Thursday, July 26, 2001

The Cyber Scene in San Diego ~ by Lilia Phleger Benjamin

SAN DIEGO—Well it has been quite a summer here in San Diego.

We’ve managed to avoid mass rolling blackouts, and “June Gloom”, our yearly overcast weather, has finally left us.

As has Cliff Numark, former president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Technology Alliance! He resigned due to family responsibilities, and is now replaced by the highly qualified Tyler Orion. Cliff was an integral part of the San Diego scene…and though he says he’ll visit, Los Angeles seems awfully far away. Speaking of the SDRTA, their flagship event – The Big eSchmooze – is taking place at the Torrey Pines Glider Port on August 23rd. If you only go to one networking event a year, go to the eSchmooze. It’s crowded, it’s noisy, and the lines for food and cocktails are long…but absolutely everyone will be there and you’ll kick yourself if you aren’t!

June 1st saw the wrap party for The Girls Project, a collaborative effort spearheaded by the San Diego Futures Foundation Becky Stawiski, head of the SDFF, built a team of women from Techniquelle, WITI, the SDRTA, and other area companies. The party celebrated the creation of a brand new computer lab with six weeks of hands-on training for the girls and the staff.

I also got notice that we have a new neighbor. Swedish-based AU-System, a leading Mobile Internet consultancy, announced the opening of its North American subsidiary in San Diego. The company's client list includes Ericsson, Motorola, Hyundai, Compaq, Philips and Volvo, and its major investors include Schroder Ventures, Ericsson, and IBM. With all of the downsizing happening lately in our town, its nice to have a new company join the scene.

Talking about a scene, the one that everyone thought was going to be a replay of Seattle turned out to be nothing but a peaceful gathering of a few protestors and hordes of journalists. I’m talking about BIO2001, one of the largest biotech/life sciences conferences in the world. Fanned by media hype, local shopkeepers hunkered down prepared for battle, but the protestors stayed home, the weather was great, and the conference was a success. 

Another success was the second annual Bonfire, taking place in Mission Bay under the stars and a cool fireworks display by Sea World. The truth is out…geeks CAN play sports!

Geek sports notwithstanding, one of my personal highlights was meeting Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of Hotmail. I was invited to attend his presentation at one of San Diego’s most effective networking organizations – TIE San Diego I was impressed by the large turnout this group attracted, as well as the obvious support (economical and educational) they offer their members. But back to the charming Sabeer, who of course everyone knows as the man who negotiated a $400 million dollar sale (for with Mr. Bill Gates of Microsoft. Clearly, a 26-year-old kid from Bangalore “playing hardball with the world’s richest man” is a story worth remembering! Ironically however, it was not his experiences at the helm of Hotmail that taught him how to run a successful business. Instead, he says it was the dismal failure of his second startup,, which taught him the most important lessons. 

What I found fascinating were the stories of mind-blowing craziness in the Seattle of 1997. In fact, the idea of Sabeer taking Microsoft’s initial offer of $140 million and almost tripling it was just the start in an industry ready to explode. Living in Jamaica at the time, I was unaware that this virtual (un)reality was taking place…and I wish now that I had been there!

Finally, I want to make sure that I mention the upcoming entrepreneurial conference put on by the San Diego Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) Called the eSeries, it is a six-week comprehensive program for women entrepreneurs in the high tech and life sciences industries. Only 30 women are chosen to participate, and registration closes on August 20th, so if you’re interested, contact Carrie Schultz right away!

Until next time!