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December 18, 2000: The BIGfrontier Millennium Meltdown

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December 18, 2000: The BIGfrontier Millennium Meltdown

TIME: 5-10/ish PM
LOCATION: Drink Nightclub, 702 West Fulton Street, Chicago
ADMISSION: FREE/bring your business card!
ENTERTAINMENT: Robert Cornelius (formerly of Poi Dog Pondering) and The Robert Cornelius Seven

Sponsors: IBM, Chicagoland Chamer of Commerce, Dotspot, McBride Baker & Coles, Nexiv, Slack Barshinger

Networking - Food - Entertainment - Public Service - AND the first drink's always on us! Tired of the ho-ho hum of office parties and SSDD networking events? Well drop that cheese ball and put on your party hat because this is your official ticket to the BIGGEST blowout-internetworking event of the year! Join the gang from BIGfrontier and about a thousand of your fellow Internet professionals as we kiss Tech Wreck 2000 goodbye and heat up the welcome mat for the second wave of the Internet Revolution!

If you miss this event, you might as well sleep through the rest of the year!
Unveiling of the new BIGfrontier website (powered by Nexiv), and a special gift presentation for the ENTIRE audience by Gerald "Santa Clause" Roper (President and CEO Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce) and Katherine "Mrs. Clause" Gehl (Special Assistant to the Mayor for Technology).

The Tumultuous 2000 Digital Debate featuring The Panel of Power: Ron "The May Report" May, Darcy "I-Street AND The Chicago Sun Times" Evon, Christine "Silicon Prairie" Tatum, Brad "e-prairie" Spirrson AND Mr. David "Chicago Tribune" Greising. The panelists will be answering your "no holds barred" questions on Chicago's tumultuous year in tech.

Press coverage from December 19, 2000: The May Report...

Mark Tebbe was there, so was Bill Lederer, Mark Glennon, Lori Clark, Shaye Mandle, Jerry Roper, Katherine Gehl and about 850 others. More on BigFrontier later. It is 5 a.m. and I have not slept. Christine did try to focus the discussion on constructive solutions, and not on an endless recitation of the problem. hey Cristine, what good is the Trib if we can't mek fun of it....complete report below photo section



Basically I got three scoops tonight at the BigFrontier event.

* Darcy Evon revealed to the room when she spoke on the panel that i-street has bought back the company from divine and that divine no longer has an equity stake in i-street. All I can say is "free at last, free at last, free at last." I am happy for her. The monkey is off their back. Darcy is very happy about it and dated the talks back to March (or May?) of this year. I heard her say that everyone on her board from divine kept getting canned: Linda Litner, Doug Allen and Alex Walker, all from the Partner Development Group. The person who moved things along on this deal was Larry Freedman's replacement at divine as the general counsel, Jude Sullivan. Darcy spoke very highly of him.

After the panel discussion I had Darcy speak into my tape recorder the exact technique by which she regained her company. The following is a verbatim transcription: "We recapitalized i-street so that divine took all of their equity and all of their former Series B investment and recapitalized it to a Series A convertible debt round, which is not really debt and not really equity. It is a technique that was developed on the West Coast for people to put a first round into a company without setting the valuation so that they can attract a real VC firm that would set the valuation, so that i-street can then decide if we want to convert."

I asked if there was another investor involved. Darcy said that "there may be another investor in the future, but I had to get the capital structure straightened out first."

Actually, this technique was a topic of discussion at the conference sponsored by VCapital in the summer and I recall comments on it by Matt McCall and Len Batterson. You may want to check on that conference for more details. There was a pitfall to this technique, but I don't recall right now (4:05 a.m.) what it was.

The legal work for this deal was done by Deborah Gordon at Piper Marberry Rudnick and Wolfe which did the Series B. They did not use Gordon & Glickson which has been Darcy's regular law firm.

