Wednesday, March 28, 2001

The Cyber Scene in San Diego ~ by Lilia Phleger Benjamin

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend "Achieve Peak Performance and Maximize your Internet ROI" sponsored by Internap Network Services and Akamai Technologies The event was well attended (and well stocked with delicious food!), but by the time I arrived, the speakers had finished and the networking had begun. I did get a chance to speak to Jed Jones, field marketing coordinator for Internap and organizer of the event. He seemed pleased by the turnout, and told me a bit about their recent PNAP (private network access point) partnership with Akamai, their largest customer. Future plans include a move to Japan-something that Jed is looking forward to as an opportunity to practice his Japanese.

Jed introduced me to Eileen Wright, vice president of sales for Internap, and one of the speakers for the evening's event. We talked about the success following the opening of their San Diego office six months ago, and how happy she is with the interest their growth has generated. "The fact that both our technologies are unique," she said, referring to Akamai and Internap, "means that as partners, we occupy a unique share of the market space."

The next night was STARCOM 2001, held at the San Diego Convention Center and presented by the San Diego Business Journal and Rancho Santa Fe Technology What an extravaganza! Billed as "A Business Success Odyssey," the evening was devoted to recognizing those companies and individuals who have achieved great things in San Diego. Sponsors included HNC Software, Teligent, American Express, and Imperial Bank

I spoke with Terry Leber of Teligent who told me that Seattle's recent earthquake brought in a lot of new business for them. Evidently, in one of the larger buildings post-quake, Teligent (wireless communication with a battery backup) was up and running when most systems were down. Nothing like word of mouth to boost business. No sooner did I finish talking to her then the lights dimmed, alerting us that the dinner/awards portion of the evening was due to begin.

Doors were opened and what seemed like thousands of people streamed into a huge ballroom darkly lit with blue and purple lights. It was as though we had stepped into a starry night! I found my assigned table and introduced myself to the others already there - to my left, the very outgoing and boisterous men of BashMedia led by the puckish Sebastian "Bash" Juarez, and to my right, the dignified and quietly humorous Michael Folz Wexler of the law firm of Cowley and Chidester. Luckily as a Gemini, I found it quite easy to constantly switch channels and enjoyed not only my dinner but also my dinner partners. Our dinner conversation ran the gamut from BashMedia's hip and happening dance parties in the name of business development to Mr. Wexler's involvement with the Winston Churchill Society and their upcoming conference this fall in San Diego. I also got a chance to hear about BashMedia's strong presence in the printing industry as well as a recent move into web development tools for small businesses.

The event opened with movie clips of various space-themed movies on three huge screens, punctuated by flashing strobe lights, colored lasers, fireworks, and at one point, open flames shooting up from the stage. Quite a spectacle! Produced by Electronic Theater, the opening sequence set the tone for the rest of the evening, and in fact, you can check out just some of their handiwork for STARCOM 2001 at their website

The program then began with the presentation of thirteen scholarships to area high school seniors who have excelled in math and science. Awards to the top 25 leaders in five categories then followed: top 25 private companies, top 25 public companies, top 25 emerging companies, top 25 biotechnology companies, and top 25 high technology companies. Needless to say, the announcing of the 125 (total) companies happened so fast that I was not able to keep up…however I did notice that San Diego's biggies: QUALCOMM, Gateway, Sony, SAIC, etc. were included in almost every category.

Following the very long awards presentation, Elaine Grant, editor of Inc. Technology magazine and senior editor of Inc. magazine, came on stage to deliver the keynote address. She spoke of entrepreneurs and their ability to take risks and persevere, and in fact said that current statistics list one out of every six people as a freelancer, or independent professional. She feels that it is during economic downturns that independent professionals truly succeed, as companies tend to view outsourcing as a more economically viable option. As an IP myself, I made sure that I met her after the show to thank her for her encouraging words…

When Elaine was done, it was finally time for the drawing of the various prizes and gift certificates ($1,000 cash, a vacation for two to Hawaii, etc.). However, by that time, most of the multitude had begun to sneak quietly away, causing the drawing to stretch on interminably while they attempted to find a business card in the fishbowl that actually belonged to somebody still in the room! Despite the unfortunate ending, STARCOM 2001 was an enjoyable event full of San Diego's key movers and shakers! Until next time!

Lilia Phleger Benjamin is the president of digitElle, a public relations agency providing market research, online strategies, and media planning. She is also the co-founder and managing director of Techniquelle, a networking organization for creative and tech-savvy people. Lilia can be reached by email at