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February 13, 2008


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They took over the whole Tysons Palm Wednesday evening—226 top entrepreneurs for the kind of high-end, high-tech crush that recalled the glory days of the 90's.  Partly that's because many were of that era, graduates of 11 years worth of Mindshare, the CEO mentoring group, in its first-ever reunion. Now looking just a bit older (okay, not the women), they all seem recharged and recommitted to a tech sector they say is back in full swing.


Sourcefire CMO Michele Perry, Qorvis' Esther Smith, Leapfrog CEO Lisa Martin, and former Netpreneur queen (now M2 Works chief) Mary McPherson. We last saw Michele when she was marketing guru for pioneering ASP USInternetworking in Annapolis. That may be a memory, but she still lives out there near the water, only a 30-minute commute to her new company in Columbia and, even better, nearby the Naval Academy hockey rink her 9- and 12--year-old kids like to use on weekends.  Lisa, whose 15-person company does strategic marketing, just got her first task order from OPM to educate and recruit federal employees. Now she's heading to the Keys for some scuba diving (newly certified on her last trip to the Caymans).


Hillcrest Labs CEO Dan Simpkins, TVWorldwide CEO Dave Gardy, and Mantaro Networks CEO Jeremy Parsons.  Dan's new company has—count it!—$56M in financing from the likes of NEA, Columbia Capital, and Grotech, the fourth round of which closed in December.  (That's nothing, he sold his last company, Salix, helping pioneer VOIP, to Tellabs for $300M.)  His new product allows you to point a sort of mouse at your TV, which he believes will finally bring the interactive content of the Web from the pc to the tube. He's off to Deer Valley with his wife and 11-year-old daughter, who actually suggested the shape of the device (round, like a bagel). Meanwhile, our old pal Dave Gardy, CEO of TV Worldwide, was designated official Internet TV producer for the event; even more important, his hefty contract was just renewed as coach of his 7-year-old daughter Celeste's team in the Herndon Youth Optimist Baseball Coach Pitch league. No word on performance incentives.


Lawyer-turned-investor Harry Glazer with Rand Construction president Linda Rabbitt (one of the rare non-techies among the entrepreneurs).  It was Harry who got the ball rolling for the event last year when he suggested to fellow co-chairs April Young (Comerica) and Gene Riechers (Valhalla) that they do something to recognize the 10th Mindshare anniversary. But it took a year to put things together, and then only after enlisting event aces Kathy Penny, Stacey Sweeney, Christy Hedges, and Mark Esposito.  Evidently they were like a college reunion committee and political campaign rolled into one; in the last couple months they had calls each Wednesday at 8:30am sometimes with 30 or 40 "captains."  Mindshare's not resting on its laurels:  On February 26, a new class will have its first meeting, hosted by Ted Leonsis at a Caps game.  As you can see, being an entrepreneur is hard work!    


Fishbowl Marketing CEO Scott Shaw and Vocus CEO Rick Rudman. They were both in the Mindshare class of 2001 though didn't remember each other exactly. Scott says that's because that year was pretty brutal: Companies were going unfunded or out of business.  Not so now:  Rick tells us Vocus' stock is up a couple hundred percent since its IPO last year.  And Scott, who co-founded Austin Grill, has created an online marketing firm now in use by 28,000 restaurants around the country; he's been having fun lately taking his 7- and 10-year-old kids to White Tail.


Here's a techie channeling his inner rock star: Amplifier's Jonathan Aberman, second from  right, is a v.c. by day and rock star by night. He tells us he plays lead guitar for his yet-to-be-named blues band (hence his company name).  With him, Bent Systems CEO Sylvanus Bent, Amplifier's Michael Dering, and Natural Insight CEO Stefan Midford. Stefan tells us he's desperately trying to take a vacation; he says skiing, his wife says Caribbean, so he'll obviously be heading to the beach. 



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