I’ve recovered sufficiently from the 11 hour flights, internal US flights and the rather debilitating jet lag to be able to write a comprehensive overview of the SMS Text News Unlimited Drinks event that we held in Los Angeles last week.
Jeb of Brilliant Expos did some phenomenal work to help us organise the event. His first task was to hunt for the top place in downtown Los Angeles for us to hold the event. Although Jeb’s a regular in and around the LA area, he did a ton of research before recommending we hold the event at The Edison.
The Americans do entertainment very, very well indeed. When it comes to bars, they’re particularly effective — and when it comes to Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the planet, expectations are raised significantly. So when I checked out The Edison, my this-should-be-good radar was set at 10. How was it? Top, top quality. Brilliant. Fantastic. It’s a converted private power station that extends about 3 or 4 floors beneath the ground — picture a huge cavern, expensively decorated and smartly laid out, with numerous bars, dramatic lighting and original features (you can still see a lot of the generators in situ — Do talk to floor manager Juan at The Edison if you’re thinking of booking an event.)
Speaking of generators, that’s where we were. We were allocated The Generator Room for the evening and served by a dedicated waitress who brought forth unlimited amounts of alochol, soft drinks (for me) and wicked food.
First, the key elements: Sponsors. Thank you to Frith PR, WOM World (Nokia) and the Edison Team (who sponsored the Glenlivet whisky for the evening). Without the support of these partners, we wouldn’t have been able to put on the event.
Here I am pointing out the sponsors on our welcome-board at the event:
– Frith PR (based in San Francisco), together with their sister company, London-based Sonus PR, comprise one of the world’s best telecoms-only public relations firms. I’ve got an interview with one of their owners, Martin Smith, coming shortly. Thank you Frith!
– The team at WOM World, by way of sponsorship, sent us over a huge box of the latest and greatest Nokia N-Series handsets. WOM World is a Nokia™ sponsored resource providing latest news, comment and feedback on all things about the Nokia Nseries from the world of social media and beyond. More about the devices later (they went down a storm).
Jeb and I arrived just before 5pm to get setup. The first thing we had to arse about with was the roll-up banner sign. I’d brought it from London (the air stewardess was convinced I was a classical musician carrying some expensive instrument, ‘What kind of instrument?’ she asked. ‘Er, it’s a banner, sorry…’)
After a significant amount of arsing around, the sign was up, then it was time for the now traditional picture-in-front:
Then we arranged the handets on a table. Already The Edison was filling up and quite a lot of people were beginning to eye-up the boxes we had pilled:
WOM World sent us:
– Nokia N76
– Nokia N93i
– Nokia N800 tablet
– Nokia N91 8GB
– Nokia N95
We took’em out their boxes and put’em on the table ready for the Unlimited Drinks audience to check out. These devices are like gold dust, especially in Los Angeles where nearly everyone is walking around with a piece-of-crap handset from five years ago.
Juan, the Floor Manager at The Edison, took advantage of a quiet period prior to opening to sit and geek-out with Jeb and I. He explained that his Treo was really beginning to annoy him and was completely wowed by the N95’s picture and video capabilities — and, I think, supremely impressed a the N93i’s near DVD quality video.
5pm arrived quickly so Jeb and I quickly took a look at the food menu and ordered a load of different platters. I then grabbed the camera and took a picture of us both:
Then guests began arriving. I was looking forward to a more intimate opportunity to network with people — last time, at Unlimited Drinks London, the main issue I had was not having enough time to talk to everyone. With only 50 people across the whole evening, the Los Angeles drinks offered far more opportunity for me to sit and chat with people, as I was doing in this photo:
In fact I think I was busy geeking-out over the N95 which, whatever way you look at it, is still a magnificent handset.
I was delighted when I spied Aly Govani, Senior Business Development Manager of MX Telecom USA waltz into the Generator Room with friend Jon Reynolds. I’d been looking forward to meeting Aly, as a respresentative of MX. I’ve only ever spoken to Alex Moir at MX in New York and never actually put face-to-name with anyone from their US operation before. Aly was buzzing with energy and excitement about the mobile industry there in the West Coast. The big media companies — and the smaller, nimbler startups — are really grabbing hold of the text medium and making it work for them. Aly had just come fresh from securing a wicked deal with a huge media company in the area. Nice one Aly. I summoned our nice waitress and demanded Aly and Jon order.
Here’s Aly with Sean Malatesta from India Games, next to Ryan and Matthew from Waterfall Mobile:
Sean bounded into the area radiating positivity before machine-gunning recommendations, contacts and suggestions at me — I’ve known him for years as a brilliant dealmaker. He’s Senior Vice President at India Games (view his profile), continually pushing the American games marketplace forward. If you’re doing anything in mobile games, do connect with Sean. Within moments of meeting he got out his Sony Ericsson and showed me a new raft of mini-games based on US version of The Office that, I reckon, will keep me entertained for hours.
