Hungry for the Big Score, the would-be Masters of the Internet congregated at a lovely but most overpriced garden spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They came for a couple of days of schmooze and views and -- with a little luck -- hoped to return home with a stack of useful business contacts who might one day put them on the road to even bigger and better things.
Yes, these were people on the move. And this being Internet Time, they were in a hurry to get there before the rest of the world realizes that the choicest spots in cyberspace are being taken up in the great Internet land grab as the 20th Century comes to a close.
A lot of the faces were familiar -- a former Lotus exec here, an old Activision hand there, a veteran of Steve Jobs' former crew at NeXT -- as this was a crowd that travels from industry confab to industry confab. This is the floating roster of the new power elite.
Along the way, personal and professional partnerings change the scorecard, but the names, for the most part, remain the same. After all, we're talking about a relative handful of people -- less than 500, at most -- who comprise one of the most incestuous power elites of modern times.
The talk was about money, who's making it and how to get on board before the gravy train pulls out of the station.
There was the earnest but hyper-kinetic 20-something entrepreneur already on his second company, this time hawking a "can't miss" technology that he said would blow the big telcos out of the water. This guy was so eager to impress all concerned how well he was connected that he recounted how he made a bundle after a friend tipped him off to a pending acquisition.
"That's insider trading, isn't it? he was asked. Out came the big grin, an embarrassed shrug and we changed the subject. I have no doubt this remarkable go-getter will either make the cover of Forbes Magazine or wind up sharing a jail cell with a homicidal orangutan named Bubba.
Then there was the high-powered networker, a woman who is absolutely fanatical about making sure nobody in the room escapes without receiving a plastic smile, handshake and an insincere how-do-you-do. What can I say -- her shtick works like a charm and she's build up an impressive clientele over the years. She's also inspired many a reporter to try his hand at imitation. Unfortunately, it's like the difference between Coke and New Coke: There's just nothing like the original.
"Hey, how are you? (What a crock. You know she couldn't care less and is simply making time.) Great to see you. What are you up to? (Let's see, I could tell her about my Pulitzer Prize but she's already tuning out.) Wonderful place here, isn't is? (By now, her eyes are circling the room like a hawk in search of new prey.) O.K, I'll be right back (And that concludes your brief encounter until the next industry mating dance.)
But they all attend the rubber chicken circuit because everyone with eyes in their head can read the stock charts. And they all want to be like Jerry (Yahoo!) Yang, Jeff (Amazon.com) Bezos, Halsey (CNet) Minor or -- more recently -- Mark (Broadcast.com) Cuban.
The incentive is easy enough to understand. It's the promise of the Big Score.