International Business Forum (IBF) has quite a reputation producing well-organized and valuable investor conferences for the past 12 years. The "Venture Capital Investing in Emerging Technology" conference held at The Fifth Club on April 24-25 was no exception. The topics of panels were extremely pertinent in their scope, and the list of moderators and panelists was, as always, impressive.
The conference kicked off with an insightful talk by Lockwood Carlson, former corporate scientist of 3M, regarding the convergence of emerging technologies and business opportunities, and their particular points of intersection. Lockwood is now putting his know-how to work as a consultant and is actively involved with HtO Ventures (www.htoventures.com), a new early stage venture capital firm headquartered in the Twin Cities called. I got a chance to hang out with the team from Minnesota at the pre-conference cocktail party sponsored by Allegis Capital www.allegiscapital.com. One of the fund's three partners is the one and only Jerry Okerman, the "dean of corporate venture capital;" head of 3M's Corporate VC department; and easily the most down-to-earth I've ever met. I believe that HtO is destined to fill a large void in the Twin Cities area. Other investors that I chatted with included David Blumberg of Blumberg Capital (www.blumbergcapital.com), Jaime Robertson Lavelle of Intel Capital and Ann Watson of Brightspark (www.brightspark.com), a VC-funded company based in Toronto.
I was psyched to run into some old friends and to make a few new friends on the scene. Andy Sernovitz and Brian Cooke from GasPedal were there, reporting that GasPedal (www.GasPedal.net) is thriving in these tough times by acting as a QuickFix pit stop for broken companies. That's a pretty good business to be in these days! I also hung with high-energy, high-impact Donna Pilch of Desktop News (www.desktopnews.com) and ran into my friend and probably the smoothest character in the room: Manuj Shah of Options Group (www.optionsgroup.com), a Global Executive Recruitment firm. Also got a chance to catch up with Amanda Briggs, who was covering the event for Venture Wire. I hung out quite a bit with Scott Bowling, who was representing WWWAC (www.WWWAC.com) and ThingsWeb (www.thingsweb.com), a website design and marketing agency. I was delighted to run into Rich Shanley and Barry Schrieber, whom I used to work with as a client over at the Eisner New Media Group, and who are now thriving in their new positions at Deloitte Touche (www.deloitte.com).
Of course, doubling at these events as a reporter for the Cyber Scene and as CEO of a Web3D company called VirtuWorlds (www.virtuworlds.com), I'm always on the hunt for companies that are either involved with Web3D or are in need of 3D on their site. I had the pleasure of running into Dare Brandenberg of Lift-Off (www.liftoff.com), a company based in The Netherlands that designs and accelerates market introductions and expansion programs for Internet businesses, including some Web3D businesses. Also chatted it up with Bill Ponton of Princeton Venture Advisory (www.princetonventure.com), a group that specializes in venture-management consulting in the digital media and cable industries, with a specialization in Web3D. I met Timur Zakouski of KoolConnect (www.koolconnect.com), which provides total online solutions for the hospitality industry - I'm thinking 3D Hotel walk-throughs! I met a couple of good candidates for 3D content, including two representatives from biotech companies - Josef Bodor of Virimmune and Patricia Killian of Pharmacia (www.pharmacia.com). 3D DNA anyone?
Finally, I had a great time hanging with the sponsors of the vent. As always, the Pillsbury Winthrop (www.pillsburywinthrop.com) gang was fun and engaging - Lori Hoberman, Emily Campbell, Tracy Tune and Peter Ferenz, among others. I had a productive talk with Dennis Powers of Executive Interim Management (www.EIMUS.com) and Burt Alimansky (www.nybf.com) of the NY Business Forum's InfoTech Forum. And of course, the IBF gang was great to work with. Many thanks to IBF's Alexandra Scott, Craig, Stephanie, Cheryl, Cathy and Christina for producing yet another great event!