Tuesday, January 09, 2001

The Cyber Scene in San Diego ~ by Lilia Phleger Benjamin

San Diego may be next on the list for rolling blackouts, but that isn’t stopping the action on the local cyber scene! My first stop on January 9 was the very crowded netHappyHour, a venture started six months ago by Craig Nelson (vice president, High Technology Banking, Comerica Bank-California), and Brian Yui (CEO, HouseRebate.com). Their goal was to create a “networking event for high-tech entrepreneurs, VCs, investors, and fun people to meet in an informal happy hour setting.” In other words, said Craig, a “no rubber-chicken zone.” The netHappyHour takes place every second Tuesday at Michael’s Bar at the imposing Gotham City-like Hyatt Aventine in La Jolla. http://www.nethappyhour.com

As I walked into the bar, crammed shoulder to shoulder with what was rumored to be 200 people, I began my search for either the hosts or the sponsors of the evening. Before I found them, however, I caught the eye of Herman Bergman (CFO, Solectek) http://www.solectek.com/. Solectek, founded in 1989 and based in San Diego, designs, manufactures, and markets wireless connectivity products. I then met William Lofft, a partner with Project Accelerators http://www.projectaccelerators.com/. If you have a great idea, the team of five partners at Project Accelerators could be just the people you want to meet. They have parlayed their years of business experience into an organization that has seen many successes in its first year. As Richard Gray, another partner, says, “We provide expertise for companies on the move.”

I also met David Steel (CEO, Zoovy) http://www.zoovy.com/ and got some background on his company and where they are headed with their e-commerce solutions for small to mid-size merchants. That led to a conversation with Long Island transplant Sean Malone, now the director of sales at Intellispace http://www.intellispace.net/, who in turn introduced me to Bonnie Smith, a realtor with HouseRebate.com. If I hadn’t just bought a house six months ago…

I introduced myself to Cynthia Guiang, co-founder of The Townsend Agency, a local PR and advertising agency with a focus on technology. Her success with start-ups led her to seek another challenge, and now, with four other partners, she has started Restaurant CIO, a company that provides technology solutions to meet the information management needs of restaurants. Cynthia can be contacted by emailing Cynthia@visionarysolutionscom

Trying to pay my bar bill for the soda I never got a chance to drink, I met the very nice Bob Cocchia (vice president, business development, LexFusion) http://www.lexfusion.com/. The long wait for the bartender allowed me to find out that they have grown substantially since launching four years ago, especially since acquiring strategic investment from NetCel360 Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong.

And finally, it wasn’t until I was on my way out the door that I got the chance to meet one of the key players of the evening: Jeffrey Starr (general partner, Mission Ventures) http://www.missionventures.com/. According to my sources, he was THE money man of the evening, which explains why he is on the panel for the upcoming San Diego Regional Technology Alliance (SDRTA) seminar “Attracting the Capital-What investors want from you” http://www.sdrta.org/, part of the TechNet Ed series.

Speaking of the SDRTA, on January 11 I attended the fourth seminar in the series entitled “Attacking the Market-Creating a killer buzz.” Very interesting and well attended despite the downpour. Clearly someone forgot that it never rains in southern California. Sitting next to me was the very nice Christine Tran, director of marketing for the San Diego Daily Transcript http://www.sddt.com/. On one of the breaks, SDRTA’s Amelia Taurel Folkes introduced me to David Blackburn from Zone Ventures http://www.zonevc.com/. David told me that the highly successful Zone Club held in Los Angeles would be launching a branch down here in SD. Yet another opportunity for VCs and entrepreneurs to meet and mingle, albeit in a more structured format with presentations offered in addition to networking.

Later that same evening, WebSanDiego.org held its seventh Happy Hour at the Fiddlers Green restaurant in Shelter Island. Hosted by Joe Crawford (listowner, WebSanDiego.org), this particular Happy Hour was sponsored by NetHere http://www.nethere.com/. WebSanDiego.org is recognized as San Diego’s original web community, and the cross section of participants in the networking event testified to the diversity of the field. With yummy appetizers in hand, I chatted with Annie Ory (CEO, Massage2Go.com) about the growth of her business and the promise of some big local contracts. I also caught up with Caleb Clark of No End and Angie Gerken, a project manager and self-proclaimed webgoddess looking to enter the San Diego job market. Jason Galetti talked surf while plugging the Deltyme Corporation http://www.deltyme.com, Zeke Rabkin of Infabilitech http://www.infabilitech.com discussed how his organization is working to make technology accessible to individuals with disabilities so that they can “achieve their full potential”, and Joe Crawford bragged about working at such a cool company, Avencom http://www.avencom.com/. But one of the highlights for me was meeting the cosmopolitan Mark Holmes (CEO, Nutshell Digital). They recently launched their very cool, very hip website http://www.nutshelldigital.net/. Reminds me of La Femme Nikita…

I left the WebSanDiego.org Happy Hour and headed north to catch the last bit of the Creative Cocktail Collective event at the Martini Ranch in Encinitas. By the time we reached, the pool games were in full swing and the martinis had given way to whatever beer was on tap. However, I did get a chance to say hi to John Grimshaw http://www.johnandjake.com/, one of the organizers of the event, as well as his business partner David Boylan. Several people from Big Bang Idea Engineering, a full-service advertising agency http://www.bigbangsandiego.com were there, as well as about 40 other people in the creative industry, including graphic designers, artists, and musicians. The Creative Cocktail Collective meets every month for networking and fun, and their next big event is the Stairs of Encinitas race, taking place on April 14. For sponsorship opportunities, or to learn more about the Creative Cocktail Collective, contact John Grimshaw at johnandjake@johnandjake.com

And finally, I got an insider’s look and tour of indiqu today http://www.indiqu.com/ and it was very impressive. More on that next week!