size. Can the company be
a dominant player in a big market?
.....Softbank only does Internet companies. This way it can
maximize relationships and promote synergies.
.....Hotbank, the Softbank incubator that Dan oversees, only takes
in Softbank-funded companies. Its sole purpose is to help Softbank
companies have greater success. Unlike some other incubators, it
doesn't offer a huge internal staff but rather helps tenants
identify and procure what they need. There will be ten to twelve
companies housed at the incubator at any given time, approximately
fifteen to twenty over a year's time.

On December 5, First Tuesday came to town. It's a concept that
brings entrepreneurs and investors together in a social setting.
Started in 1998 in London, First Tuesday has spread to over 100
international cities. Quite a few locals expressed interest in
attending; more than 2000 registered for the 500 available slots.
The by-invitation-only mix for the evening ended up being 52%
entrepreneurs, 17% investors, and 31% service providers. The event
was held in Brooklyn's, a massive two-story sports bar and
restaurant adjacent to the Pepsi Center. We had the run of the
place (and the nearby free parking was a real plus).

The first person I saw was Alex Teitz, editor-in-chief of He updated me on what was happening with his company.
Sounds like it's garnering lots of good connections within the
independent music industry. I also saw Mike Gellman and Brandon
Shevin of SpireMedia. I found it interesting that they wore
different tags. Brandon came as a service provider and Mike as an
entrepreneur. Then I spotted Marc Holtzman, Colorado's Secretary of
Technology, and his deputy director, Terry Huffhine, and went over
and introduced myself. Marc was a guest speaker along with Tom
Detmer, president/CEO of 24/7 Media. I didn't realize until after
the fact where the presentation room had been set up so I didn't
catch their speeches. (But videos are now available at the First
Tuesday Denver website.)

I saw Andre Pettigrew, marketing VP of FastIdeas Accelerator, and
we talked about having run into each other at a performance of "Gum
Boots" at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. I also talked
to Dick Pankoskis, president/CEO of COSA Technologies. Among others
I chatted with were the ClickPLAY crew (Alan Kaplan,
founder/chairman, Kelly Lefkowitz, CEO, and Richard Sharp,
communications coordinator), Patty Rivera, CEO/founder of
Kiditcard, Andy Cervantes, new COO of the Privacy Foundation, and
Jonathan Cohen, president/CEO of 20 Tons, a B2B plastics site.

I was at the event for at least an hour before I started noticing
the money people (identifiable by their red name tag holders). I
don't know if they all came late or I hadn't been paying attention.
I spotted one clump talking together. Then I noticed another clump.
Then another clump. I made a tour around the upstairs floor,
looking for red and saw quite a bit of it. In fact, I saw more
money people gathered together at First Tuesday than I had seen at
any other Denver/Boulder networking event. The entrepreneurs were
approaching them fairly tentatively (but ever hopeful), so I doubt
that any deals were being done on the spot. But I did see some
cards being exchanged and I overheard some money people say, "Give
me a call next week." Several fundseekers told me, "I've exchanged
emails with so-and-so before, but this is the first time I had a
chance to meet him," so I know they appreciated the opportunity for
face-to-face interaction. Among the many VCs in attendance were:
Andy Casazza with iSherpa, Sara Gutterman with Boulder Ventures,
Timothy Fitzgerald with Sturm Group, Christopher Onan with Wolf
Ventures, Tom Cullen with Lone Tree Capital, and Chris Wand with
Softbank Venture Capital.

The Colorado Internet Keiretsu was having its meeting the same
night. It wasn't too far away, at The ChopHouse in LoDo near Coors
Field. I would have dropped in except for one thing: parking. It is
neither cheap nor convenient in downtown Denver so since it was
free and convenient where I was and the weather had been crummy, I
decided to stay put until it was time to head back to Boulder.