Rain fell in sheets outside Bobbie Kilberg's McLean home last Thursday as the very important people of the local tech community filled her expansive halls. No letup was in sight, but at the stroke of 6:30, when the house couldn't hold another body, the sun broke through and the margarita machine was fired up.
Kilberg, president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, was not about to let Mother Nature interfere with her big bash.
The NVTC's Hot Ticket Awards party at the Kilberg residence has become one of the most spirited events of the year. September through May, tech professionals who are regulars on the circuit sometimes run out of small talk because they see so much of each other. But during the summer hiatus, this party is a welcome reunion.
Sure, there is talk of fundings and mergers and customer wins, but most of the conversation is focused on vacation plans and Kilberg's pool. The fashion gauntlet was thrown down last year by Robert Dinkel, a senior vice president of Computer Associates, whose flashy Hawaiian shirt was captured on the pages of this newspaper.
He'll be the first to tell you he started a trend.
"This is Bob-inspired," said Gary G. Pan, president of Arlington-based Panacea Consulting Inc., after he was marched over by Dinkel to display the floral shirt and safari hat he described as "cruise chic."
A final ripple of thunder sounded just as Kilberg took the microphone for the announcement of the Hot Ticket award winners. Yes, the party does have a raison d'etre, though the rowdy few clinging to the bar at the back of the patio might not have noticed.
The Hot Ticket titles go to companies whose profiles have risen over the past year as they completed interesting deals or raised impressive amounts of funding. One simply goes to the company with the "hottest buzz." Columbia-based SourceFire Inc., which sells network-security technology and became a darling of the industry's trade publications this year, took that prize.
There were so many guests, Kilberg had to arrange to have people park in a remote lot and be shuttled through the neighborhood to her home. Shuttle driver Pete Sugg described the crowd as jovial, but "shy about tipping."
Hmmm . . .
Landing a Legend
Mobile 365 Inc., the Chantilly start-up that carries text messages between wireless companies, just scored a big win.
The company plans to announce today that technology legend Michael A. Daniels will become chairman of its board of directors.
Daniels is a longtime executive of Science Applications International Corp. who became best known for shepherding Network Solutions Inc. through its rise to Internet fame. Network Solutions, which managed domain names, raised $779 million in a secondary offering in 1999 and was sold to VeriSign Inc. in 2000 for $19.6 billion.
After selling Network Solutions, Daniels went back to SAIC until 2004, when he decided to become a consultant to smaller tech companies.
"Once the word gets out that you're not working full time . . . you just literally have an onslaught from all of our high-tech sectors, and they want you to do everything -- be in venture capital, boards, private equity," Daniels said.
At Mobile 365, Daniels will be responsible for recruiting new board members and helping set the company's strategy. He said he chose the firm because he was intrigued by the wireless industry and thinks the six-year-old company has the potential for significant growth.
"Mobile 365 has a clear opportunity and a pretty clear path to be the leader," Daniels said.
Hail to the Queen
People call Dolores K. Ebert many things.
Some refer to her as the "Queen of Government Contract Placements." Others know her as the "CFO Lady." Some just call her "the Icon."
For 27 years, Ebert has been placing technology, finance and government contracting professionals in jobs around the Beltway. She also has been shaking hands and telling stories at just about every networking event within 60 miles of Washington.
In May, Ebert sold Atlas Agency, the placement firm her parents founded in 1940. But she's far from disappearing from the scene. Ebert, 74, still works six-day weeks as a consultant and squeezes in breakfast meetings and cocktail receptions.
"You have to stand near Dolores, partly because she's two feet shorter than you are, but mostly because she draws you in with her own brand of charm," said Ardell Fleeson, director of federal business development at Appian Corp. and a master networker herself.
Ebert's father was a jazz drummer who founded Atlas -- named after the Atlas building at Ninth and F streets NW that now houses the International Spy Museum -- as a placement agency for bands looking for jobs around town.
The firm eventually expanded to place accountants and administrative assistants. Dolores Ebert took over in 1978, and she quickly became fascinated by the government contracting industry.
"First it's like going someplace with a different language," she said. So in the early 1980s, Ebert signed up for a course at Montgomery College on how to win government contracts, declared herself an expert in the industry and spent the next two decades speaking in acronyms like the federal contracting executives she was serving.
Ebert said none of her five children has any interest in the staffing industry, so she sold the business to Elise Ambrose, who also owns Bethesda-based Elite Personnel. Ambrose said she bought the 65-year-old firm on the sole condition that Ebert stay on.
"I wouldn't have bought it without her. . . . She's absolutely remarkable," Ambrose said.
Ebert's father accompanied his daughter to networking events until just weeks before his death at age 94. And for now, at least, she expects no letup in her own busy schedule.
"I just love it," she says.
Ellen McCarthy writes about the local tech scene every Thursday. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.