October 2008

When I lived in Germany back in 2003, I worked on a project with a large Japanese automaker that was also producing a brand new type of photovoltaic cell.  They wanted to know whether it made sense to launch it in Germany or California first.  At the time, I didn’t know much about solar energy and certainly didn’t expect Germany to be a leader in solar, since it’s not like I was getting much of a tan while living in Munich.  As it turns out, Germany has been at the forefront of solar and other forms of renewable energy and eco-friendly initiatives for years.  So it wasn’t a surprise when Wellington Partners told us about their newest partner, Christian Reitberger, who just joined the firm’s CleanTech team.  Christian has a long heritage of experience in the category and has also been angel investing in recent years.

The CleanTech space is certainly interesting and renewable energy and sustainability have now become mainstream themes in the US – indeed we can’t even turn on the TV or read the news without seeing Obama and McCain remind us how important it is to our future.

Wellington has been investing in CleanTech since 2002 and currently counts four companies in their CleanTech portfolio.  We’re looking forward to learning about new additions as the team reviews the significant opportunities available.

hubworld.jpgOn Wednesday, Oct. 22nd, Metaplace announced they have changed their name from Areae to Metaplace – something much easier to say, spell and remember!  But the big news is they have raised an additional $6.7 million from existing investors Crescendo and CRV, and new investors Marc Andreesen and Ben Horowitz.  Additionally, Metaplace also moved from private alpha status to a phased invite-only beta opening of their site – providing codes to select blogs to offer out to their users.   As Raph Koster, CEO of Metaplace stated, “In the coming years, as virtual places become a standard element of the Web, alongside text, audio, images, and video, Metaplace will be the engine that enables the transformation.”  We’re looking forward to seeing the new and exciting ways people will use Metaplace to create virtual book clubs, town halls, games, gatherings and conversations.

046 This morning I headed over to the private club The Hospital to meet up with Raph of Metaplace and meet others attending the VWF “Unplugged” version of the conference.  Groups of people gathered together to talk about subjects and themes near to their heart while film crews buzzed around interviewing some of the speakers.  Despite being dealt a unlucky blow, the organizers rallied to pull together a lively discussion with about 100 people.

I also discovered Raph is an avid photographer and walker, as he walked half of London on his first day here.  Above is a shot of me taking a photo of him taking a photo of London from the London Bridge.

037While the formal agenda has been scuttered due to the last-minute cancellation of the venue, the SXSW event still took place last night for a bit of mixing and mingling, and the conference itself is regrouping today at the private networking club, The Hospital, for impromptu gatherings and discussions. The media will also be there filming and interviewing, so despite the bad luck, business carries on.  Now if only the rain would be rescheduled…

After a delayed flight from SFO via United Airlines, I just landed in London two hours ago, as I’m here to attend the Virtual World Forum with Raph Koster, the CEO of Metaplace.  Incredibly, we just received an email from the organizers of the event saying the conference has been regrettably canceled due to a crime that took place at the venue.  With this short notice, a new venue could not be secured.  Wow, I’ve never been in this position before… a transcontinental flight; an agenda all set around a conference; and an abrupt end following months of preparation.  More to come…

008 Yesterday I attended OMW with James Chong and Irene Owyang-Lim of Wigix as James was presenting a speech on the significance of community and community-building in e-commerce.  He made an interesting point in noting that the original idea of community on the internet actually started long before the days of Facebook, MySpace and social networking.  Indeed, the first vibrant communities on the internet were the streams of commentary and congregation around stocks.  What people needed to find one another in the early days of the internet, were common themes of interest where they could share ideas, rumors, and opinions.  What better draw than a stock symbol for a company?  The stock symbol acted as a beacon to draw people together and millions flocked to read and post their opinions and ideas during the fledging days of community.  Nowadays, community abounds on the internet – indeed every site that either provides content or commerce needs community in order to thrive.  Wigix is a marketplace driven by the community – a site where users can post items for sale, items that they have they might sell later, search for manuals about products, ask other “experts” about their thoughts on a product.  Just as the financial communities gathered around a stock ticker symbol, the community in Wigix can gather around a SKU or individual product.  For example, a page on the iPhone lists various iPhones for sale by multiple people, discussions about the iPhone, reviews and manuals.  Community, commerce and content can all be found in one place on Wigix.

KTVU

While Consort Partners is in the business of providing strategic advice to our clients, including how to solidly position their companies to the press and offer great quotes and soundbites, every now and then, I also find myself on the hotseat, taking questions from reporters. In this case, it happened on the streets of San Francisco.

Last night we met Andrea and Stefan Heuer for dinner, but beforehand wanted to catch the Vice Presidential debates.  The only place we found where the TV screens were projecting the debate was the Chieftans Irish Pub so we squeezed in and soaked in the atmosphere as the crowd booed and cheered the various responses.  Afterward, I was asked by reporter John Sasaki of KTVU Channel 2 to comment on the debate. I thought I’d say something that nobody else would probably say.. well, anyway, it made for a soundbite that I’m getting ribbed for today… Here’s the link to the video:  Debate Reactions