Posts Tagged ‘DNC’

Democratic National Convention Photo Stream

September 2, 2008

[Outside the Pepsi Center with downtown Denver in background.]

[Main entrance to Pepsi Center.]

[Lobby of the Pepsi Center.]

[Qwest engineers in the surrogate communications data center they set up. Notice the wood floor they preconstructed since bolts were not allowed in the floors.]

[On floor of Pepsi Center during roll call with Hillary Clinton putting Obama over the top of the nomination.]

[Journalists watching Hillary Clinton speech in media tent.]


Rocky Mountain High Tech

August 31, 2008

When you think of Colorado, startups and venture capital don’t come to mind. Snow-capped mountains, Birkenstock-clad hippies, and the Denver Broncos are more like it.

So it came as a pleasant surprise when I met Colorado-based venture capitalist Seth Levine during the Democratic National Convention. Patrick Ward, a New York transplant who founded tech PR firm 104 West Partners in Denver, was nice enough to set up a meeting with Levine and I at the swanky Capital Grille in the city’s attractive downtown district.

[Driving to Denver from the airport, a few miles outside of town.]

By the time lunch ended, I came away with the impression that Colorado had a lot more going on technology-wise than I realized, and I think it’s role will only grow in the future as the New West takes on an increasingly prominent role in the tech economy. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who was quite active during the DNC, is trying to position his state as a leader in developing a post-fossil-fuel economy. (Ryan Lizza’s feature in The New Yorker, “The Code of the West,” is required reading that nails why the West is becoming an growing force in green energy and Democratic politics.)

Last year, Levine and a few of his associates split off from Mobius Venture Capital (they are closing out the management of one Mobius fund, though) and launched Foundry Group from Boulder, Colorado. Yes, that Boulder. The rustic foothill town where poet Allan Ginsberg set up Buddhist-inspired Naropa University, and hippies ruled the earth. When I drove cross country in 1990 and stopped in Boulder I don’t recall seeing one computer in the whole patchouli-smelling town.

Now, Levine tells me that over the last 15 years Boulder has become a bit of a tech hotbed. His best argument: After acquiring @Last Software in 2006, a Boulder-based software company, Google recently set up an office in town with 200 people, Levine is proud to tell me.

“Entrepreneurs got their feet wet during the 1990s,” says Levine. “There were a few home runs. Today, there is a good and steady stream of solid technology assets coming out of the area.” Among the big wins: In 1999 Exodus Communications acquired Service Metrics for $280 million, and in 2004 IAC acquired ServiceMagic for reportedly several hundred million.

[Denver from the 50th floor of the Qwest building with the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field in the foreground.]

Foundry Ventures is one of a new breed of back-too-basics VC firms that are focused on funding early-stage tech startups. By the end of 2007, the firm had raised an impressive $225 million, $50 million more than its initial fund-raising target. Foundry’s strategy is to invest in certain themes. Its top themes are human computer interaction, gaming and infrastructure software.

In addition to Foundry, Boston-native Levine noted that Colorado boasts several area VC firms, including Boulder Ventures, Vista Ventures, High Country Venture and two older Denver-based firms, Centennial Ventures and Meritage Funds.

Besides a growing pool of venture capital, Colorado also enjoys some of the other key ingredients for creating a Silicon Valley-like economy: several good universities, a rising number of entrepreneurs, an appealing climate and lifestyle, and hub of larger established tech companies, including Qwest Communications, Echostar, Level III, and the former TCI.

To nurture the entrepreneurial community, last year Foundry helped launch TechStars, a Colorado-based tech incubator. Among the first class, says Levine, seven of the 10 companies that participated received some type of funding.

If you want to learn more about the Colorado venture scene, a good place to start is Venture Capital in the Rockies (VCIR), a conference that has been running for 26 years. Next spring, in the mountains at Beaver Creek, Colorado, about 20 startups will be there to tell their stories, along with a great cast of speakers and moderators. Not bad, eh?

Celebrity Sightings at the DNC

August 28, 2008

Yesterday, I checked out the TechNet party at Rioja on Larimer Street, just a few blocks away from the Pepsi Center. It was jam packed and drew an A-list crowd.

