Friday, February 16, 2001

The Cyber Scene in Denver ~ by Suzanne Lainson

On February 6 I hit First Tuesday's, again held at Brooklyn's across from the Pepsi Center. It's a great location for an event: a two-story building that is the perfect size to hold the more than 650 who showed up. (According to the after-event tally, it was 55% entrepreneurs, 18% investors, 27% service providers and 7% "unknown"). The atmosphere can best be described as "Recession? What recession?" A high energy group and gauging by the number of men arriving in suits and top coats, an affluent one.

The food was quite good (a buffet which included two kinds of pasta and fresh berries) and the bar fully equipped (any event where my free drink ticket gets me a whiskey sour automatically falls into my plus column). Everything -- the people, the setting, the free food/libations -- added up to a great party. I talked to Gary Gaessler, past president/co-founder, and Lucy Vento, president, of the Denver Telecom Professionals, about their upcoming Telecom Professional of the Year awards ceremony. I said hello to Dilpreet Jammu, Nortel's director of business development, who is relatively new to the area and is busy checking things out. Jeff Jensen, CEO/president of Dealer Parts Online, and I were talking about the need to bring together old and new economies. Jim Kloberdanz, VP/sales and marketing at Absolute Performance, told me what he's been up to lately. I also chatted with Boulder-area friends John Hill, CTO of Capture Logic, and Patty Rivera, founder/CEO of Kiditcard.

Cate Lawrence, CEO/president of Warrior Solutions, Erich Stein, president of Erich Stein Communications, and I sat down to catch the presentation of the evening, "3G and The Wireless World - Hype vs. Reality," given by Vipanj Patel and Gary Rohr, co-founders of iSherpa Capital. Rather than recount everything they covered, I'll point you to the pdf version.

At the end of the evening I found myself with the SpireMedia crowd CEO Mike Gellman introduced me to Doug Meer, VP/sales and marketing. Then Donna Crafton, PR VP at LH3, and I talked clothes with recent Spire-hire Brett Madden (who sported a striking orange shearling bag). The big question, "Can we wear leather to the next First Tuesday?" And the big news is that Spire is expanding its offline business to become a full-service creative solutions agency.

On February 8 I attended the Colorado Internet Kieretsu meeting. It was at Trilogy in Boulder. Since the weather was nasty, it was mostly a Boulder crowd, although Mike Gellman did make it up from Denver. Dan Feld, head of SOFTBANK Venture Capital's Colorado incubator, HOTBANK, was there to begin the process of new board member elections. Terri Douglas, Guy Murrel, and Sara Yelton from Catapult PR were also there (CIK is a client). Mark Weakley was representing event sponsor Holme Roberts & Owen. Among others making the rounds were Larry Nelson and Pat Nelson, hosts of The World Wide Web radio show, and Joyce Colson, of Colson Quinn.

I also met Debra Miller, CEO/founder of Summit Voice Solutions, Scott Weiss, president of , and Charles Stirk, president of Bosonics. One reason CIK is such a popular networking group is the number of start-ups which are represented.

On Friday I saw Mark Weakley again because he and Susan Thevenet invited me to the annual HRO Winter Park ski trip. Since it is one of the largest law firms in the Rocky Mountain region, there are too many lawyers for all of them to fit on the train. Therefore different divisions take turns hosting the event. This year the emerging business group got the opportunity. Both Susan and Mark serve as special counsels in the Boulder office and work closely with a number of high tech clients.

Mark, Susan, James Maynard, product manager for Biostar, and I met at Mark's house at 5:45 AM to carpool down to Denver's Union Station where we caught the ski train which makes a round-trip to Winter Park every Saturday and Sunday during the season. We traveled in style, riding in three private luxury cars, equipped with a kitchen, a bar, sleeping compartments, and a two-story glass-domed observatory. On the way up we were served breakfast and on the way back, cocktails and a buffet (I loaded up on the salmon and sushi). It was about two hours each way so there was plenty of time to talk. Among those I met were Nancy Gegenheimer, managing partner of the Boulder office, Greg Holloway, a partner in the Colorado Springs office, and Liza Gonzalez, an associate in the Denver office. I asked Charlie Bruce, a partner in the Boulder office, about the current economic climate and he reassured me that "deals are getting done." Everyone was commiserating with him because as soon as he returned from the ski trip, he was then going to drive to Aspen the same night. Life is tough in Colorado.

The weather had been had been bad the day before, but it was sunny and clear for our outing. The view from the dome was breathtaking - deep blue skies above and white snow on the ground. Once we got to Winter Park, people broke up into groups of downhill skiers, cross-county skiers, and snowshoers. Among those enjoying the outing were Jon Hollman, who is with US Bank's Colorado Springs office, Catherine Merigold, general partner with Vista Ventures, Andy Murray, CFO of SignalSoft, and Bernadette Hill and John Keffer, from Expanet's Salt Lake City office. (Just the day before, it was announced that the company, with revenue of $1.4 billion, is moving its headquarters to the Denver area.) It was a great trip and we got even got our own HRO fleece mittens and headband to take home.

Speaking of ski trips, Kristin Johnston, director of corporate communications and media communications for GetGo, filled me in on the DUET trip that I missed the week before. The group of business leaders, performing artists, and international dignitaries traveled by bus to Copper Mountain and were served breakfast burritos, bloody Mary's, and mimosas. "Elevator stories consisted of participants introducing themselves and giving short summations of their roles at DUET. The stories ranged from acquisition opportunities to new business strategies, with a little of everything else in between. The mood was fun and lighthearted until a green SUV lost control on I-70 and crashed into the bus, sending it swerving sideways. As the bus started to tilt, the driver skillfully kept it upright. The SUV bounced off the bus and hit it two more times before coming to a stop." Once it was determined that the SUV occupants were okay, and the state patrol contacted, the bus continued on its way to Copper Mountain, all occupants safe and sound. As Kristen put it, "DUET 2001 Ski Patrollers just can't be stopped."