A Celebrity, A Party, And Web 2.0

It took a "cewebrity" to get the Web 2.0 party started this week in Washington.

He came in the form of Pete Cashmore, the British founder of Mashable, one of the top sites on the Web for tracking developments in social networking.

The occasion for his appearance in Washington on Wednesday night was an event called MashMeet DC Remix, a party held at the offices of Ogilvy PR on 19th Street for the local Web 2.0 crowd.

Several hundred people showed up for the party, which was heavy on booze, iPhones and geek talk. (The party migrated to Science Club down the block afterward.)

Cashmore has been noted for his partying ways and his looks.

True to form, one woman meeting him swooned to a friend, "He certainly looks charming."

"It's the British accent," Cashmore said.

Standing by the entrance during the party, and by the exit at the end, Cashmore diligently handed his Mashable business card -- to everyone who passed him by.

That was the true purpose of the event, after all. Washington has been trying to build a Web 2.0 community for more than a year. A cluster of AOL alumni, local college graduates, and people in their 20s and early 30s are trying to show that D.C. can be, if not Silicon Valley, a major presence for social networking Web sites, user generated content and cutting-edge Web apps.

The local crowd has been holding events like this week's for months now--though this was one of the most ambitious--to promote the kind of creative culture and cross-pollination of ideas that is a feature of nightly life on the West Coast.

The efforts have bred a number of local online media tracking the movement. One of the better known is 2005 American University alumnus Nick O'Neill's Social Times. The blog is trying to be for the East Coast what Mashable, and to a greater extent, TechCrunch, is on the West Coast. O'Neill is working to hold a Social Times venture capital pitch event in the next few months, among other happenings.

Therein lies one of the big issues facing the local Web scene. Local venture capitalists are pretty skeptical of these companies, many of which have big ideas for the Web but little idea about how to make money from those ideas.

At Wednesday's party, few well known venture capitalists were in evidence.

The crowd nonetheless seemed to have a good time. Five companies made presentations: Lumifi, a collaborative research tool; Kluster, a system for harnessing collective knowledge; Searchles, a social search Web site; Mixx, a social news Web site; and Voxant, a news clipper and aggregator.

Unclear what some, or all, of those companies do? Join the club. (Hey--I'm not a luddite--I use a bevy of Web 2.0 tools in my daily life and know what the programming framework Ruby on Rails is. I even like white boards, the method of choice for diagramming sites in meetings. But it's not clear how all these ideas are going to turn into businesses.)

In any event, the founders of these companies aren't afraid to make their best pitch and did so during presentations at Wednesday's event.

Here is the introduction by Adam Hirsch of Mashable. Below that, follow the link to watch the presentations by the companies or peruse as you wish.

In our comments section, let us know which of the companies you found most interesting!

Videos: Lumifi | kluster | Voxant | Mixx | Searchles

By Zachary Goldfarb  |  March 7, 2008; 11:30 AM ET  | Category:  TechPost
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I think it is unfair to categorize the presenters as naive dreamers unable to build business models around their Web 2.0 creativity. If you would have listened, or done some actual reporting, you may have discovered what was plainly said in each company's presentation. Each presenter talked about revenue models they are endeavoring to build. Maybe you were too busy at the bar and missed what the entrepreneurs had to say. If you had checked into any of the companies that presented, at least 3 of the 5 have taken on investment and I know some are in discussions with VC for another round. As for VC being skeptical? Of course they are skeptical, they're managing other people's money in the riskiest business there is ... so their skepticism of "Web 2.0" companies is an extension of the ingrained skepticsim that comes with the job. It apears as if our intrepid blogger got caught up in the party and forgot to ask the right questions of the right people to see the important part of wht was going on under the Cashmore -worship umbrella - people were connecting, talikng about partnering, strategiaclly investing, and how to hel each others ventures. If you just rink beer and follow around the celebbrity, you're bound to miss the real story.

Posted by: Tim Sampoy | March 8, 2008 4:51 AM

Dan, I think it's great that the hometown paper of record is starting to see/cover fruits of what the extensive tech community here in DC has been working on. What we have not been working on though is "trying to build a Web 2.0 community for more than a year" nor have we been "trying to show that D.C. can be, if not Silicon Valley, a major presence for social networking Web sites, user generated content and cutting-edge Web apps."

What we are actually doing is BEING the change that you see in technology today. There are no aspirations here in DC to be the valley, or to be a community. WE ARE a very tight nit community of intelligent, passionate and driven individuals effecting the digital sphere nationally and internationally and love DC's tech scene for what it is - a kickass crowd of folks that are as good at what they do as people in other leading tech meccas.

I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to meet at the event, and I look forward to meeting you at some point soon. That you for covering mashmeet remix dc and the other events we find so crucial to DC's continued success as a vibrant tech community.

Peter Corbett

Posted by: Peter Corbett | March 8, 2008 1:19 PM

Were you at the same event or did you just hit the Mashable site a day later? Next time you might want to talk to someone who actually attended. Poor write-up.

Posted by: InAttendance | March 8, 2008 11:27 PM

If I were at a biotech industry event and listened to the technical explanation of how some disorder could be treated, would every idea make sense to me? No. But at this event, which was targeted toward people in the social media and technology sector (like myself) I fully understood all the companies' presentations and most of their business models.

While you may be a business reporter who uses web applications, I don't think the presentations were aimed at you. Also, I don't think you made it clear that these people already convinced a lot of really smart people at VC firms to invest in them already. Moreover, their ideas made sense to most people in the room, and they were merely at this event helping to spread the word.

Before making little comments about the business models as someone outside of the field, it would be great if you could look into things a little more.

Posted by: Jared Goralnick | March 12, 2008 12:05 AM

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