I spent the first half of this week at the Dow Jones WebVentures conference in San Mateo. Ken Liu, the CEO Steve and I brought in November, presented in two sessions and I ran a booth. The booth was a good buy for us. The cost was very reasonable, there was a total of five exhibitors, and we were the only exhibitor worth talking to. No offense to the others, but they were just not interesting to the conference goers. There was an executive recruitment firm, a law firm, a financial services firm, and some booth that just had a TV playing. Seriously, someone setup a table, a tv, and hit play. Not one person even bothered looking at it. I have no idea what the company did, I can’t remember the name of the company, nor do I care to. Equally strange was the person manning the law firm’s booth. She literally barricaded herself behind with a large retractable upright banner, a table, and other things. You couldn’t even see her because she was behind the banner, behind the table, and her nose was buried in some reading material. Not exactly someone you would want to talk to even if you did see her. She may as well have setup a TV and hit play. It likely would have been more effective. Why even bother? Clearly we were a hit in this crowd.

There was a lot of interest in our newest product. With this we’re helping online publishers, media, newspapers to create and steer quality user generated content and weave it into their editorial content. In short we’re giving traditional online media companies the ability to have a social media initiative that they can have a reasonable level of control over. This provides stickiness, freshness of content, authenticity, and most importantly: inventory. It’s interesting stuff. The industry is desperate for this. We’ve began developing this product because we’ve been approached several times by media companies that have asked us for exactly this. We’re getting a lot of traction in the industry and we got a lot of traction at WebVentures.

While at WebVentures I met some interesting people and I learned about some interesting companies and lots of very uninteresting ones. The companies I found interesting included: BigTribe (which is begging for a wiki), Dapper, Mashery, and Multiply. Mashery was started by Oren who shared a table with me at DemoFall. He happened to be present when I made a total ass of myself. For the record, my nerves got the better of me when the panelist couldn’t hear me and I misunderstood this. No Marc Orchant 😉 I wasn’t being arrogant. To the contrary. Anyway, have you heard of Multiply? Neither had I. I ended up at the same table during the cocktail hour with Multiply’s Founder and CEO, Peter. He’s a really nice guy. Interesting fact about Peter: he was user #56 on Slashdot. Turns out Multiply has 4 Million registered users, 13 Million visitors monthly and 1 BILLION page views monthly! EGAD, And I’ve never heard of this company…odd. Peter was fun to chat with. We shared drinks and conversation for a couple hours. I pushed Peter on adopting OpenID and he had a very logical and disappointing response. His point was that OpenID, currently, is only interesting to smaller, up and coming, companies. For companies with medium to large sized communities there is a disincentive to consuming OpenID. Sure they’ll merrily be a provider, but why should they make it easy for their community to be mobile?

In many of the panels at this event there was much todo about many of the traditional walled garden social networking sites. I am convinced when identity becomes distributed and mobile these walled gardens will cease to exist. We the users will own the nexus of our relationships with others, the content we’ve created, the content we read regularly, and how we define ourselves. This nexus can also help us define how our content can be consumed and by whom. Will we need the old walled garden model? How will they adapt?

I ran into Dave Hersh from Jive again. I was on a panel with him at Community 2.0. He’s a bright guy and fun to speak with. I also met Isaac Garcia the CEO and Co-Founder of Central Desktop. He too seemed to be an intelligent and friendly fellow. I enjoyed speaking with him and we did so at length. He was as open about his business as I’ve always been with mine. The biggest surprise that came out of Isaac’s and my conversation was that he was as confused by the folks at Dynamo with respect to the Wiki.com domain as everyone else was. Wild stuff.

In conclusion, WebVentures was a successful and rewarding event. I even enjoyed it. I don’t know why this surprises me. Maybe I’ve just become accustomed to and fond of geeky events like the upcoming Etech that I’m attending.