I walked in and was happy to see my old co-conspirator Jonah Seiger, who runs his own interactive political consulting firm Connections Media LLC. Jonah introduced me to Chad Hurley, the co-founder of YouTube. Then I met Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly, and bumped into Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who I came to know by writing a story about his ambitious plans to fight crime with cutting edge technology.

My friend Patrick Ward, who founded and runs the Denver-based tech pr firm 104 West Partners, said he saw Charlize Theron at Elway’s steak house. “The whole restaurant turned and looked at her when she walked in,” said Patrick.

In the afternoon, while getting a tour of the Pepsi Center, I saw ABC’s Jeff Greenfield and CBS’s Bob Schieffer, who was very short. Outside the media tent, Jim Lehrer pulled up in his gold cart while I was smoking a cigarette.

And today my BusinessWeek colleagues said T. Boone Pickens made an appearance at the Big Tent, talking about his alternative energy plans. It’s the latest sign of the increasing power of bloggers, who are making a very strong showing at this convention. In many ways, one of the big stories of the convention is the rise of the blogger.

Wiring the Democratic National Convention

August 28, 2008

Telecommunications is one of those industries that many people take for granted. People expect their phone lines, TVs and Internet connections to work. It’s only when they don’t that people raise a stink. The upside of this is that it reflects the increasing importance of communications. It’s becoming like air or water or oil, a vital resource that we can’t live without.

But at the Democratic National Convention, the normally invisible communications infrastructure was made visible. That’s because the normal pipes and wires would not be able to handle all the communications needs of the 15,000 members of the media that have descended on Denver this week. Making phone calls, broadcasting TV and publishing Internet content required the installation of 6,000 new voice and data lines. And for that, you can thank Denver-based Qwest Communications, which is wiring the DNC (and the Republican National Convention next week.)

The crazy thing is that Qwest had to donate $6 million in services to the Democratic National Committee to earn the right to become the “Official Telecommunications Provider” of the DNC.

Why would Qwest fork over a $6 million in-kind donation for such an honor? The answer is that the company is taking a modest but calculated risk that providing communications services to the DNC is a great marketing and branding event that could generate new contracts in its corporate and government lines of business–the main source of growth for the company. Already, Qwest is making money by charging thousands of media organizations thousands of dollars for their Internet and phone connections. But the real payoff could come down the line if corporate and government customers hire Qwest for more extensive work in the future.

“This really demonstrates the capacity of Qwest,” says Robert D. Tregemba, Qwest executive vice president of network operations. “The strategy was to showcase that piece.”

So far, the reviews have been positive. While some people have complained about poor Internet connections in Denver hotels and cafes, most journalists I spoke to said the DNC’s communications services have been working pretty well. Phone calls are going through, blog entries are posting and TV shows are going live without a hitch.

It’s a pretty impressive feat of engineering that the company has been preparing for over the last 18 months. Besides the 6,000 voice and data lines, Qwest built a network operating center in the bowels of the Pepsi Center, laid fiber optic cable underground in the parking lot to wire the media tents and power several cell phone towers, and installed data and voice ports for each state delegation on the convention floor.

The really tricky part: Several weeks ago Barack Obama announced he was moving his keynote speech from the Pepsi Center to Invesco Field, and Qwest has had to scramble to wire a totally new site at the last minute. We’ll see Thursday night if Qwest pulled off this minor miracle.

Another challenge was security. To protect the network and physical site, Qwest worked with the Secret Service. Qwest engineers told me they foiled one hacker yesterday who tried to break in to the convention network through the DNC Web site.

The 3,300 miles of fiber and 140 miles of copper and coaxial cable Qwest installed provide enough Internet bandwidth to support 180,000 homes with a 20 megabyte connection and phone service for more than 200,000 homes, according to R. Dayl White, a Qwest engineer who designed and oversaw the construction of the network.

And it all has to be taken apart in two days after the DNC closes. Doh!

Denver, Baby

August 26, 2008

FYI: I am heading to Denver today to attend the Democratic National Convention.

If any readers are there, please ping me via the blog or email. Maybe we can connect in the Big Tent!?!

While checking out the convention, I will also be meeting with executives from Qwest, local venture capitalists and a few old friends and colleagues.

It’s not quite Burning Man or Chicago ’68 but I think it should be interesting, with all the historical uniqueness and drama swirling around the Pepsi Center.