Thursday, February 22, 2001
The Cyber Scene in Los Angeles ~ by Kyrsten Johnson
The Layoff Lounge - 02/22/01
The first event of the Layoff Lounge (www.layofflounge.com) took place in downtown LA's SoHo Nightclub. This newly-reopened joint used to be known as Glam Slam, Prince's favorite space to jam. The polished wood walls and clean lines gave the place a refined appeal, and the art-deco wavy metal "walls" performed a function while offering a funky modern look to the space. There was a large bar in the back area of the club, so I wandered over to grab an Evian before I headed over to the Sponsor tables. Before I could pay the bartender, I was inquired about what sort of resources I was looking for by two well-dressed gentleman. They knew to ask me because the red button on my nametag told them I was an employer, as opposed to a job-seeker or a VC -- a nice, easy flagging system for people to know more about a person with a simple glance at a nametag. I informed them I was indeed looking for software and web developers, and before the night was over I had a dozen business cards and a few resumes to sort through.
Over 250 people attended this kickoff party, created by Jeremy Gocke and Kelly Perdew, including over 20 recruiters and many local companies looking for talented people. A big draw for the night was the opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to VC types -- Angels, Business Accelerators and Seed Funding entities.
Sixteen lucky entrepreneurs signed up on the Lounge’s website before the event and won the chance to deliver a five-minute "elevator pitch” to a VC. This format proved very exciting for both entrepreneurs and investors. The entrepreneurs got significant face time with investors, constructive feedback, and a chance to polish their pitch. The investors had a very structured environment in which to listen to pitches, provide constructive feedback and move on to the next idea. I’m sure this one-to-one face time will prove a big draw at the upcoming events if it’s continually offered.
I was briefly able to meet one of the event’s sponsors, CEO Dan Guerrero of eCRUITING (www.ecruitinginc.com), and also recruiters at the event tables like Racquel Neidhold of Technical Connections (www.tci-la.com). Other sponsors included the Sales Athlete and MobileContact Media (www.mobilecontact.net).
Two speakers took the mike during the evening: Dave Lavinsky, President and Founder of GrowThink (www.growthink.com and Kathy Aaronson, CEO of the Sales Athlete (www.salesathlete.com). I got to the party late, so Mr. Lavinsky was in the middle of speaking when I arrived. It was difficult to hear him because so many in the crowd were bustling about and talking -- which crowds will do at such an event, but the limited space didn't readily provide a separate area for a speaker to talk. At any rate, Mr. Lavinsky's well-delivered speech delved into what's hot and what's not in the current funding market and included some advice on how to position yourself and your company to raise money. When he was finished, Jeremy had to take the podium and chastise the crowd about keeping the noise down so eager listeners could hear the speaker; he was stern, but he had a point and some of the clamor died down before the next speaker took the stage.
I used the break time between speakers to seek out Jeremy and ask him if he was pleased with how his first event was going. He was very enthusiastic about the showing, and eagerly anticipating the upcoming kickoff Lounge parties in many new cities, including Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco, for starters. He said they’ve gotten a lot of requests from other cities as well, so they expect to add them to the roster soon. I asked Jeremy why the event wasn’t called a “Pink Slip Party” like so many cities are having these days, and he answered that everybody else seemed to be having those, and Layoff Lounge events were really targeted at finding people jobs (not just mingling with other job-seekers) and secondly, for laid-off folks to party the night away after the networking was over.
I had time to do a brief introduction with Kelly and found out he knows Courtney well -- doesn’t everybody? He was preoccupied with overseeing the entrepreneur meetings with the VCs, so I got his card and emailed with him later about the event.
Soon it was time for the next speaker. Ms. Aaronson’s speech highlighted what to do/not do when selling yourself for your next gig. I’m sure all of it was good, but I had to leave early to catch a redeye flight so I ducked out – unfortunately I also missed the raffle drawing, which included a complete golf outing and Lakers tickets! Sigh.
The next Layoff Lounge event will be held in Santa Monica in March. I emailed Kelly about where the next LA venues would be, and he replied that they would keep changing venues until they found the perfect spot. He added that in addition to the aforementioned cities, they plan on launching the parties in New York, Chicago, and Austin in April, and they are working on getting things set up for San Diego, Washington, DC, and Miami. If the other venues are as good as LA’s first event was, look for a Layoff Lounge party in your city soon!