Tuesday, September 25, 2001

The Cyber Scene in San Diego ~ by Lilia Phleger Benjamin

It appears that things are moving forward again after such a tragic past few weeks. While initially the talk was of the horrific events, now conversations at networking events and business meetings seem to be focused on how we are going to keep afloat in the economy. As can be expected, entrepreneurs with start-ups and those employed in the tech fields are most concerned.

It was a topic I discussed with Jeffrey Starr of Mission Ventures, whom I met at a recent TiE San Diego meeting in La Jolla. According to Jeffrey, Mission Ventures http://www.missionventures.com is still looking for the next great thing, despite the economy; however, they seem to be doing a lot of "hand-holding and refocusing right now." We spoke too of the trend to take advantage of this downtime by attending programs designed to assist the entrepreneur and technology worker - programs like the TechNetEd series at the San Diego Regional Technology Alliance (SDRTA) http://www.sdrta.org/, the eSeries by the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) http://www.fwe.org/socal/, the SCORE programs, and university based programs like the SDSU College of Extended Studies http://www.ces.sdsu.edu/. When all is said and done, San Diego should have one of the most educated and well-prepared workforces at the ready!

Speaking of TiE San Diego http://www.tiesandiego.org/, I was once again struck by what a great group this is when I attended their September 25th chapter meeting. All proceeds from the event went directly into a Red Cross relief fund, and the meeting itself of over 60 people began with a full minute of silence. Chapter president Suren Dutia also made mention of one of their members who had moved to New York City just days before the attack in order to begin his job at the WTC on September 10th. The loss of this young man, newly married, deeply affected Dutia and TiE San Diego.

The speaker of the evening was Arjun Malhotra, chairman and CEO of TechSpan http://www.techspan.com/ on the topic The Current Economic Slowdown: Threat or Opportunity for Entrepreneurs? I had the opportunity to speak to Malhotra prior to the presentation, which gave me a chance to hear about how he and five of his friends started the first "garage computer company" in India in 1975. Armed with pooled finances of about $17,500 and working in his grandmother's attic (the Indian version of garage), the team started Hindustan Computing Ltd (HCL)-which is now the largest IT company in India worth billions of dollars and employing 8,000 worldwide.

His words of advice to the attendees were short but sweet:
-Recruit people who are smarter than you
-Listen to the people you hire
-Train your sales force to be business consultants, selling the solution and not the product

I also met Ajay Shah, the CEO of Hindunet http://www.hindunet.org/ which is now based in San Diego. In 1998 and 1999 Hindunet, a portal for Indian websites, gained attention for being one of the top 100 sites in the world.

One of the greatest things about the Tie San Diego meetings is the food. A full dinner and happy hour appetizers are catered by the famous Star of India restaurant http://www.starofindia.com/, and I happen to know that the food is one of the reasons that these meetings are so popular!

I also spoke briefly with Shabnam Miglani, who with her husband recently sold Softprose, Inc., a company creating software for the digital television industry. Now they are bootstrapping a new company that will provide digital engineering services for the same industry.

If you want to get a full dose of TiE (The Ind-US Entrepreneurs), plan on attending their upcoming annual conference called TiECON 2001, taking place on Saturday October 27th. It looks to be a very interesting and well-attended event!

I got a call the other day from Nancy Clark, CEO of WomensMedia.com http://www.womensmedia.com/. They are in the process of finalizing plans with Coaching.com, part of the Ken Blanchard group of companies, to collaborate on online training programs…a great market to get into now that business travel is cutting back. Clark has assembled a strong team of advisors and strategic partners, and is now seeking additional funding to complete the software development.

Another woman making waves here in San Diego is Carol Fuller, CEO of start-up Celyx, a an optical communications company creating optical and electronic interfaces for computer networks. Over the last three years the company has built a strong patent portfolio with nine in total (7 pending), and they are now in the beginning stages of formalizing advisors, engaging customers and raising funds. Fuller can be reached via email at mailto:cefullerceyx@cs.com

Clearly, good things are happening in San Diego!

Until next time!

Lilia Phleger Benjamin is the owner of digitElle, a small public relations agency providing market research, online strategies, and media planning. She is also the co-founder and managing director of Techniquelle, a networking organization for creative and tech-savvy people. Lilia can be reached by email at lilia@digitelle.net.