Thursday, August 23, 2001

The Cyber Scene in San Diego ~ by Lilia Phleger Benjamin

San Diego’s largest networking event, the Big eSchmooze, kicked off our meet-n-greet season after a rather quiet summer. Held August 23rd at the Torrey Pines glider port on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, attendees early enough were treated to the sight of paragliders surfing the air currents. 

The mood going in to this much anticipated event was similar to that of a rave or house party…long lines of cars with people ready to party! Those who came without sensible shoes were dismayed to find themselves dusty and a bit winded after the long trek in from the dirt parking lot that seemed to go on for acres. Luckily I had a walking partner, Nicole Cramer of EyeTracking, Inc., a San Diego based company that provides eyetracking services for website usability and market research studies. 

We parted ways once we reached the entry gate, and I checked in with Joanne Gavalec, the marketing director at the San Diego Regional Technology Alliance The Big eSchmooze is the SDRTA’s baby, and they put it on twice a year with solid support from the sponsors, media, and patrons. In fact, if you want to see some fun pictures of the event and get an idea of the turnout, check out the over a hundred pictures on the Fresh News site taken by editor Larry St. John.

Back to the party on the hill…I introduced myself to Denise Reinicke, communications specialist at the Learning Framework They offer web-based solutions for companies looking to create learning programs. I also got a quick hello from Mickele Hughes of TD Media, providers of digital marketing campaigns.

With the sun finally down and the party in full swing, I worked the crowd with Maren Chapla, a sales and marketing consultant, at my side. We stopped at a cocktail table being held up by Mark Holmes of Nutshell Digital and Bill Volk from I commended Bill on his recent spate of publicity, as every time I turn around he is in the local media for either his company’s success, or his penchant for recumbent bicycles.

Moving along, I was introduced to Russell Hamilton with DPR Construction, a sponsor of the recent BIOCOM mixer called the Latin Summer Sizzle. At this point, the crowd was so thick it was hard to move, and the smell of spilled beer and clove cigarettes was once again reminding me of a high school party. Ah, youth.

The Zoovy table was the place to be if you wanted killer fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. They even had a Kramer look-alike helping to work the crowd, rounding up people to come learn more about Zoovy’s quick and easy ways to get you and your products online. Hey, I’ll do anything for a hot cookie.

I also enjoyed the CD with cool music that I got from Mark Drozda, managing director of Big Bang Idea Engineering, a full service brand communications agency. Definitely a kinder gift than a 7,000 calorie cookie…and just as tasteful.

Benjamin Katz, founder and CEO of was feeling no pain when I found him next to the bubble machine. Dressed in a loud Hawaiian shirt and a big smile, Benjamin told me that his days in suits are over, which seemed to be the theme among the other attendees as well. Dodging flying balsawood airplanes and a big bouncing beach ball, I moved over to the safety of the Divine table and met Thomas Rice and Jonathon Gallagher, both with Divine. Their company offers Web-based software solutions, services, and managed applications worldwide, and it has seen rapid growth in the past year despite the economy. Because they are doing so well, I took three of the groovy pens they were handing out instead of just one. Divine has just five people here in the San Diego office, but over 4,000 employees internationally. The company is based in Chicago, and was launched in 1999.

And as if the Big eSchmooze were not enough, the next night found me at the happening Studio 5th Avenue, talking with club owner and successful online entrepreneur Dirk Roach. Dirk’s art is sold only through the internet at PopNoir and we talked about the various ways he markets his website that makes it so popular, especially in Europe.

I also talked with a young man who is currently at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) studying cognitive science. According to him, there are some exciting things going on in the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at UCSD, including development of a real-time brain computer interface. Hard to get a real fix on what he was saying over the loud disco music, but I caught something about computers and bouncing balls, which sounded pretty cool!

Until next time!