However grim things may seem, a few companies are still out there and a few more are still pounding the pavement, hoping to catch some money crumbs that might fall from the venture capital table of wealth. The grandmother of all venture conferences, in a string of copycats, is the New York New Media Association's Venture Downtown. In its fifth year running -- yes, it started way back in 1996 -- this gem of a conference gives entrepreneurs something to aim for. The event welcomes significant companies and has a track record that leads the pack in investment-related events.
Venture Downtown won't take place until May 15th, but the VIP Celebration Dinner honoring past and present Venture Downtown presenting companies was held Tuesday, May 1st. Set atop Park Avenue on the 49th floor corporate dining room of JP MorganChase, over 100 refined digerati-types sipped wine and supped on sumptuous dinners while networking like the old network that was. Upon my arrival, I chatted with the respected PR 21 President/CEO Worldwide Gus Weill and Ira Hect who works at McGuire Woods and the EON Company's CEO and Founder Mitch Sonies and Marketing VP Melissa Grossman. Edventure Chairman Esther Dyson was about, interviewing with a BusinessWeek reporter. DesignerOutlet.com's Lauren Battista and iBreakfast's Alan Brody were mingling about as Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner Attorney Sarah Hewitt introduced me to the Brown of the firm, Peter Brown. One of Venture Downtown's prior success stories, The Feed Room, was well represented by CEO/Founder Jonathan Klein, who introduced me to CMO David Riemer. Mingling near mayorial candidate Mark Green were NYNMA Board Member and Tontine Associates General Partner Brian Horey, New York City Investment Fund President and CEO Kathryn S. Wylde and Ascend Partner David Bowen. Mr. Bowen was bragging, and rightfully so, about their recent investment and fund-raising. The Daily Deal's Martha Brown introduced me to colleagues Innessa Manning and Eryni Hazelton.
NYNMA Executive Director Alice Rodd O'Rourke promised to keep the announcements short, which she did when she thanked all the appropriate people. She mentioned that both JPMorgan and Chase had independently been corporate sponsors of NYNMA. Once they merged, they became a corporate partner of NYNMA (which translates to more $$ value sponsorship). Of course, she wouldn't be doing her job if she didn't mention that anyone who wanted to speak to her about getting involved as a corporate sponsor or partner should call her! Special kudos went to Tim Noble of JPMorganChase (formerly on the Chase side of things) and John Hall and Donna Manz, also of JPMorganChase (but formerly on the JPMorgan side.)
She admitted that while Alan Patricof was honorary chair, they did end up putting him to work more than they should have. Another hard-working contributor to the conference is I-Hatch's Chip Austin, who also got up to thank a few folks, such as Accenture Director-Integrated Marketing, Media & Entertainment McAdory Lipscomb Jr., who has provided expert coaching to the venture-backed companies since 1999.
Chip also thanked Graham Anderson of EuclidSR Partners, co-chair of the Selection Committee. As co-chairs, both Chip and Graham provided leadership to the 40-person Selection Committee, which focused on the screening and selection of the companies presenting their business plans at Venture Downtown. They also worked closely with the companies to prepare them to present at Venture Downtown, and assisted with other aspects of pulling off a great conference.
Chip went on to say that this year, the selection committee saw more companies embracing technology as the core aspect of their business, as opposed to just using it for services. There were firms in the B2B, B2C, ASP and P2P arenas. Some of the highlighted companies include Audium, Visible Tech-knowledgy, Unplugged Games, Data Synapse, Droplet, ClickRadio and Xanboo. After the speeches and between courses most people jumped up to continue networking. I chatted with PR 21's Renee Edelman, JPMorgan Chase VPs Anna-Marie Vallone and James Whitely. Virtual Growth President Stephen King and JP Morgan Chase VP Timothy Nobel were chatting, and I snapped a photo of Flatiron Partners Associate Jane Levy, Elizabeth Ferreira and Brown Raysman Attorney Dov Scherzer. Audium President and CEO Michael L. Bergelson introduced me to iXL Client Partner James Thomas, and Ericsson CyberLab Director Donna Campbell introduced me to ClickRadio Vice Chairman David Benjamin. Marsh Inc.'s Senior VicePresident/Client Executive New Media Michael Wiebe introduced me to Geller & Company Ronald Stratton. Before leaving, Mibrary.com's CEO James Alexander came over to say 'hello.' NYNMA-board members Sunny Bates (Sunny Bates Associates), Eric Goldberg (Unplugged Games) and Howard Greenstein (Sorceron) were making sure guests were meeting and greeting, and on the way out NYNMA's Ellen Auwarter and Dawn Barber made sure I met more people, including Metropolis Principal Paul Tumpowsky and Firered's Reed Piano. Whew! What a night - and what a kick-off to the season's most promising venture event yet!