I’d been waiting to meet the chaps from Waterfall Mobile for a while after I caught sight of their MsgMe service and then did a story on it. Matthew Silk, Executive Vice President and Ryan Cohen, business development, strode into the event with colleague Ty Braswell. Waterfall (backed by Vista) have three main services — MsgMe, AlertU (campus alerts) and Futuretxt (text scheduling tool). I recall spending quite a lot of time complimenting Matthew on the simplicity of their MsgMe service.
Ty Braswell (above, with Martin of Frith PR) was pretty impressed with the Nokia N95 and within moments we were discussing the third screen and where he saw the next steps for the entertainment industry that, bluntly, hasn’t and still doesn’t understand mobile. We got on to the subject of Sony (Ty was VP of Sony Connect for a while – I found this profile of him online) and then the party really started as I sat back and thought about all the wicked Sony devices I’ve owned.. and how much I actually loved my Mini Disc player. As we talked more about the third screen (‘mobile’), I thought I definitely had to connect Ty to Bruce at ROK Entertainment.
Martin Smith together with Teresa and Stephanie, made up the Frith PR contingent. The last time I’d been in the same room as Martin, he was constructing a public relations strategy for one of my companies that supremely delivered. I spent a bit of time with Martin and Teresa (although I didn’t get a lot of time to talk to their colleague Stephanie, who was admiring the WOM World handsets) — I took the opportunity to fire a series of questions at Martin that comprise a Q&A interview about his perspective of the North American wireless market. I’ll publish that shortly.
I saw Mike Webb stride into the room and went over to introduce myself to him. Mike, a friend of Jeb, looks after channel sales for Silex Technology, the people behind many-a-peripheral, including the wiDoc – something I really need to get. Amongst other things, it enables you to synchronise your iPod via wireless so you don’t have to keep on plugging it into your computer when you’re using your iPod in the living room (for example). Nice.
The waitress was kept busy arriving back and forth with cocktails, whisky, beer, wine and nice food:
A few people asked why I wasn’t drinking alcohol and why I was more or less necking Coca Cola. Simple: Jet Lag. Although I did have one or two ‘french fries’ (‘chips’):
… and if I’d had a moment, I’m sure I could have been persuaded to try some of The Edison’s very own caviar egg things:
I bumped into Rachel Braver and Darrin Hammer next. Rachel is Director of Public Relations for GLAD — which stands for the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness. What’s that got to do with mobile, you might think? Tons. TONS. Rachel’s working hard to encourage the adoption of mobile and wireless technology by many organisations (public and private) to aid the Deaf. We briefly discussed the huge benefits that just having a mobile handset brings to someone who’s deaf — from being able to easily communicate with friends and family who’re out and about, to peace of mind when you’re driving (e.g. being able to text for help with a broken down car). The critical element is awareness. Often too little thought goes into the development of wireless services (see my post about the Automobile Association’s service for the Deaf here in the UK).
David Segura, Business Development Manager for (the newly funded) Twistbox then arrived with colleague Russell Malixi, Product Manager (off-deak marketing). Both chaps were filled with enthusiasm for the mobile industry. I talked for quite a while with Russell about Twistbox’s range of services and how most of their business is done outside the continental US. Both chaps gave me an excellent introduction to Twistbox’s business — Twistbox is a global producer and publisher of mobile content, for example, in the adult content space (they’re on deck with the likes of Vodafone UK), in mobile games (check twistboxgames.com) plus they run 50 mobile TV channels live across 15 countries. If you’re looking to do business with Twistbox, look up David Segura at their Sherman Oaks, CA office.
Here’s a pic of Russell:
And David (with Martin of Frith in the background):
Here I am wondering why most of America is walking around with such poor devices, whilst David, Amir (Howard Forums member) and Russell stare on:
There was plenty of opportunity for geeking out over various handsets:
I took a particularly shine to the Nokia N76 which I felt was a brilliantly conceived form… ultra SLIM yet with the power and flexibility of Symbian. I made a mental note to closely consider hunting for one on eBay (there’s an auction for one right now ending in 22 minutes…)
Amir and Aly (also a Howardforums member) lost no time in evaluating each handset on display:
Here’s the N91, I hadn’t actually had a hands-on experience with this bar seeing it’s plastic equivalent in various mobile stores:
The N800 drew possibly the largest amount of attention after the N95:
There was no missing the stark beauty of the Nokia N93i. Yes it’s a large one compared to many handsets, but.. come on… near DVD quality video and a brilliant camera:
Here’s my favourite N76. Ever since the StarTac, I’ve always liked handsets that wrap around your face so you can speak into them (instead of speaking into open air with most handsets):
The ever gorgeous N95:
And two extras — I brought along my E65 and my E61i:
I had a super time in Los Angeles — thanks to everyone who came along to Unlimited Drinks and thank you once again to Frith PR, WOM World and the team at The Edison.
We’ll be back again shortly!