Thursday, February 15, 2001

The Cyber Scene in San Diego ~ by Lilia Phleger Benjamin

Well, one of the first major events of the year came and went in a flurry of belly dancers, magicians, and exotic fish. February 9th was the night for Tech Mecca, put on by San Diego’s newest glossy mag on “everything tech”, the T Sector ( Greg Block, marketing director for the T Sector, certainly had his work cut out for him when he took over the planning for this wild and wacky event for the CEOs and other high level executives of San Diego geekdom. The venue was the very cool Stephen Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla. A fitting audience for the night’s festivities, the fish luckily seemed unperturbed by the screeching violin/techno performance art piece that was part of a full multimedia presentation. I myself preferred the simple pleasure of watching junior lawyers from a local law firm get dunked in the frigid dunking booth. And then there was the putting green set up by Bowne, where you could win either meat or cheese based on your prowess.

If golfing for groceries was not your idea of a good time, the law firm of Luce Forward Hamilton and Scripps had set up Sony Playstations, giving those used to battling in the boardroom the opportunity to show off their competitive spirit.

I caught up with Leane Marchese, director of membership and marketing services for Biocom, who says that the biotech industry in San Diego could learn from this event…and she hopes to see more biotech firms getting involved in the next Tech Mecca. In fact, Biocom president and CEO Joseph Panetta called the Tech Mecca “the hippest event in San Diego”, which to me indicates his seal of approval as well. He may be right…but my votes are still out until the Big eSchmooze takes place on March 1st!

In the current dotcom-and-go craziness to hit San Diego, it was inevitable that I would meet up with at least a few pink slip refugees as well as the scrappy survivors. One of those still hanging on is Planesia, which develops business software that links commerce portals, creating a “universal shopping cart.” Lisa Culver, director of business development, says that although they have solid backers and developers, they are urgently looking to access new funding. I hope they find it, because San Diego needs all the success stories it can get!

Speaking of success stories, when I finally got a chance to chat with Katherine Harrington, publisher of the T Sector, we both agreed that the Tech Mecca was a success. Unofficial count puts attendance at around 900, which was perfect for such a creative venue. And as Katherine says, the real success of the evening was “due to the support of the sponsors and the involvement of the community.” And she had so much fun (clad in a very hip cyber-camisole made of metal, by the way) that she is absolutely ready to “do it again next year!” I’ll be there!

Tuesday the 13th found me back at Michael’s Bar at the La Jolla Hyatt Aventine for another round of the netHappyHour Despite coming in late after a marketing seminar put on by Techniquelle, there was still a good crowd, though the vibe had mellowed and the initial “Pick me, pick me” song and dance by the entrepreneurs for the VCs and angels had subsided. Those who were doing business were off in corners working figures, and those who failed to make a business connection were connecting in other ways, if you know what I mean. In fact, according to Bryan Depew, director of marketing and sales for Impact Engine, the netHappyHour is “one of the best singles scenes in San Diego.” Who would have thought?

Legitimately looking for business was Anita Cohen-Williams of CohWill Consulting, a search engine optimization firm. If you are interested in learning how empty your life is without meta-tags, you can contact Anita at . Also on the beat for new opportunities was Thomas Noble, a pink slip refugee now assisting with marketing their new software product Scout. He says that they are “still working out the bugs”…no pun intended.

And finally, kudos to Nutshell Digital for winning a Featured Site Award on for the month of February! Mark Holmes (CEO), who was mentioned in the SD Cyber Scene a few weeks back, told me that to be eligible for the award, a website must be Flash, or have innovative use of Flash, and must be original, with good use of design or sound or interactivity. When he found out they had won the award, Mark says, “We had over 3000 unique visitors to our site on the first morning the award was announced.” Well done Nutshell Digital!

Until next time!

Lilia Phleger Benjamin