The last name of Howard Freidman, chief executive of Aptela, a McLean company that sells Web-based telecommunications services, was misspelled in one reference in a July 19 Washington Business article. (Published 7/20/04)
Brian Ware said if he'd stopped at beer number two, his acceptance speech for an award deeming him part of the local tech community's "hottest management team" would have gone on a bit longer.
"Since I had five, I'll keep it short," joked Ware, chief executive of Digital Sandbox Inc., a Reston security software firm.
Brevity was just fine with the 370 technology professionals crowded around the cornflower-blue pool at the McLean home of Northern Virginia Technology Council President Bobbie Kilberg last Thursday evening.
Kilberg's guests weren't really there to hear speeches. They were there to eat hot dogs and potato salad, to indulge in frozen concoctions from a self-serve daiquiri machine, to interrupt the summer's hiatus from networking. And for the first time in a while, many were there to do a bit of bragging.
"I've had interesting conversations with a dozen people, and each one described their business as prospering," said Brain Eckert, vice president of marketing at ObjectVideo, a Reston company that sells video surveillance software.
To a technology community that has been sitting on the threshold of recovery for nearly three years, such displays of puffery are a good sign. The Caribbean-themed party was held to honor five of the Washington area's rising technology stars, a distinction many of the attendees thought their own companies deserved.
"I think everybody's really excited," said Howard Freidman, chief executive of Aptela, a McLean firm that sells telecommunication systems. Friedman, his silver sunglasses perched on his head throughout the evening, angled one hand up in the air and pointed to the base of his wrist to indicate the upward trajectory of the tech economy. "I think we're right there. . . . The market feels like 1995."
Topic A, the icebreaker of the night, was the Kilberg residence, home to a veteran of Republican Party politics who now uses her organizational talent to help steer Northern Virginia's tech community. Settled in a thick patch of colossal trees, the low-slung wooden house, with its expansive windows and rooftop peaks, had the easy feel of an Alpine ski resort. After riding on a shuttle from a nearby elementary school or leaving their keys with one of a dozen valets, guests walked a driveway lined with tiki torches onto a split-level slate patio flanking the house.
"I think Bobbie could actually give Donald Trump a run for his money with this back yard. I think he'd be impressed," quipped Sam Solovey, founder of Potomac Tech Wire and an unsuccessful competitor on the reality business show "The Apprentice," who was the soiree's master of ceremonies.
As the night wore on, pleasantries subsidized and pitching began in earnest. Entrepreneurs guided venture capitalists through the crowd to meet business partners. Job-seekers leaned in to hear details of potential openings. Telecom executives extolled the virtues of their products to anyone who would listen.
Business -- or at least enthusiasm for business -- was back.
"I think we're finding a resurgence of the boom days, of the dot-coms. You can feel it in the air," said Robert Dinkel, senior vice president of Computer Associates.
While no one was thrown into the pool, the intended informality triumphed. Few of the attendees were in ties, and few stayed glued all night to their cell phones.
A blown fuse shut off the lights in her bedroom and raccoons rummaged through the 38 bags of trash left outside her home later that night, but Kilberg deemed the evening a success. It was that rarest of summer evenings in Washington, free of humidity and the threat of rain, and 100 more of the invited tech insiders showed up for the bash this year than last year.
"There is a real sense that deals are being made, that partnerships are being established and that there is a future," Kilberg said. "The enthusiasm for networking has never abated, but the priority that people are placing on it is growing again."