Tuesday, May 08, 2001

The Cyber Scene in Denver ~ by Susanne Lainson

The Marriott City Center in downtown Denver was the site of the monthly Rockies Venture Club (http://www.rockiesventureclub.org)on May 8. meeting at the Marriott City Center in downtown Denver. (For those of you with plans to visit the center, use the valet parking -- it’s convenient and reasonable.) There were over 150 attendees. Among the familiar faces were A. J. Cohen, business consultant for Administaff (http://www.administaff.com), and Julie Jacobs, president of PHD Management Group (http://www.juliejacobs.com).

During dinner I sat at a table where a number of interesting conversations took place. Brian Clark had owned a successful sporting goods manufacturing business in Steamboat and is now looking for new investment opportunities. Jerry Presley sold his previous business to Sprint and is now running AirBlaster (http://www.AirBlaster.com), a high-speed wireless service, which he said is based on lessons learned from old business. Jonathan Cohen, president of Generated Materials Recovery, talked about his company was 20TONS.com, an exchange for the plastics industry. He is now focusing on offering supplemental tools, rather than disruptive ones. “The resistance to change is tremendous,” he said. “It was a huge lesson for me. Incremental change is easier to pull off than disruptive change.”

J. Grahan Russell and I talked about energy issues because his former company, Barringer Laboratories, had been involved in that industry. Also at the table were Walker Williams, general manager and principal of Personnel Management Systems, Jeff Probst, president of Probst Consulting Group, Arthur Harrison, president of Arthur Harrison & Co., and William Croyle, managing partner of Asset Growth Partners (http://www.assetgrowth.net).

The three companies doing brief pitches were Life Safety Products, which offers a fire/carbon dioxide monitor that automatically shuts off utilities; NameWise, which offers tools to facilitate the naming of products and companies; and Paragon Dynamics (http://www.ParagonDynamics.com), which offers real time collaboration software.

The featured speaker was Bruce Dines, president of EHPT USA (http://www.ehpt.com), a communications software company headquartered in Stockholm. He was introduced as a fifth-generation Coloradoan. Among his points:

* Few businesses are thriving in today’s environment. Bankruptcy lawyers are one of the few professionals doinging well.

* There was never a “new economy,” just the same economy.

* There are a number of factors which resulted in the economy slamming into a wall.
1. Day trading. It created a new level of demand that had
2. nothing to do with fundamental value.
3. High interest rates.
4. High gas prices.
5. Companies have stopped or slowed capital spending.
6. VCs have stopped or slowed funding.

* He talked about why Jato Communications, a company he helped to found and which raised $100 million in funding, failed. He said that the founders transitioned out of the company too soon, and they made poor choices in people to run the company. Greed also played a factor. The new management grew the company too fast. Instead of staying a second-tier DSL provider, they tried to be a first-tier provider. Just one problem: they no longer had first-mover advantage.

* His reasons why businesses fail:
- The focus becomes too broad. Long-term strategy gets lost
in management challenges.
- Poor fiscal management.
- Infrastructure is built before the revenue stream is there.

* Qualities for success:
1. The corporate culture is not afraid of self-assessment.
2. Management is not afraid to debate with the CEO.
3. Having as few layers as possible between the CEO and customers.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
5. Don’t BS your employees. Tell them the truth.
6. Don’t BS investors.
7. Claim a position in the marketplace and focus around it. Be able to define your business in one sentence.
8. Good financial management.
9. Tailor spending to conservative revenue projections.
10. Assume cost of sales will be twice as high and take twice as long as projected.
11. Always check your email.
12. Have a market message that sells in difficult times.

On May 15, I attended the Women in Technology International (WITI) (http://www.witi.org/denver) Denver Outstanding Women Awards Ceremony at the Denver Tech Center Hilton. It was a good crowd, somewhere between 150 and 200 people. I ran into Robert Welch, VP of business development for Tango Technologies (http://www.tangotechnologies.com). I also talked to Cara Hart, president of Colorado Women in Technology (CWIT) (http://www.coloradowit.org), which is a separate group.

The ceremony honored three women. The Outstanding Achievement Award went to Louise Atkinson, VP/senior advisor to Governor Bill Owens and the Office of Innovation and Technology. She said that it is an exciting but tough time to be a woman in technology. The Outstanding Volunteer Award went to Kathy Morris, VP/distance learning and curriculum development of CCTI (http://www.ccti.com). She talked about her work encouraging people to design websites that are accessible by the disabled. They need to be useable for those with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive disabilities. She also pointed out that as we age, we are going to need those aids ourselves. The Outstanding Leader and Mentor Award went to Rosemarie Livigni, manager of learning services at IBM. She talked about how business became much more female friendly about 10 years ago, when team building, an area in which women excel, became popular.

The keynote address was presented by Nuala O'Connor, deputy general counsel for privacy at DoubleClick.net (http://www.doubleclick.net). She said that privacy is to the online community what the environment is to the industrial community. Data is the equivalent of fuel. An insider's reference for a privacy disaster is a "data Valdez." She said DoubleClick has played a major role in the privacy discussion by crystallizing the issue. The company discovered that people were not ready for its plans to merge offline databases with online databases, and that it hadn't been sensitive enough to privacy issues. As a result, DoubleClick hired a chief privacy person to review all policies and procedures, and to view them through the eyes of consumers. The department now has a staff of seven people.

With that, I headed back up to Boulder, which, of course, is a world apart from the DTC. Luckily rush hour traffic was long over and the drive back took me less than an hour, as it should.