Last night, Entretech honored ten** distinguished, emerging companies in the Los Angeles area at the 5th Annual PriceWaterhouseCoopers Entretech Entrepreneurship Awards. Among the companies recognized was Wpromote, which received only the second Entrepreneurial Spirit Award in the five years that the ceremonies have been held.
Located this year at the Jonathan Town Club in Downtown Los Angeles, the Entretech Entrepreneurship Awards were created to honor deserving tech firms in the Los Angeles area that have demonstrated success and promise in the ever-expanding field of technology. The finalists for the awards were all innovative and impressive and, without sounding too cliché, I was flattered that Wpromote was chosen to share space with them on the same docket. Truly, we were proud to have been in attendance, much less to have received an award from this remarkable consortium.
In actuality, this award belongs to Michael Mothner, our fearless founder and sassy CEO, whose actual entrepreneurial spirit begot Wpromote in 2001. However, being fearless and sassy every day is no short order, and so Mothner had accidentally scheduled his relaxing trip to Cabo San Lucas on the same day as the awards ceremony. Choosing between accepting an honor at the Jonathan Club and going to an exclusive resort in Cabo: these are the tough decisions that Mothner faces that separate him from the pack of ordinary CEOs.
As Mothner would not be able to attend the presentation, he decided to send Michael Stone, Wpromote’s VP of Sales, and yours truly, the VP of Client Services. You might think, “Wow, what an honor,” and you wouldn’t be wrong; I thought, “Wow, free dinner!” and jumped at the opportunity. On Wednesday, the day before the presentation, Mothner let Stone and me know that we would be presenting a slide show that he had made a week earlier detailing Wpromote’s brief but exciting history since its inception in 2001. “Oh, and, by the way,” Mothner added, “you only have five minutes, so cut out a few slides and go ahead and try to be entertaining.”
Thanks, buddy. Noted.
Thursday, the day of the awards, was spent penned up in my office with Stone, deciding how to slice and dice Mothner’s original speech and how to feign charm in front of what would be an intimidating collection of wealthy and powerful ladies and gentleman. As soon as we decided we were close enough, we sent in the PowerPoint to Entretech and got back to real work. The hard part was seemingly behind us.
At 5:30, we arrived at the Jonathan Club, dressed to the nines and ready to rock. The valet took Stone’s keys and we strutted cavalierly through the doors of the Jonathan Club. Crossing over that threshold was a lot less like entering an esteemed establishment, rather, a lot more like entering a time machine. The Jonathan Club, much like Ron Burgundy’s apartment, contained many leather-bound books and smelled of rich mahogany. Gold leaf was, in a word, prevalent. Cell phones, considered gauche, were not allowed on the premises. It didn’t look like a place where exceedingly wealthy individuals would gather; it looked like a place where they would gather only on “special” occasions. Needless to say, it’s a heck of a club they have over there and I was beginning to feel intimidated.
Undaunted by just about everything, Stone decided to check in with the host of the event to make sure that they knew that:
a) Michael Mothner would not be there,
b) Stone and I would both be presenting,
c) our PowerPoint presentation had been received.
The answer to these questions were, “No,” “No,” and “I don’t know, check with the AV guy.” The AV guy’s answer, unsurprisingly, was “No.” Luckily, our handy-dandy wallet-sized USB card, courtesy of the kind folks at Google, had the presentation on it, along with the MP3s for All that Remains’ epic metal album “The Fall of Ideals.”
“You can just go ahead and ignore that,” I said to the AV guy.
After we got everything squared away with our PowerPoint presentation, we tried to explain the situation that Michael Stone and I would be presenting in Mothner’s stead. Due to an email mix up, we were told that only one of us would be allowed to present. Translation: one of us was going to have to learn the other’s half of the speech. Stone drove us, so that responsibility fell on me.
As we schmoozed the audience, I couldn’t help but think about the new lines I would have to learn. As dinner was served, I was too busy reading Stone’s notes to enjoy what I’m sure was a very expensive cut of steak. My tie felt tighter and so did my chest as my heart pumped away in nervous anticipation. We received word that the Belgian consulate would be presenting our award. Stone replied, “Great! I love their chocolate.” I just looked at this as one more reason to be nervous.
Dessert came and it was some sort of tasty berry pecan tart crumble cake that I was still too jittery to eat. It was seemingly delicious and it was served with a piece of chocolate covered in gold leaf. See? I told you: prevalent! Maybe this was a good omen, because the host then approached us and whispered, “I’m so sorry, but the Belgian consulate will be introducing you with your company’s story, so there is no need to present. Is that alright?”
I’ve never said, “Yes” so quickly in my life. The only thing that I’ve ever done more quickly, in fact, was eat that dessert in front of me right after having said “Yes.” With my nerves now at an all time low, I was content to sit back and enjoy the rest of the evening which was highlighted by presentations from some unbelievably interesting LA-based tech firms.
The award winners besides Wpromote were:
Start Up: Under $1 million:
The Rubicon Project. Fascinating technology that aggregates every content network out there and dynamically chooses the best ads for content-rich sites, providing the most relevant choices for users and maximizing ad revenue for the site.
Emerging: Between $1 and $8 million:
Zag. Innovators in the field of buying cars. Not a lead-gen company, but a direct buyer to dealer interface that makes the process of purchasing a new automobile less of a risk and less of a hassle.
Growth: Over $8 million:
eHarmony. Right, like you don’t already know these guys.
All in all, it was a wonderful night and we are truly indebted to the good folks at Entretech for their generosity toward, recognition of and faith in Wpromote. We were incredibly honored to be included and proud to represent all of the hard-working people at Wpromote who make opportunities like this a possibility. Go team, go!
**The Finalists were, in alphabetical order: Calando Pharmaceuticals, Central Desktop, EdgeCast, eHarmony, Green Dot, Nami Media, the Rubicon Project, Vantage Media and Zag. Wpromote’s award was received in a separate, unique category.