* I was talking to Les from e-prairie (the CEO) and a tall guy whose name I forget came over. He was introduced to me as a new writer. The one thing that stood out about him was that he was tall. He told me that he was replacing Brad Spirrison, which shocked me because I did not know that Brad was leaving. Well, it turns out that he is leaving Chicago --- temporarily --- but he is not leaving e-prairie. Here is the deal. Josh Schneider's friend, Jared Schutz (or Polis) of the Blue Mountain family, recently invested some money in e-prairie. I don't know the amount, but it is expected to be announced soon. Jared is from Colorado, and Brad is going to Colorado. Putting two and two together, it is obvious that they want to establish a presence there. Brad is going there for a few months, he later told me, to set it up.

* Todd Allen spoke briefly and announced that he is taking over ChicagoBrainTrust after the first of the year. I did not really hear his talk because, as a panelist, I was making my way to the stage as he spoke. But he ended his talk by throwing some piece of clothing in the air. It looked like underwear to me. I also found out that, as I suspected, the two people behind the ChicagoBrainTrust were Bob Gerometta and Stephen Meade. Now Todd did not say this, but he did say, I heard, that he "won the business" from the previous owners in a poker game. I know that I asked Steve and Bob several times if this thing was their operation and they denied it, but said that they functioned as the ISP for the owners of ChicagoBrainTrust. Well, it turns out that they may have been covering for themselves. Why they would keep it a secret other than to build suspense and interest I do not know. And given just how serious they are, I can't imagine that they would have the time to devote to something like this.

* After the panel, Erica Swerdlow came over to talk to me, Mark Tebbe and a few others. She was clearly agitated and she expressed her concern that David Greising was not treated well enough by the panel. I did not follow her point all that well, but she thought Greising was right and I will ask her to write a clarification.

* I knew this was coming, I knew it Monday when I wrote the remarks about Shaye Mandle and Katherine Gehl. Early in the evening I saw and exchanged pleasant words with Katherine. I must say that she is a person who is very cheerful and spirited. She really enjoyed dressing up in her Santa outfit. Toward the end of the evening, I saw Shaye and we had a pretty good discussion. I will not go into details right now, but suffice it to say that he will be communicating a lot more next year with the tech community by way of TMR, the Coalition website, and other means. He also challenged me not to back away from my comments which I did try to do admittedly. I was doing the usual backpeddling in person and feeling pretty guilty. The problem is this: there are really two issues and we have to keep them separate --- first, what Shaye and the IC do and second, what we know about what they do. Since I have not looked exhaustively at the first, all I can say is that it is really the second that I can say "not much" to. The
tree in the forest problem. They may be doing great things, but if we do not know about them, then... The analogy I like is soap suds: if you can't sell them, it does not matter how much cleaner they will make the clothes. So, there is an interaction between the two. How well you market what you do does at some point become a "perception becomes reality" problem. Shaye acknowledges that.

So, the truth is that I have to do my homework and find out more detail about what they have been doing. As one person put it to me, a lot of the time of Shaye and Katherine in their first year has been "dedicated to cleaning up the mess that Weinstein and Thornton left, for which they have not been held to account." In fact, Weinstein and Thornton have gotten a free ride in public, it was pointed out to me. Assuming that David and Tom did leave a lot of things hanging, like the Skyscraper Fund which cannot be blamed on Katherine Gehl at all, but can be hung on David and Tom directly, then we need to make that clear in public so that Shaye and Katherine are not getting stuck with the mess left by their predecessors. Everyone admits that they did talk a lot more and a lot more loudly than Shaye and Katherine do.

* Mark Tebbe was there, so was Bill Lederer, Mark Glennon, Lori Clark, Shaye Mandle, Jerry Roper, Katherine Gehl and about 850 others. More on BigFrontier later. It is 5 a.m. and I have not slept. Christine did try to focus the discussion on constructive solutions, and not on an endless recitation of the problem. hey Cristine, what good is the Trib if we can't mek fun of it.



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