IN THE BEGINNING
Somehow, I knew intuitively the Internet was the future as soon as I heard about it in the mid-90s. But what was it? News media were no help. Business friends thought I was crazy. Except one, a former client of my management consulting firm named Laura Berland. She had become an entrepreneur and was in the process of co-founding Orb, one of the first interactive ad agencies. She and her partner needed a business plan, which I undertook. Further, she could get me comped to some of the conferences. That’s where I learned and learned and learned – about technology and about the Internet – and where I found new friends galore, friends who did not think I was flakey because they too got it about the Internet.
Orb kept morphing – we call it pivoting today – and that was something new in strategic planning. Another learning experience. Laura then referred me to a friend who was also an early Internet entrepreneur. He too needed a business plan, and I obliged. One person led to another, and I became Queen of the Business Plan for technology and Internet entrepreneurs.
Also in the mid-90s, I had a call from a member of the MIT Enterprise Forum of NYC board. She was trying to put together an expo as part of an Enterprise Forum event that would feature a satellite broadcast by someone we’d never heard of who claimed he’d invented the Internet – and he had. That’s how we learned about Tim Berners-Lee.
My role in organizing the expo became so intense – and the expo was a great success – that I became a member of the board of the Enterprise Forum, which was doing great technology events but had no outreach to anyone knowledgeable about the Internet. So thanks to my new friends, I was able to recruit a network of about 22 volunteers and to organize planning teams of 6-8. We did fabulous events. And I learned and learned and learned!
Jerry Rubin had launched awareness of “networking” in the late 80s, but it was Burt Alimansky who took it to new heights for those of us involved in technology and the internet – entrepreneurs, investors, bankers, executives of major corporations and service providers. He did it by organizing and running the New York Venture Group, a series of monthly seminars, where major thought leaders spoke, often on panels, and the rest of us networked and learned. So many new ideas! So many new friends – many of them still friends today!
Burt also ran a series of business plan events at the Harvard Club, where a panel of experts critiqued technology and Internet business plans. An amazing learning experience! A great source of new friends!
Through it all I remember a blonde kid pulling a wagon of stenciled newsletters – not photocopied, mimeographed, really old technology! The kid was Jason Calacanis, aged 26 (he looked younger), and the newsletter was one of the first two Internet and technology print publications: Silicon Alley Reporter. Before long, it was a handsome, bound magazine on glossy stock. Jason also pioneered Internet “radio,” for which he hosted a weekly show. I know because I was a guest on that show. We “broadcast” from a glass studio in the center of a Soho loft that housed Pseudo on Friday night with a wild party of stoned entrepreneurs raging around us. Jason went on to pioneer blog networks and become a thought leader, entrepreneur and angel investor.
The other ground-breaking print publication was AlleyCat News, founded by Janet Stites and Anna Wheatley, the first medium in any format to focus on venture capital opportunities in technology and the Internet. I was proud to author an article for them.
During the same years, I was introduced to the WWWAC Biz Sig (pronounced WACK-BIZ-SIG for World Wide Web Artists Consortium Business Special Interest Group). We met weekly at Lubin Auditorium in the East 60s – techie developers and entrepreneurs – and we explained ourselves and our insights about technology and the Internet. I was invited to speak about strategic planning for the Internet on a panel that included Ben Boissevain, and soon he and I became partners in E-Technologies Associates, LLC, a boutique SEC-licensed investment bank that specialized in technology and the Internet.
It was a thrilling time – a wonderful beginning! And yes, the beginning of the future!