By Nicole Jordan, LA Correspondent
I think I picked up a pair of rose-colored glasses somewhere along the way after I left SV. On my recent trip up to attend DJ’s Consumer Technology Innovations
blowhard-gathering conference, I was reminded of very specific things I had grown to despise during my time there.
I could go into much detail and story telling about my experience at the conference itself and specific attendees but I won’t. I will hold my tongue, or fingers as it may be.
I am blonde (ish) and some would say have a bubbly (ish) personality. I am clearly in the marketing field. I have no illusions that it’s obvious. Attending this conference reminded me that in SV, if you’re PR or marketing at one of these events, and unless you’re with Facebook, or some such “media-favored” golden child, you are quickly passed off as a poor time investment. I had completely forgotten the feeling of being in the middle of that inaccessible superior vibe that only SV has. I suddenly missed, and appreciated that much more, the easy-going, nice-to-meet-you energy LA’s got going on. Down here, friendly people want to talk to everyone despite what’s on their nametag.
I met a few nice people that didn’t react with total boredom or irritation when I asked what their company did and why they were attending. They answered questions and asked what I did, we traded cards, etc. It was pleasant. But, alas, they were the minority.
If I had put the name of another company I work with on my tag I would have been treated completely different. (It’s true. I’ve seen it in action. It’s amazing the conversations I’ve crashed.) In fact, when I mentioned the name of said company in response to a half-interested question posed by a half-interested participant he instantly snapped to attention with an, “Oh, really?” He was suddenly much more present. I was suddenly much less interested. I’m pretty sure he gave me his card but I doubt I still have it.
One engaging fellow was Mahesh Lalwani from ccube.com, an online company that “provides personal pirvacy solutions for the Web that enable you to amke and receive free nationwide Instant Calls (IC) to and from any phone, without revealing personal numbers. One example he gave was needing to connect with someone on Craigslist to pick up concert tickets at the venue. You may not want to share your personal information and this helps connect you while it protects you. Hmm. Anonymous connecting without revealing personal contact numbers? I can only imagine the many creative uses this will be put to.
I also met a man from Polaroid (as in snap, snap not some trendy upstart VC firm) who flew halfway across the U.S. to attend. What were they doing here? Especially since this guy does product planning for CE trends around non-camera products? (Polaroid makes TV’s? I might have just found my new Plasma.) He saw some online photo stuff in the breakouts that looked interesting for another department but other than that it was a bust for him. “Why did you come?” I asked. “CES seems more up your alley.”
He says, “Oh, you know. The boss reads the WSJ every day and kept seeing it advertised so he told me to come…”
The third nice person was William Moore with Radiotime, a TV guide for all types of radio (AM, FM, web, etc.) They aggregate all the content and then make it easy for listeners to find. It’s a good distribution channel for broadcast and advertisers who want to target ads. They launched in 2005 and have secured 2.5M in funding from ICCP Venture Partners, New Venture Club and Start-up Capital Ventures. He flew in from Dallas only because he’d set-up meetings on site.
One guy I was trying to talk with (an investor) was rolling his eyes at me while asking if I was a reporter “or something” because I was scribbling his curt replies in my Moleskin. (Hey, he wasn’t giving me anything else to work with.)
“Hmm something like that,” I say. “Like Paris Hilton?” he asked. “Uh. No.” I answered. He did not take kindly to the tone of my reply. I did not take kindly to the question, which was both nonsensical and offensive at the same time. His approach quickly changed later on once he realized I was working at the company he wanted to talk to…It went a little like this:
My company CEO walked up to me, and the investor looked at HIS nametag and said, “I’ve been wanting to talk to your company! You’re my favorite one at this show! I’ve been trying to find you.” CEO pointed at me with a confused look to which said investor turned to which I pointed at my nametag and said, “You were talking to xxxx.” He let out what sounded like an, “Oh!” as he hadn’t bothered once during our painful 6-minute conversation to even look at my nametag. I excused myself.
I wasn’t even going to write about being there but I was so bothered by the experience I had to. To issue a public reminder of basic rules of business and marketing for those who have have become blinded by their own importance. This new generation of aggressive technology business leaders are multi-taskers. You never know what ALL that person you’re talking to is up to, or who they know (Example: One super-connected friend of mine has a day job at a MAJOR e-commerce company and three start-up projects on the side.) Judging a person, their unfamiliar company name on the sticker (if you bother to look at all,) and quickly assuming they can’t be of benefit to you and proceeding to be an arrogant
jackass person is not the way to make friends and influence people. But, hey, maybe that’s just me. But I will tell you this, the best business people I know are the ones that are open to seeing where new connections lead. The type of people that have not lost sight of the importance of continuing to network no matter how “big” you get. Too bad the door is shut for many people I met that day. And I’ll remember. I wrote the names down.
And, that’s really it. I wanted to talk to more people but it was difficult since it was a total ghost town after the lunch with Big Walt got out. The sessions were embarrassingly sparse. Ah well, on to the next. At least I got to enjoy the fun side of the Bay that weekend as I was up for a friend’s private party held at a start-up that doesn’t want anyone to know about it yet. How Valley.
Story time: Had similar experiences to what I described? Developed survival tips you can offer newbies walking into these kind of environment for the first time? Share it.