With the success of their first tech crawl a little over a month old, TechZulu created another fabulous excursion for enthusiasts and entrepreneurs alike through some more up-and-coming tech companies in Silicon Beach. This time they chose Venice, CA, as the location, a mere stones throw from the location of their first crawl, Santa Monica. Our team from Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. - videographer Stephen Shirk, Marketing Coordinator Natalia Williams, developer Neil Rhine, and myself – came together last minute to partake, a choice made harder when our personable, charming, and bespectacled Event Coordinator, Catherine Mangan, developed a bug that messed up her central processors a bit. So we left for Venice around 6pm, without the support of our primary interviewer.
I downloaded Falcon, a surprisingly nifty and helpful app that displayed the location of the various tech companies partaking in the crawl, en route. We decided, because we were running late, to begin our crawl at JibJab, the creators of the infamous “This Land” video back during the 2004 campaign between G.W. Bush and J. Kerry; now they primarily deal with e-cards that often sing and dance, and onto which you can place the faces of your friends, parents, siblings, significant other, or those people you just don’t like all that much to create humorous parodies of songs most people know. I am, however, getting slightly ahead of the narrative.
Due to some confusion in the car, we parked roughly half a mile from JibJab and began walking. A few blocks
from JibJab, the rumbling of a diesel engine caught our attention. We turned, and there, growling through the street, was a vehicle none of us had ever seen before, a silver cross between a semi and a pickup, tires bigger than car doors, a Mercedes emblem embedded in its grill. Retrospective research unveiled the silver monster to be a Mercedes-Benz Unimog U1300, a truck used quite extensively by the army; but more surprising than the vehicle itself was the man driving it: known from his action films, accent, body-building days, and for being Govenator of California, none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. He pulled the silver mobile monolith to the curb across the street from us where it became apparent an interview was taking place, though that didn’t stop us from crossing and taking a couple candid shots of Conan beside his truck. The brief rush of seeing a celebrity over, we continued on to JibJab.
A game of cornhole stood before the building in which JibJab resides. Inside, a few people mingled around a table the centerpiece of which was a punch bowl filled with “JibJab Juice”. An employee drew a welcome sign for crawlers on a whiteboard mounted on one of the walls (featured at the beginning of the article). We nabbed some refreshments and moved into the next room where a foosball table, skee-ball, television with Rock Band, and large, Wheel of Fortune-esque wheel drew eyes and remarks. Numbers for the wheel were passed out a few minutes after we got there, during which time the room had filled, and while I was engaged in a game of foosball. (In case you’re wondering, I won.) Pirate paraphernalia adorned the room, even a plank projecting from what looked like a loft-style upstairs.
The wheel proved a bit complex for the crawl, since those networking were too engrossed to hear the numbers called, and several may have left before the wheel was spun. Our Marketing Coordinator, Natalia Williams, did win a JibJab shirt, however, before we moved on to our next stop.
Our next stop was the combined offices of Laffster and F3 Ideas. Laffster learns your humor type (on their website they say “think Pandora”) so that it can supply you with snippets of media you’ll be more likely to find funny, while F3 brings new ideas to businesses, helping to create new products, and distinguish and promote brands. For entertainment and recreational purposes, a game of flip cup occupied a table stretching down the center of the room. Oddly enough, most people there were networking in the hallway, which made the actual office a bit strange to be standing in. We did meet some interesting entrepreneurs working on creating a simpler platform for creating your own website, one that someone virtually unversed in the language of coding could decipher and use to construct their own site.
2 Billion Monkeys, a company that focuses on social media from a business standpoint, helping businesses create solid foundations on which to grow a social media presence, was the the next stop. Throughout the day they had encouraged crawlers to use the hashtag #2BMgo with the promise of a prize to the person who used the tag the most, or in the most creative manner, I wasn’t sure which. Upon one wall they projected a rotating series of tweets from people who had used the hashtag; several of Catherine Mangan’s tweets made the rotation.
Dubbed the “Tree House”, the office rose several stories. A large, multicolored monkey sat on the first-floor couches, happily taking pictures with those who wanted them. The second floor was home to refreshments, including hot dogs with all the trimmings. Bananas abounded, of course, prompting many uses of the word’s slang definition within tweets. Crawlers swarmed the food table, nabbing dogs and buns in quick succession. We were thankful for the food, not having time between leaving work and arriving at the crawl to eat anything. Around 9:30pm, we moved on to the next location, StackSocial and Lettuce Apps.
Residing in the same structure, much like Laffster and F3, StackSocial and Lettuce Apps won the “best location” award from our team. Directly across the street from the beach, the ability to do some form of beach activity on your lunch break trumped all else.
StackSocial is a marketplace for apps. From what I gathered, developers submit apps, and StackSocial bundles and sells them at reduced prices. The closest analogy I can think of is Groupon, except that StackSocial bundles tech-based deals together. In other words, instead of purchasing a camera at 64% off, you might find several graphic design-related applications, the combined price of which is 64% off. I hope that makes sense.
Lettuce Apps, on the other hand, dabbles in the small business world, an area near and dear to Dun & Bradstreet Credibility. Their software allows business owners to record orders, inventory, and statistics simply and in one place so they can know in real-time how much inventory they have remaining, where shipments are going, who paid for them, etc., without having to access multiple programs.
On the bottom floor, the ping pong table was in use, and a sign directed crawlers up several flights of stairs. Beyond the final staircase – a spiral – turf covered the roof. We picked out perches on the picnic table, next to the refreshments, to stay out of the way of the milling masses. There was the first place I recognized people I had met at the previous tech crawl, and recognition lead to familiar greetings and conversations which were of some relief after meeting new people the entire night. By 10:15pm, however, we were wiped out. Seeing as our car was now a good mile away from us, and the last two locations were a half-mile in the opposite direction, we elected to call it a night.
Thanks to TechZulu for another awesome event! We hope to see everyone again at another crawl (fingers crossed). So great twice we’re doing it thrice?
What was you favorite experience at the techcrawl?