Friday, May 11, 2001

NY Venture Group's InfoTech Forum

This week's InfoTech forum once again proved that Burt Alimansky runs the best breakfast in town. The NY Venture Group still manages to draw an impressive crowd, especially in these down times. That it is clearly due to the pertinence and prestige of the forum's guest speakers. (Holding the breakfast at such elegant venues as The Fifth Club doesn't hurt either.)

Today's featured speaker was e-Steel CEO Michael Levin ( His talk was essentially a pragmatic comparison of pre-bubble/post-bubble perspectives on running an online business, with e-Steel as a case-study. The pre-bubble perspective was, of course, filled with the usual jokes and anecdotes that sized up the typical Internet CEO of yesteryear as a "spineless, gutless, mindless body whose head couldn't be distinguished from its bottom." (Yes, that was the punchline for his opening joke!) Sure, I think that it's pretty well established that there are companies that should never have seen the light of day. However, Levin's post-bubble perspective was certainly enlightening. The newest mantra in Levin's words is "reposition, restructure and refocus." He went on to elucidate how e-Steel had to radically shift its business model from that of a public-exchange operator to a private-exchange software company.

There was your fair amount of schmoozing to be had both before and after Levin's speech. I was glad to run into some old friends from the heady days of early 2000. Bob Dunn, senior partner of The Catalyst Group (, was in good spirits. Given Catalyst's model of serving as a middle market intermediary and advisor for mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, it seems that there is a lot Bob has to be happy about in these times of extreme divestment. I also had the pleasure of talking with Hal Wolff of International Technologies and Finance (, who said the firm is holding up well despite the downturn. Steve Berman and Alex Meshechok of Synergy Capital were also on hand and in fine form, as always.

Arthur Lane, a lawyer from the Long Island firm Lamb & Barnosky (, was pleasant as always. I had a good talk with Bobby Minter of the PR firm Rainbow Media (, who got a real kick out of my company's marketing plan of virtual reality webcasting out of a VW Bus. (My company's a Web3D company called VirtuWorlds, which is getting set to launch a B2B exchange for Web3D commodities ( I also had the pleasure of meeting Casey Kim of InfraBasic ( He said that his investment firm would be very interested in helping VirtuWorlds get funded, provided we had the right plan for him. Let's go, Casey!

I had an enjoyable stay at the Mindshare Ventures booth ( and good talks with their CEO Guy Epstein and his Marketing Assistant Funda Ibrikoglu. They're busy preparing for their conference, scheduled to be held at Baruch College on May 30. I know I will be attending, and hopefully (if we make the cut) taking part in Mindshare's proprietary format of "speed-pitching" to the venture capitalists on hand.

Finally, no Burt Alimansky breakfast would be complete without an exhilarating conversation with Mark Elis, the PEO evangelist of Administaff (, and probably the sharpest man on the floor. What cutting insight! To be fair, I did also have a great chat with Don Schatz of HR Logic ( He's just rounding out the recent ramp-up of HR Logic's New York staff and is excited to become a bigger presence on the scene. The world needs more PEOs like Mark and Don- that's for sure.

~ T. Martin