I have to admit; I miss the days of VON vs. IT Expo vs. just about any other VoIP focused conference. I also miss DEMO, the three-day "what's new" show in tech. Shows like VON were more than "hot rod shows" the term coined by pal Chip Wilcox, the Chief Product Officer at Temasys.
Back in the VON, the bloggers had a panel, which I first suggested to VON leader Jeff Pulver, and that I moderated. I remember the first one, which had Om Malik on via an attempted video feed, Christine Herron who first asked if I was only putting her on stage because she was a woman--no, it's because she is darn smart. There were others like Ted Wallingford, Russell Shaw, Martin Geddes and of course Alec Saunders, who is now back at Microsoft,
At one VON I hosted a dinner at Flemmings in Boston, shipping in wines from my collection. As time went on the "Andy Wine Dinners," migrated from VON to ITEXPO, and were even convened at DEMO, entertaining the minds and thirsts of many. In essence, they became the "must attend" gathering of the tech elite.
The first DEMO dinner was 11 years or so ago, in San Diego, at my good friend and longtime wine pal, Steve Pagano's hotel, the San Diego Marriott. Steve had just opened up a new restaurant, Molly's, and hired a kick-ass wine director, Lisa Redwine, and a top chef named Brian.
Pagano had been a regular attendee and proponent of many a great wine dinner that I threw for the San Diego regulars when he ran the Del Mar Marriott. So when the nexus of wine and tech was happening in San Diego, it was a natural pairing. We agreed to make it a blowout and put his team to the test. And they rose to the occasion. Steve, as usual, was the perfect host, letting us take over the place, and stress testing the staff their first month on the job.
At that dinner, which was a turning point for me in many ways, were the likes of Dan Farber, then of CNET and now of Salesforce; Craig Walker, then of GrandCentral and now of Dialpad; Christine Herron, who is now with Intel Capital; Mike Sigal who was a partner involved in DEMO and now onto his next startup in microfinance; John Furrier who now guides Silicon Angle; Steve Howe, then of Earthlink and now of ROLL, Inc., and a cast of many others both in VoIP and new tech, as well as media.
At the urging of Mike Sigal and Chris Shipley, I would work with friends in the restaurant world, and the Andy Wine Dinners became the hottest ticket at DEMO for the next few years. It was the event you couldn't buy your way into. You had to be invited.
I still feel Oren's post summed up the first DEMO Dinner...That's why after reading it, I think it's time for another one of those dinners.......
But back to the big "industry" shows like VON. They simply went away in many people's minds and had been replaced by the company only shows. In VoIP the events like ClueCon, put on by the team from FreeSwitch every summer in Chicago is an excellent example of the community. So is Astricon, that's put on by the folks at Digium and of course TAD Summit, which Alan Quayle so artfully stages in Lisbon in November.
These events have the feel of EComm which was first started by Surj Patel, and then carried on by Lee Dryburgh. They're small, focused and you have the time to catch up with the people you need to see .
Last week I went to ZOOMTOPIA, put on by ZOOM. This month it will be ConnectCentral, put on by RingCentral.
In November it will be DreamForce, staged by SalesForce. Heck, if I were silly enough, it would be Oracle World this week. The show is so big Oracle pays the city of San Francisco to shut down Howard Street for a few blocks surrounding Moscone Center. That's something that doesn't even happen in Las Vegas during CES, though some would say getting around Las Vegas is harder than ever with CES becoming so big. These two events are far from small though, as their respective eco-systems are significant enough to warrant their own events. But unlike the CES type shows, they are single-purposed and designed to do one thing-spur greater use of the company's own technology and services.
To me, the intimacy of ZOOMTOPIA made it a hit. About 400 Zoomers where there. We all came to learn what would be new from the video conferencing platform I use when I need remote face to face group meetings. For other group and scheduled calls, I use UberConference, as it's so simple. At ZOOMTOPIA I got to share my likes and dislikes about the "improvements" they keep making, some of which are the reasons I abandoned WebEx for ZOOM.
At Zoom's event, I also got to see what's new in room-based video screen, as well as had the time to catch up with Scott Wharton, my former client at Vidtel, who is now kicking it at Logitech where he runs their video products group. That level of intimacy, where Scott and I could catch up for 30 minutes without interruption, doesn't exist at the large trade shows or super conferences where everyone is looking for the next person they need to meet.
To me, these gathering provide a great way to learn what's really happening. For ZOOM based on their announcements they are heading deeper into the enterprise and likely planning for an IPO in the next 18-24 months.
I'll be in SF during Ring Central's event, so perhaps it's time to "get the band back together" and have another dinner????? We are long overdue...