I attended the Colorado Software and Internet Association’s
(http://www.coloradosoftware.org) 2001 APEX Awards at the Paramount Theater on May 17. Coors provided the beer, and there was food upstairs and down. I saw people from all the nominated companies, including Zoa Techmedia (http://www.zoetechmedia.com), Spire (http://www.spiremedia.com), and Via West (http://www.viawest.net). The ceremony featured some very cool 3-D multimedia effects developed by Digital Metropolis (http://www.digitalmetropolis.com) using software from Anark (http://www.anark.com). Brian Smith, president of Sonant Communications (http://sonant.net), joined me during the presentations. Check out the list of winners: http://www.coloradosoftware.org/calendar/apexfinalists.htm.
After the APEX Awards were over, Dick Pankoski, president/CEO of Strategic Development, and Adam Martone from GreenRamp Software (http://www.greenramp.com), persuaded me to take the 16th Street Mall shuttle down to LoDo to catch SchmoozeIt, the semi-annual event put on by interactive marketing agency LH3 (http://www.lh3.com). Just one problem: it was raining, and none of us had raincoats or umbrellas. When we got off the bus, we all huddled under Dick’s coat and slogged our way several blocks to Sevilla's at The Icehouse. It was definitely a lively place--more than 500 people packed into the grotto-like club. Some of them were among the recently unemployed, but their partying abilities were not compromised in the least. I left early to get back to Boulder for the 10th Anniversary gathering of the Boulder Media Women. Julie Jacobs of PHD Management Group (http://www.juliejacobs.com) was kind enough to give me a ride back up to my car, so I didn't have to deal with the bus or a taxi. I was told SchmoozeIt continued on until nearly 11 p.m. There was dinner, a fashion show, dessert, music and dancing.
On May 23, I went to the Omni Interlocken for the Internet Chamber of Commerce meeting (http://www.icc.org). Six hundred people attended, give or take a 100. (You can see a list of everyone who signed up by going to http://data.icc.org/cgi/rsvp/showfields.pl?A052301). Mostly we mingled and checked out the exhibitors.
I saw the Spire guys, CEO Mike Gellman, Director of Marketing and Business Development Brandon Shevin and Jaxon Repp (don't know what he does, but they let him come). Erich Stein, head of Erich Stein Communications (http://www.erichstein.com) was there, so we discussed PR stuff with Richard Sharp, a partner with TrueTrek Communications (http://www.truetrek.com). I met Hillary Lane, a writer for Harmonic Telecom (http://www.harmonicinc.com), whom I knew through email, but had never met. I said hi to Dan Murray, who recently became marketing director of Persona (http://www.persona.com). I also chatted with Natalie Pyle, a technical recruiter with Hall Kinion (http://www.hallkinion.com/).
The next morning, May 24, I had to be up bright and early to attend the Boulder Technology Incubator (http://www.btionline.org) annual awards breakfast. It was held in Longmont at the Raintree Inn. I was a few minutes late, and everyone was already seated. So, there was no time for mingling. Catharine Merigold, a principal with Vista Ventures (http://www.vistavc.com), was at my table.
The big news of the morning was that the Boulder Technology Incubator is becoming the Colorado Technology Incubator. President Lu Cordoba made the announcement. She talked about various programs (the Colorado Technology Alliance, the Colorado Technology Angels, the Colorado Technology Foundation) and how they would be expanding statewide. There would also be a
CTI-Longmont and a CTI-Boulder.
There was a panel discussion about mergers and acquisitions. Among the comments:
Matt McConnell, director of engineering, aggregation business unit, Cisco Systems (http://www.cisco.com), said that Cisco has made 63 acquisitions in 10 years. Ninety-seven percent of acquired employees had remained with Cisco at the two-year point. He recommends that when companies seek to be acquired, management should keep their employees informed because the employees are likely to talk. And they probably have erroneous ideas of the acquisition process.
Brad Feld, principal managing director of Softbank Venture Capital (http://www.sbvc.com), said that the days of VCs selling companies because they didn't know what else to do with them has ended. Valuations are no longer high. He also mentioned that selling to someone who has never bought a company before is a nightmare right now. And selling to a someone who has done two deals which have gotten screwed up is a bigger nightmare.
He talked about having his first company acquired and about how he went from being king of a 20-person company to one of 35 general managers. Even if you don't fit into to the new culture, fighting it destroys the value you brought to the merger. When asked how a company can become an attractive acquisition candidate, he suggested you dress up fancy, take a shower and cut your hair. He cautioned against telling everyone in your company every detail as the deal progresses. It can be unsettling, and if the company is public the situation is even more sensitive. But waiting to the very end can also be problematic.
Mike Franson, a partner with The Wallach Company (http://www.wallachco.com), said that revenue without profitability is meaningless. Before being bought out, negotiate a very good employment contract. Value is in the eye of the people with the checkbooks; they decide what they are buying and why. Make sure you consider all potential buyers. Even then, you are probably overlooking some. Publicizing that you are available for sale may bring in buyers you hadn't considered. But then again, if you do that and no one buys your company, people may begin to wonder what is wrong with it.
John Stewart, CFO for MyPoints.com (http://www.mypoints.com), said that a year after an M&A, 75% of the companies involved said they had regrets. Never do a deal with someone you don't trust or like. Before entering into negotiations, make sure everyone is willing to sell. He recommends that you keep your negotiations private during the letter of intent period. If you tell too many people, you risk derailing the deal. Bring in a PR firm the day before the deal is going to be announced in order to
go over it with employees and to prepare them for upcoming changes.
When the event was over, I said hello to Erika Brown, founder of NetGoddess (http://www.netgoddess.com). She was talking to Jana Matthews, founder of Boulder Quantum Ventures (http://www.boulderquantumventures.com). On my way out, I stopped at the EnergyWindow (http://www.energywindow.com) table and met Jack Mason and Mike Usrey. Check eMileHigh (http://www.emilehigh.com) next week for my article about the company.
That afternoon I went to a presentation and cocktail hour at the Denver Athletic Club. The even was promoting the upcoming ITEC Expo (http://www.goitec.com) June 27 and 28 and the Colorado Internet and Software Association's role in the event. I hadn't been to the Denver Athletic Club in years, so it was fun to check it out – even though I didn't have time to see much. A big plus with that location is the convenient (and cheap) parking. The presentation was all about getting the most out of trade shows. Lots of useful tips.