RealTime IT News

Seattle Learns to Party

SEATTLE -- Obviously, there is no technology shortage here. Youthful former Microsoft employees armed with zillions of dollars play both sides of the VC fence. They may look for clever companies to endow, or they may even start a clever company of their own.

While the area has plenty of money and ideas, there was a notion that something was missing. So a loose group led by Goldman Sachs started a series of events, designed to supply the social aspect of the VC process. Monday night saw the third of these gatherings, which underscored what magazine publishers have known for years: There is nothing better than a pre-qualified readership.

This was pretty straight meet and greet, although past (and future) events will have a theme. The most recent spoofed "The Dating Game," where a lucky company got lunch with a top VC. Next time, they plan to send companies down an elevator with a VC, and they need to make a successful pitch before they get to the lobby.

If they fail, presumably, they won't get to go back to the party.

Of the approximately 500 people who overran the 76th floor of the Columbia Tower Club, approximately half were real-deal VCs, according to sponsor Will Ludlam. Amid the spectacular finger food, sixteen emerging companies showed their wares.

The most interesting:

Cool.com, a colorful online magazine for teenagers which gathers and sells marketing data about this potent consumer group, presumably without violating its privacy;

MuseumArchives, which digitizes the contents of the great museums and libraries, putting them online for all to enjoy (or license);

Turnoffthetv.com, a commerce site that markets games that challenge the adult mind. Here, the promise of a compelling Web site prompted participants to vote the company as its People's Choice.

Prior to the announcement, company VP of sales and operations Mary Allison said, "We are here to get someone interested in doing a due diligence, to show them what we can do. It has been a lot of work getting VCs interested. We are not a pure Web play, which is all a lot of them want to hear about."

Will this recognition make a difference? Four companies have received funding from contacts drawn from these gatherings, which is actually a pretty good ratio ---about two per event.

The value of meet-and-greet, however, can't always be quantified. And this gathering, at least, may mean that Seattle is loosening up. Said Paula Lukoff, CEO of Wholesaleportal.com, a B2b food site, "I get the feeling that a lot of the VCs around here don't take as many risks. They follow trends. And some companies need to get attention elsewhere before they are recognized at home."