Thursday, March 01, 2001

The Cyber Scene in San Diego ~ by Lilia Phleger Benjamin

It has been brought to my attention that I have completely neglected to report on one of San Diego's most anticipated and well attended events-the Big eSchmooze. How such a thing could have happened, I'll never know. So let me begin...

It was a dark and stormy night. Actually, it wasn't, though it was a bit nippy for March 1st. Luckily the El Cortez Hotel, site of the event, had various heat lamps and a fireplace out on the terrace to keep us all warm. I got there a few minutes before the event began, so I was able to scope out the sponsor tables and grab some appetizers before the hordes descended. And descend they did. I heard rumors that at least 1500 people came to schmooze, and it looked (and felt) like it.

The Big eSchmooze is put on twice a year by the San Diego Regional Technology Alliance, which as you recall, is lucky to have the handsome overachiever Cliff Numark at its helm. At a time of turbulence in the technology sector, the SDRTA has consistently created opportunities for networking, education and support, and the Big eSchmooze is its flagship event.

Walking through the crowd, I was happy to see my good friends Joe Crawford from Avencom and Dan Collins of Brand X Media. We talked briefly about how cool the Brand X Media website is, and how their work with web integration is attracting some really big clients. Then we moved on to the very important stuff - the need for some way to quickly identify people's needs and expectations for the evening. For example, one solution would require everyone to don a six-foot-high bicycle flag with different colors for different needs, i.e. green for venture capitalists, pink for angel investors, yellow for startups and perhaps a heart for those looking to connect in other ways. Maybe next year.

Deciding to nosh, I shared a table with Michael Cornelius and Jon Hindman of California CEO Magazine. He told me a bit about who they are and what they were doing to convince CEOs that the magazine's content is not only necessary but vital to those eager for success. A quick hello to their friend Larry Duca, also of California CEO (a publication by the Fivash Media Group), and I was off again to meet and mingle.

Out by the sponsor tables, I said hello to the lovely Katherine Harrington, publisher of the T Sector. For those looking to read in-depth reports about the technology scene in San Diego, the T Sector is a good read, with cool layouts and colors. Not that I don't value content, but I do love a glossy, good-looking magazine!

Moving on, I was grabbed by my husband, Nigel Benjamin, who just happens to be the director of media strategy at Big Bang Idea Engineering. I met John Dowd, director of advertising for Front Porch (North America). John gave me some background on Front Porch, which was originally established in 1998 as an ISP. However, times (and technology) change, and Front Porch is now an Internet media company that "develops and deploys intelligent network services that enable ISP and advertisers to distribute personalized content to end users." No sooner did I turn to shake his hand than I was twirled around by Angie Gerken, who has just started a new job as an intranet architect for Intel She brought me over to Caleb Clark, whom I had met in January shortly after he relocated from the Bay Area. Caleb is now the director of the BAT Lab, which is NOT where one finds the Caped Crusader. In this case, "BAT" stands for Ballpark Advanced Technology. I get to go on a tour this week, so more on that later!

So, there is my brief report on the Big eSchmooze. If you want to see what we all looked like at the event, check out the photos at the SDRTA site as well as over at

And now on to a networking event that is new on the scene - Wireless Wednesdays. Part of a nationwide organization, the new San Diego chapter is headed by husband-and-wife team Lina Ramos-Holm and Kaare Holm of In Concepts. Wireless Wednesdays is a "connected community built around the people energizing the wireless web." If anyone was energizing, it was the lovely Lina, as she enthusiastically told me about the group, its sponsors and its goals for growth in San Diego. Lina and Kaare saw a need for systematic networking in an unstructured environment, rather than more events with guest speakers and agendas. If this first Wireless Wednesdays Happy Hour was any indication, they are on the right track.

I met up with Jennifer Beckey, president of Maptrace and development co-chair of the newly formed San Diego County chapter of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs. While describing what Maptrace does, Jennifer was kind enough to give me a crash course in location-based services, wireless GBS technology and the e911 mandate. She also discussed her plans to grow FWE and provide support and services to other women entrepreneurs.

I also introduced myself to Tasha Star Berger, producer/brand marketing for PacketVideo. Headquartered in San Diego with five international locations, PacketVideo provides MPEG-4 compliant software that enables the delivery, management and viewing of video, audio and multimedia applications over wireless networks. Ah yes, this was Wireless Wednesdays, wasn't it?

And finally, I met Anthony Medrano and Danielle Apgar of the newly formed yet incredibly experienced Seed Consulting Group. Anthony, a highly publicized technology entrepreneur, co-founded and served as President and COO of DoDots, Inc. and raised a total of 17M in equity for the venture. Danielle acted as a one-woman HR department, growing the company from two people to more than 120. With their new business, they are looking to bring their experience and expertise to other companies, basically walking clients through to viability. In fact, Anthony will be a featured panelist at the upcoming event, "Fundraising in Turbulence-A Comprehensive Guide for Funding and Financing a Technology Venture," taking place on April 7th, 2001 and hosted by the SDRTA. I know I'll be there!

That's all for week: BATLab, STARCOM 2001, and the Internap/Akamai Open House. Until next time!