Friday, May 11, 2001

The Cyber Scene in Denver ~ by Suzanne Lainson

On May 1, I was at Denver's DoubleTree Hotel for the TiE-Rockies meeting. This one, attended by about 150 people, focused on venture capital. Suzy Thevenet and Linda Wackwitz, attorneys with HRO (, were there. So were Sueann Ambron, dean of the University of Colorado-Denver business school (; Maya Iyengar, CTO of TamTam (; Derrin Smith, chairman/CEO of GETGO (; and Deborah Arhelger, managing partner of DuoVoce Group (

The panel represented $2 billion in available investment funds. They all agreed that it's important to set money aside in reserve - particularly now that times are tougher. Some other comments:

Arjun Gupta, founder of TeleSoft Partners (, talked about the challenges of taking a company public and how difficult it can be to keep it trading above its offering price.

Ravi Mohan, a general partner at Battery Ventures (, said that this is the toughest environment in which to raise second-round funding. But if you are starting a new company, it is a good time to raise capital. Be prepared, however, to do more with less. He also noted that VC limited partners are no longer worried about return rates; they are worried about return of capital

Brad Feld, a principal managing director of Softbank's venture capital fund (, said that when they raised their first fund, they called it SBVC Fund 4 so "we would look like we knew what we were doing."

"We knew the [dot-com] party would end, but we were hoping we would die first. Now it's back to business. The crack that we were all smoking for the past three years has been used up. We figured out it was over six months after it was over."

He set up the SBVC incubator, Hotbank, so that he can be physically close to his portfolio companies. Hotbank also offers an entrepreneur-in-residence program (one EIR, Srikant Viran, founder of KBToys, was the panel moderator), and an entrepreneur affiliate program, which allows entrepreneurs to have a place to hang their hats between companies.

Speaking as the only SBVC partner out of nine who doesn't live in California, Brad noted that "the difference between Colorado and California is that California is a demonic and toxic place." He also noted that Colorado is extremely business friendly. Plus it is big enough to be interesting and small enough to allow you to have an impact. (But, it was pointed out by the two California panelists, that Colorado universities need more international students, Coloradoans are too laid back and need to feel the pressure to get the job done, and Colorado companies need better sales and marketing efforts.)

Next up for TiE-Rockies was a social networking event. By a show of hands, whitewater rafting seemed to be the most popular choice

On May 4, ad/design/PR firm Sonant Communications ( had its Quarto de Mayo party at its downtown Boulder offices. Although rainy weather kept us inside, the margaritas were great, and a mariachi band serenaded us. President Brian Smith, Creative Director John Farmer, and PR Director John Caprio were there playing host. Mark Weakley, from Holmes, Roberts, & Owens, stopped by to enjoy the FAC. Joe Pezzillo and filmmaker Joel Haertling ( said hello before they had to head off to a film festival. Joel was telling me about the restaurants where he likes to hold a party, particularly Sacre Blue in Denver. Andre Pettigrew, now a consultant about town, Larry Nelson, from the World Wide Web radio show ( and I had an interesting discussion about lessons learned concerning the Internet bubble. Andre maintained that it was all worth it since the industry moved along much faster than it might have done without the lure of great wealth.

The party was still going strong when I left to pack for an early morning flight to Houston.