Is this possible? A lovely Saturday outing with a banker, a lawyer and an executive recruiter?
Such gatherings have indeed been happening all summer long as a trio of local tech service types schmooze with clients and would-be customers on the high seas--well, the Chesapeake Bay.
Jane-Scott Cantus, managing director of the Vienna office of headhunting firm Christian and Timbers, had been saying that area tech executives just don't have enough fun. So she and Tom Hicks, a technology lawyer at Greenberg Traurig, and Suzanne Richardson, president of the FBR.com unit of investment bank Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc., have been taking local techie business prospects for rides on Hicks's 44-foot sloop, the Moon Song.
They push off on Saturday mornings from Annapolis; eat, drink and chat through the afternoon; then head back and dock for cocktails around 5.
"This community is extremely adept at networking," says Cantus. But life should be more than PowerPoint presentations and rubber-chicken dinners in hotel ballrooms: "We don't play together as a community."
Sailing guests have included Phillip Merrick, chief executive of Fairfax technology firm webMethods Inc.; Kathy Clark, CEO of Reston's Landmark Systems Corp.; and Mike Selfridge, who does local technology banking for Silicon Valley Bank.
Selfridge, who was on the most recent voyage on Saturday, said it's hard to measure how much new business the trip will generate. But he said he's much more likely to recommend recruiters, lawyers and investment bankers he knows and likes, and he got to know the three much better during the trip. "We talked a couple of deals, and then it was social," he says.
Selfridge says he likes to sail but doesn't understood the lingo. "I was the Gilligan of the trip," he says.
Hicks, the captain, says that after the sail, an address list is sent around so everyone can keep in touch. "We're hopefully getting people together to build business," he says. Regardless, "we're having a hell of a lot of fun with it."
Sometime this month, they plan to charter an additional boat or two for an overnight reunion sail of all the summer's guests. Next, Cantus wants to have a tech "battle of the bands," pitting the numerous musicians in the industry against one another. That one might happen on land.
Walk into the Arlington headquarters of Foofoo.com, the new luxury-lifestyle Web site, and the first person you meet might hold up a small black plastic backpack and ask, "Do you think this is Foofoo?"
Some things are Foofoo; some are not. Some people are Foofoo, and some are completely un-Foofoo.
In an Internet business market of discounts and super-savings, Foofoo (www.foofoo.com) is positioning itself as a site where people are willing to pay more for a little luxury. French milled soap instead of Ivory--an island vacation, a gourmet spice, a perfect shade of lipstick.
Chief executive Connie Ling says she's spent a lot of time looking for and not finding what she wanted to buy on the Internet. And she figures there are lots like her, people who will be willing to pay more to get what they want.
"Look at the economy now," says Lynn Volz, Foofoo's director of business development. "No one is tapping into the non-bargain-basement approach."
Foofoo, now with about 15 employees, hopes to make money by taking a cut from sales and striking advertising partnerships. It's been running full-page ads with some magazine partners, such as Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure.
The site wants to be the first to tell you what's hot, like $335 Pashmina scarves (from Himalayan goats). Foofoo thinks its target market wants Palm hand-held computers, golf clubs, expensive chocolates and champagne, too, and all are for sale on the site.
Not handled well, this site could otherwise be known as Pretentious.com. Even Ling admits many people are put off by the company's name.
But the Foofoo people try to strike a balance between making fun of themselves and their customers. A preachy, lengthy online description of what is and isn't Foofoo ends with: "All of the above is crap. You're foofoo if you indulge in all the best of what life has to offer."
One of Foofoo's partners is another new local lifestyle Web site, nHabit.com, an online home-furnishings store scheduled to launch in mid-September. Alexandria-based nHabit was created by Roger Horchow, known to furniture junkies as the founder of the Horchow Collection, and by William Winburn, founder of Net site CityLynx Main Street.
Of course, by now you've registered your name as a .com domain or bought it from your friendly neighborhood extortionist/cybersquatter. Or at least thought about it.
But online identity aficionados are about to get a big new opportunity. One of the best-kept secrets about America Online's version 5.0 software, due out this fall, is that it's built around screen names of up to 16 characters, rather than today's 10-character limit. I've been trying out the software and there's now a new, formerly impossible name registered, shannonhenry.
Actually, although AOL has kept it quiet, if you go to keyword "names" on 4.0 now, you can already add a 16-character name. Jane Lennon at AOL says customers wanted longer handles to be able to use their whole names and to have more distinct identities. "They want something more personal." I've got to say, my name in its right order feels better than the old
Send tips and tales of the digital capital's local people, deals and events to Shannon Henry at email@example.com.
TechThursday columnist Shannon Henry will host a live Web chat today at 1 p.m. with Rob McGovern, chief executive of Careerbuilder.com, about the online market for jobs.