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A few days after the Twiistup party, in the common area of her current employer, Rubicon, an Internet advertising company, Jordan talks about the way she overhears people saying that L.A.’s tech energy has suddenly taken off.
“But it’s not sudden,” Jordan tells them. “There are people like me and Twiistup’s founder, Mike Macadaan, who create these communities. It’s been strategic hard work.”
Silicon Valley always compares everybody to itself, she continues. It’s like the big brother who did everything right. The track star who won all the awards, the valedictorian. And all the other cities are the little siblings who are trying to live up to him.
Jordan met Macadaan at one of the Twiistup parties last year, back when the gathering was a baby event. “If we’re gonna do it,” Jordan told Macadaan, “let’s do it and blow it out.” A party of 300 grew to 600, with a waiting list of another 600.
As we talk, two Rubicon guys amble over to play pingpong.
“Hi, Nicole,” says one.
“Hi, Nicole,” says the other.
“Is it going to disturb you if we play? Will it be too noisy?”
“No, go right ahead.” She says she has stuff to do, otherwise she’d join them. As they play, they keep glancing at her and smiling like schoolboys.
Being a PR gal, she’s trying to get a beat on me just as I am on her.
“Why don’t you tell me,” she says, “what do you think a socialite does? If you think of a socialite as someone who doesn’t do anything, then that’s not me.”
Yet asked to define her role — it would be something like putting people together — she says simply, “I have no idea.”
Does she still go to a lot of tech parties?
“I do,” she sighs, “but at this point ... ” her voice drifts off. “I’ve been very visible. A lot of people are recommended to know me and to talk to me. So every time I go to an event, I have 20 people wanting to have lunch. I have to literally pull people into a corner if I want to have a conversation with them.”
There are people in the community who say nothing is being done. That it’s just mixers and mixers, but Jordan rejects that viewpoint. “I agree that there needs to be more substance around some of these events. Educational seminars and forums, roundtables, events with guest speakers, conferences, but to think that mixers aren’t helping to push the community forward is shortsighted. I know a lot of people who found new jobs, new clients, new business partners, VCs who funded their company, or some just made new, like-minded friends to brainstorm and collaborate with.”
Her BlackBerry chirps. She looks at it, then at me apologetically, and mouths, “Sorry! I have to get this.” The next day she’ll be sitting in on another tech-industry event panel titled “I Wish Someone Had Told Me That!”
Over in a generic conference room, in a Wilshire Boulevard shared workspace office you can rent by the hour, I find Twiistup’s Mike Macadaan settling in at a start-up he’s just become part of. A week before, he left his job at AOL, got an apartment in Santa Monica and joined the new company. It’s no longer news that Santa Monica has become a tech hotbed. Google and Yahoo are here. And clustered around those big whales are little start-ups in houses by the beach, or sharing upstairs retail space on the Promenade.
A year ago, Macadaan was working for AOL as a VP of product development in Los Angeles and looking for people to hire, but he didn’t know anybody in L.A. He figured he’d hit some tech events, his usual M.O., but there were none. So he started his own. Twiistup was born.
Macadaan’s Twiistups have the following skeleton: some showcase people, the attendees, the movers and shakers like Jordan, the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed start-up companies, the swanky venue, the libations, and then one special something — “the ‘twist’ in Twiistup” — to send it over the top. He brought in a guy to build robotic sculptures. One party featured Joseph Kosinski, director of TR2N. At another was Perez Hilton, who is rumored to make $40,000 a day on his gossip Web site. (BusinessWeek places Perez’s earnings at $110,000 a month. The $40K figure comes from what Blogads says it would cost to do a one-day advertising “takeover” of perezhilton.com.)
“Whether you like his content or not,” Macadaan says, “here’s someone who took an open-source technology and created an entire brand around his persona. He’s making bank. I thought Perez would be inspiring.”