By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
To the uninitiated, it’s hard to tell that the Twiistup party at Santa Monica’s Viceroy Hotel is a tech party and not a Hollywood premiere. When your eyes regain focus after the paparazzi flash at the wall of logos, one thought burbles beneath the surface of your consciousness, informing every martini sip and business-card sleight of hand: What if you’d been to a party like this back in the late ’90s, maybe a party not quite this cool or swank, but a party where a couple of college kids were looking for some money to fund their new company? And what if you happened to meet them, and you happened to get along — you’re geeks at heart, after all — and you went into business together in their funnily named start-up? What was it called again? Oh, yes, Google.
Twiistup, Southern Cal’s premier geek-chic party, has that electric feel.
All along the perimeter of the Viceroy’s swimming pool, there are start-up displays and demos. One company, Compulsion, produces software that makes video clickable. So, say, you’re watching Emeril Lagasse cook spaghetti sauce, you can click on his saucepan, and bam! — you’re taken to the place on the Web where you can buy the pan. Bookrenter, true to its name, allows you to rent books online. Minggl enables you to consolidate all your social-networking info. There are more, all fascinating, all cutting-edge, all sounding vaguely like Swedish furniture: Strutta, Twiidla, Phonevite, BigStage, Seethroo.
Somewhere in the lively swankiness, past the cute girls who’ve kicked off their stilettos to play skeetball in the GirlGamer ’80s arcade, past the shirtsleeved venture capitalists munching on tiny burger hors d’oeuvres in the plush venture-capitalist room, are the party’s organizers. Mike Macadaan, Twiistup’s founder, is schlepping bags of ice. Nicole Jordan, one of its promoters, is being invited out for drinks by more people than she has hours in the week.
“It feels like 1997 all over again,” Macadaan says, tentatively.
Yeah, but we know what happened to 1997, I say. Cue the scenes of the people scurrying out of abandoned offices, rolling away the ergonomic task chairs, NASDAQ swan-diving in the midst of the dot-com-bomb Geek Tragedy.
“We’re much more informed now,” he says. “The writers’ strike solidified the Web as where the future is. It doesn’t scare me. There’s not as much excess. Start-ups aren’t spending their money in crazy ways. They’re not buying llamas and monkeys and giraffes to put in their lobby.”
But they are throwing parties. When Jordan first moved to Los Angeles from New York by way of Northern California, she’d hit event after event, and people would tease her: “You’re quite the tech socialite, aren’t you?” Suddenly the SoCal tech scene had its “It Girl.” And there is something about her. Chipmunk-cute, blond, friendly, with a sweet face and pretty smile; everybody describes her as “charming.”
Jordan sends out regular dispatches from her Facebook page about parties, mixers, cocktail nights and coffees to attend; clubs to join; coffee, lunches and dinners to meet for. There are all kinds of gatherings — virtual and physical. Lunch 2.0, Mixergy, Digital Drinks, DealMaker, Mashable. There are not just social-networking groups but groups that meet to discuss the groups.
“It’s funny because it’s perception, right?” Jordan offers. “People are, like, how do you have time to go to all these?”
Now that the L.A. tech scene is edging toward critical mass, facilitating these meetings has become a natural extension of her personality.
“Does anyone ask me to do this? No,” she says. But Jordan, 32, is a tech blueblood. She was born in Silicon Valley, and her father worked for Intel, her mother for Qualcomm. When Jordan was 8, her mom said she should go into PR. She did. Notably for Apple, where she helped to launch the iPod and Mac OS X. More Plum Sykes than Paris Hilton, Jordan declares on her Facebook page, “I am sick of bullshit. And looking for people free of it,” and “I am a geek.”
“Just do me a favor,” she says, “be careful how you use the word ‘geek.’ Some tech people don’t like being called geek. They prefer ‘new media.’”
Macadaan, though, doesn’t fear the geek. “At our events it’s definitely geek chic,” he says. “In that ecosystem you have businesspeople, media, investors, publicists. The geek is one small subset, but they are the core. I’m flattered if someone calls me a geek. I associate the term with someone who’s hyperobsessive. Who breaks a thing down to its molecular level when he gets to know it. Nerd is not such a term of endearment.”