Friday, January 05, 2001

The Cyber Scene in Seattle ~ by Larry Sivitz and Soula Jones

"Does anybody want to split a cookie?" meekly asked a guy without a name tag at the Seattle Online Network (SON) second-annual holiday party. That one line (or was it a one-liner?) pretty much summed up the mood of this year's event, held at the Experience Music Project. (Kudos to SON event-planner Kristine Asin, who does each month what most orgs do in a year.)

Sharing a cookie? A year ago, such frugality was far from most people's minds. In fact, the patron saint of SON's 1999 holiday bash seemed to be F. Scott Fitzgerald. This year, it was more like Ben Franklin. The glorification of frugality, common sense, the bottom line, tying your shoes, has really seeped into our psyches, for better or worse. Frugality and practicality are good, but they do not a viable long-term business make. That also requires vision, a story, a dream, if you will. And it was that dreaminess, that scheming, that pontificating that we missed at this year's event.

Despite the festive time of year, and the super-glam venue, the only ruckus laughter we heard was outside in the freezing-cold parking lot. There wasn't even much loud-talking, let alone heated discussion. And we noticed few people had company names on their tags. Last year, partiers were PROUD to have a corporate identity. This year, they seemed to be playing it cool and non-committal. We asked one young man where he worked. He said he was actually starting a company, but he wouldn't give a name.

The Force Is With Us

Last year at this same event, there was lots of talk of abstract "forces," seemingly beyond our control: the market, Wall Street, IPOs and how Amazon was going to take over the world (see "More Articles; The Market is Always Right"). This year, we heard very little, or none, of that. The only "force" the partiers were swept up in was the technobeat that occasionally flared, and the shapes that blossomed out of a gigantic wall embedded with video monitors. We, at least, felt renewed appreciation for Seattle's uniqueness and the fact that our destiny is firmly within our control, once again.

Most of the e-commerce companies featured at the party were local and the result of working stiffs., for instance, was founded by Victoria Gentry, a New Yorker who used to do hair for rock stars. She moved to Seattle, and with around $100,000 of her own money, bankrolled this operation. We asked why she didn't make the party. "She's doing someone's hair." Hard-at-work CEO. was there, too, giving away lint brushes. Again, another no-frills company providing dry-cleaning to corporate clients, determined not to go the way of, whose founder we hear is now doing "consulting." SON co-founder Dan Sundgren introduced by saying the company had recently been featured in The Seattle PI. Last year, it could have been The Wall Street Journal.

Khody's Right Khody Golshan, a senior account executive at PR/marketing firm MWW Savitt, said he was up really late the other night talking to a California friend about the Internet-company scene. "The media is ignoring most of the good things going on right now," said Khody.

We totally agree. Seattle isn't a media-hype town. Let's face it; we're a bit wary about being in the limelight. We probably do our best work when there's less attention being paid to us, be it by investment bankers, Tacoma re-location specialists, or incubators with rich-get-quick schemes.

Best Hair: The women from
Worst Hair: The women from
Most earnest: The rep
No. of bald heads: around four
Fur jackets: none
Most laughs: The woman handling drink sales
Color of choice: black (of course)
Man/woman ratio: we'd say 75/25

For all the latest news emanating from Seattle's Internet community, the MUST-READ is