TECHcocktail DC – The DC Tech Scene is definitely back

I have seen my share of networking events. Back during the dotcom era it was full of open bars and crazy companies with the latest software to change your life in some way. Then it was all about buying stuff on the web or a portal for something or another.

After the bubble burst most people were just trying to hold on and all that you had a choice between in the DC area were NVTC (Northern VA Tech Council) and Potomac Officer Club events. NVTC was very government focused and who mostly showed up were service providers (I have the 100’s of insurance and lawyer business cards to prove it). POC events were big events with well known people but not alot of good networking.

One good networking event I liked was the Tech Prayer breakfast but that was only once a year. What most of us were left with was going to conferences, usually not here, to get our networking on and find fellow entrepreneurs and real innovative thinkers.

Lately, there has been a change in the winds here in the DC area. With events like PodCampDC and Social Media Club’s events we are starting to see our cutting edge tech scene finally re-emerge. Last Thursday night it was totally confirmed with the TECH Cocktail DC event. It was held at MCCXXIII (1223) in DC. A swanky place that is over-priced for my usual weekend partying but this event had cheap drinks (thank you drink tickets) and about 300 people.

Below is a picture of the scene at the height of the evening.


While there have been many events that have drawn 400 people, this was different. Almost everyone was doing something startup related that was really cutting edge. There were social media people there (Technosailor and me included), innovative startups and actual investors looking to network.

There were also a great group of sponsors with great products to demo. Here is a great list from Jimmy over at EastCoastBlogging:

AwayFind – a product aimed at helping combat the email problem by letting your contacts get in touch with you via an online form.

iGala – a digital photo frame with a touchscreen interface that connects directly to Flickr and Gmail to stream photos to the frame like a slideshow.

Loladex – offers local recommendations from your trusted network of Facebook friends.

Odeo – launched a new beta verision which offers both search and personalized content (audio and video) recommendations.

Voxant – a free licensed content offering for publishers which offers a pageview based revenue share to anyone that embeds the content on a their site.

WhyGoSolo – a new social networking site aimed at helping you to create spontaneous new connections so, as its name implies, you won’t go solo any longer.

A huge amount of thanks go out to Frank Gruber and Eric Olson who do the TECH Cocktails around the country and they need to do it more than once a year here.

The vibe around this region is changing and since we will never will be Silicon Valley and never want to be, it is fantastic to see that there is a refreshed ecosystem of entrepreneurship here in the region.

Photo courtesy of jgarber

Editor’s Note: Some comments don’t seem to apply to this post as viewers of a show I was on were instructed to leave comments on this blog to get an invite to BrightKite. These comments will be approved but do not necessarily go with this post. Sorry!

PodCamp DC Review

Yesterday, I mentioned that PodCamp DC was happening and it was a successful event, in my books. The organizers worked their tails off to pull off the event, the sessions were great – I’m hearing wonderful feedback from the session hosted by Andy Carvin of NPR and Jim Long (NewMediaJim) from NBC.

PodCamp DC Signage - Technosailor Sponsors!

This is now my third Podcamp (and first one to sponsor). Let me frame my feedback around the pros and cons of the other two, before I explain my feedback surrounding the DC event.

PodCamp Philly

PodCamp Philly was an amazing success. It was the first event I went to and I think a large degree of success came from the venue. It was held at Drexel University and centered around hundreds of square feet of common area. The common area had a Starbucks (where a tab was graciously kept open for most of the day by Comcast), the wifi was working, and we were in walking distance of food and drink. In fact, on Saturday during that event, I spent a significant portion of the day spending time with Viddler and have maintained a great working relationship with them since that day in late September, 2007.

Vibrant Bar Colors

PodCamp Boston 2

As much as I love Chris Penn and Chris Brogan, PodCamp Boston represented epic FAIL in my books. I think both of them would largely agree with me, and little of it was their fault.

Epic FAIL might be a bit harsh. The people were great. But the venue sucked (Boston Convention Center). There was a restaurant in the hotel that was attached to the convention center and a Starbucks across the street. Outside of that, there was very few places to escape to throughout the day. The convention center was so big it was the anti-common meeting area. Too many people came from out of town, myself included. half of the 1300 registrants actually showed up. However, Rule 4 of the Podcamp Tome was revoked – now PodCamps do not have to be free. This was a lesson learned that is valuable and largely an excellent move.

PodCamp DC

PodCamp DC was a one day event. That was a bit bizarre for me, as the other two were two day events. That said, I think one day works. The venue was a horrible spot for a podcamp as there were no open common areas for people to meet, sponsors to setup booths, etc. Everything was spread across classrooms on three different floors which made for a very tiring day.

Geoff Shooting Film

Rosslyn, Virginia is nice, but is truly suburbia hell. PodCamp DC attendees were encouraged not to drive, and in fact, I would have done the same thing. Rosslyn metro access on the orange/blue lines made commuting a breeze. Later in the evening, the after party was held in a place that, while metro accessible, was really only so if you wanted to walk around a traditional suburban mall. Not the kind of place to have an after party when attendees were encouraged to not drive.

That said, it was a wonderful evening topped off by a visit from lifecaster/musician Jody Gnant (ustream), who I shared a special moment with over a shot of tequila. (Not that kind of special moment, mind out of the gutter!)

Added After: I loved the fact that PodCamp DC was largely supported by local people. It’s nice to have folks from out of town, but it’s super nice when our own people got involved, attended, spread the word and boosted the event. Go us.

Joel Mark Witt

I give Podcamp DC the following ratings:

1) Marketing/Message: 6/10
2) Venue: 3/10
3) Pre-party: 6/10
4) After-party: 7/10
5) Speakers: 8/10
6) Support from Rich Media Community: 6/10
7) Organizers: 8/10

Well done, Tammy, Joel and Ernie. Can’t wait for PodCamp DC 2.

Podcamp DC

Podcamp DC is this weekend and Technosailor is a sponsor. I’m a fan of the Podcamp movement, but I’m particularly a fan of them being locally based. Local sponsors, local organizers, local attendees, local issues, etc.

Last year, I drove up 95 to PodCamp Philly (I consider Philly to be relatively local since it is an easy drive away). It was one of the most well organized, community-driven events I had ever attended. I decided to make the jaunt to Boston a month later for PodCamp Boston 2, which in my opinion ended up really sucking.

While I love Chris Brogan and Chris Penn, I think they would agree that 1300+ registrants (only half showed up) was a little much for a “grassroots unconference”. The Boston Convention Center was too big, the meeting rooms were too spacious, etc.

Plus I just had a horrid weekend between travel difficulties and my Macbook dying. Not a good time.

Podcamp DC is here now and I’m excited. I’m excited by having an event here to energize the community. There are already fault lines developing in the business community and I get the sense that people are trying to figure out what the hell is the value of what this community is, especially if real business value has yet to be seen on large scale.

Podcamp is not specific to podcasting and video. It is the collecting point of internet media in a local scene. In fact, I’m venturing to guess that most of the attendees would not fall into the category of podcaster or videocaster, though we’ll certainly have those too.

So, I hope to see you down in DC tonight and tomorrow supporting the local media community!