Sometime tomorrow you will likely hear that Surj Patel is joining GigaOm, so it is most likely pal Om Malik (he witnessed my official marriage license session at SF City Hall on August 3rd) will tell us all what Surj (Mr. eTel) Patel will be doing. But when great things happen to good friends, its important that the back story gets told.
Two years or so ago I got to know Surj when he was living and working in San Diego along with his wife. He was getting ready to help stage O'Reilly's Etel 2006 conference and we were going over client companies my agency, Comunicano, was representing at that time, as well as some of the other brighter lights in the VoIP industry who Surj was thinking of putting up on the dias. From my first conversation with him I quickly realized this was one very smart and very imaginative guy. He also had tons of great ideas on how to make conferences anything but what they had become...dull, boring and flat. I think judging by the reaction to eTel in the VoIP community the last two years that his drive and insight were clearly recognized, appreciated.
I can still remember our first meeting. We went for Mexican food at what is now one of my favorite authentic Mexican spots in San Diego's Uptown area. That's not an area I would normally venture to that often, except to buy coffee at Calabria Coffee across the street, as they are one of SD's best roasters. Over time Surj and I became better acquainted, but alas he and his wife moved to Portland so we became virtual pen pals, chatting, emailing and even talking over the net and seeing each other at events.
Fast forward to eTel 2007 and the conference was again full of my agency's clients. On top of an expanded event, and all the headaches that go with it, there was Surj pulling together a LaunchPad event with Om Malik over and above everything else he had on his plate. Surj and Om asked for help with LaunchPad so I went to two of our clients, Covad and GrandCentral and secured their participation as sponsors because with those two guys running the show I knew LaunchPad would be great for them, as well as the rest of the companies who were showing their handiwork who needed a boost. This included companies like Fonav, which was acquired by Trolltech recently, as well as many hot non-clients alike including Flat Planet, Pat Phalen with Roam4Free (now Cubic) and many others. When you look back and see Surj's vision and selection all being propelled significantly forward you have to realize that there's more to this than just picking whoever asked to present. It takes skill. Om and Surj had obviously gotten to know each other over eTel planning, and all along the way all I ever heard Om say, even before he left Business 2.0 that Surj was "one smart dude.....like rocket smart" and how one day he'd like to hire Patel if the opportunity was there. The two stayed close and what was just a dream has become their joint realty. This new tag team is really great news for companies who think 2.0 and beyond because Patel isn't the kind of guy to sit still with an idea. He makes them happen.
To GigaOm Patel brings technical prowess that will rival any CTO (he's an ex MIT'er), extensive developer and business contacts (he's got the ins with BT, France Telecom/Orange and many more) as well as the kind of imagination that makes things come alive. That's why its no surprise to me that Om and his colleagues at GigaOm are so excited about the new addition to the team. Surj will truly bring a new level of skills, insight and likely an imagination for how to make their events even better. I'll just warn them...you better start your day on a triple espresso, as Surj starts in fifth gear and keeps going faster and faster..
As with eTel I'm betting Patel will find a way to bring the spirit he brought and embodied into eTel the last two years into some new and exciting events that GigaOm will be launching but that's Om's story to write, I just wanted to say congrats to two great friends who really deserve it....