Friday, May 04, 2001

The Cyber Scene in Denver ~ by Suzanne Lainson

On April 19 I had to choose between attending a United Kingdom Tech Forum Series ( at the Denver Convention Center (featuring Don Gips, group VP global strategy for Level 3) and attending Cooley Godward's ( Powerful Brands seminar in Westiminster. Both sounded appealing, but location won out. Westminster is closer to Boulder. The seminar was a very good overview of the issues involved in trademarks.

That evening I attended an open house at ad/design firm ProMotif ( One of their projects was to design the multimedia promo for the Metro Denver Network's Convergence Corridor campaign. When we registered online for the event, we had the opportunity to create our own personae to be printed on our name tags. We could select from a variety of options including gender, hair color and style, clothing color and type, etc. It was a cute touch.

The office is in the World Trade Center, near the Brown Palace. John Robinson, director of business development, makes the commute each day down from Boulder, where the company had been located. Over wine and cheese, I had a chance to catch up with Jon Hurd, a friend from the Conference on World Affairs. In 1994 the first website ProMotif produced was for Jon's company, Granville-Phillips, which was bought by Helix Technology ( in 1998. I also talked to John Caprio and Brian Smith of Sonant Communications (, Rebecca Shanks, talent manager for Creative Assets (, and Jae Binder of Simple Communication.

Then, as the sun was going down, I headed back up to Boulder.

One final note: I've been hitting lots of parties in brand new buildings lately and I think the lighting in women's bathrooms has gone from bad to worse. Between being too dim to allow you to use the mirrors and so unflattering as to leave you wondering why you bothered to get up that morning, the lighting is enough to trigger a revolt (and I am encouraging women to do so).

On April 24 I trekked down to Denver for the Colorado Software and Internet Association (CSIA) breakfast ( The view at Top of the Rockies was particularly impressive that morning. Absolutely no smog, which meant a clear look at the mountains to the west and halfway to Colorado Springs to the south.

The featured speaker was Chris Pirie, VP of Oracle Learning Network (, which handles over 50,000 learners online. During his seven years at Oracle, Chris has been responsible for all classroom-based curriculum and for launching a global DBA education program, the Oracle Certified Professional program, and a $60M computer-based education product line.

Chris made the following points:

*E-learning has been trying to create offline learning models and this isn't going to work. People often ask, "Is online learning better than classroom learning?" But how effective, really, is classroom learning? What needs to be asked is how the Internet is going to change the way people create content, teach, and learn. One discovery: people are not interested in live online classes. They prefer to log on when it is convenient for them.

*Oracle's e-learning is an important part of its e-commerce because it supports the company's products. When customers aren't equipped to handle those products, they hire consultants who then customize them to such an extent that future upgrades are difficult, thus requiring more consultants. Still, Oracle is not guaranteed to get customers' educational dollars. They will go elsewhere for training if they find what they perceive to be cheaper, better and/or easier programs. They also expect Internet courses to be up-to-date all the time.

*Support calls can drive online education because they indicate what people don't know.

*Oracle's goal is to have all training 100% online and generate 50% margins. Courses are designed to operate using a 56K modem. So far Oracle has been able to reduce its in-house training budget 40% by doing it online.

* There are two potential areas of innovation for online training: curriculum development and chunking of information, which allows some content to be reused in multiple courses.

With that, Chris wrapped up his presentation. Most of us headed off to our jobs, but a group of e-learning entrepreneurs stayed to around to network with him.

The next day the Mile High Tech Council had its "State of the State of Technology" event at the Westminster Westin Hotel. Among those I spotted there were Louise Atkinson, senior advisor to the Governor's Science & Technology Commission, Dave DuPont, VP of marketing and business development for LeftHand Networks (, Andre Pettigrew, VP of marketing for FastIdeas, attorneys Suzy Thevenet and Mark Weakley with HRO (, Larry and Pat Nelson, hosts of the World Wide Web radio show (, and Cathy Ewing, executive director of the CSIA.

During lunch Utah economist Jeff Thredgold ( gave a state of the economy speech with some pro tax cut and pro Alaska drilling comments tossed in. He said that there is not another state which has a better economic mix than Colorado.

The keynote speech was given by Level 3 ( CEO Jim Crowe, who was great, as always. He encouraged us all to buy Level 3 stock: "We're running a special." Among his other comments:

*Betting on events is like gambling, but betting on trends is a good long-term strategy.

*Technologists are generally the worst predictors of the long-term implications of technology. They have trouble understanding the impact of technology on society.

*The information revolution has involved processing information, storing it, and moving it. Computing and storage, both driven by market economics, have followed different paths than moving information, which, priced like a utility, hasn't declined in price. As a result, it has been cheaper to have data processing and storage on-site than to move information to central locations where it can be expertly managed. But this means there have been no economies of scale for information services and data storage.

This began to change in 1995 with Internet protocol, optical technology, and dense wave multiplexing. Communication can finally improve at rates comparable to computing and storage. And as networking becomes cheaper, it will begin to substitute for other forms of distribution, such as trucking (e.g., it will be cheaper to send digital information through broadband networks than to ship it in hard copy format). Outsourcing will also increase. Further, driving down the cost of moving information will allow energy-consuming Internet data centers to be located where the power is, perhaps in the middle of Montana next to a coal mine.

*Level 3 relocated to Denver because surveys indicated that Colorado was the place college graduates would most like to live.

There were more programs through out the afternoon. David Wolf, managing partner of Wolf Ventures (, talked about "The Venture Capitalist Method of Valuing a Business," and Bill Ernstrom, CEO of Voyant Technology (, talked about "Enterprise, Entrepreneurs & Technology."

This was followed by a cocktail party sponsored by Sequel Venture Partners ( and the Internet Chamber Of Commerce ( Among those in attendance were Mike Gellman, CEO of SpireMedia ( and Deborah Arhelger, managing partner of DuoVoce Group ( I had a chance to talk to Jon Otsuki, CEO of GVLabs, about several projects he is working on. The one that intrigued me the most is a brainstorming/creativity program, metaphorming, ( which has been presented to world leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum ( for the last several years.

Then came the ICC networking event and presentations. More than 900 people registered to attend. Among the presenters was Gary Burke, VP of the Nasdaq Stock Market. Unfortunately I missed what he had to say because I had a Denver meeting with a wind power exec. While he and I were having dinner at The Palm, I spotted Denver Mayor Webb, his wife, and a group of their friends at the restaurant, no doubt fortifying themselves for Boeing's visit the following week. Now that Krispy Kreme has come to Colorado, surely Boeing will be next.