05:46 AM

My dinner with Melody and a few others…a report from the Antenna Group Dinner Salon

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

It was a dark and rainy Thursday evening but duty beckoned me out to a jewel in the in the heart of the Tenderloin, the Fleur de Lys restaurant and Melody Haller’s Antenna Group dinner salon.

I was delayed because of losing a tire on 280 earlier, and everyone was already seated at the table, quietly looking at me as I blustered in and apologized for my late arrival. Melody was seated at the head of the table looking very demure and graceful as she gestured to the empty seat next to her.

The people at the table were a mixture of Melody’s PR company clients and a gaggle of top tier journalists. And it was one of Melody’s best dinner salons in a long time--companies with great ideas...and dare I say it: passion and excitement.

I’ve been fed up with some of the stale and tired pitches from the dinosaur class of companies in the valley, and the walking dead private companies.

CEO has to sometimes stand for Chief Excitement Officer. I’m not saying jump around and be “excitable,” but if you sound bored and tired giving your pitch, guess what--I’m bored. And tired. And god knows how you motivate your teams.

This wasn’t true of the people at the Salon. Many of them were still buzzed from DEMO. My favorite was Jigsaw. This is a genius idea to create a highly accurate shared-contacts database for salespeople. It is up to about 350K contacts and growing at 3K/day.

It was an idea developed by three Silicon Valley salespeople who figured out a way to get other salespeople to share their contacts. “If you are a salesperson that has to make 50 dials a day to get your numbers, the biggest problem is getting qualified and accurate leads. Most of the lists you buy are maybe just 40 percent accurate and very expensive,” said Garth Moutlon, co-founder of JigSaw. Users get two contacts in return for one contact they put into the system. And if a contact’s information is found to be old, they lose points. Everyone pays to gain access to the system at $25/month, and all posting of contacts is done anonymously.

Thor Johnson, head of marketing at Eloqua, described a sophisticated way to automate high value online marketing campaigns that can track a user’s browsing behavior and generate a very high-quality phone lead. The software can detect if someone is merely window shopping or is close to making a purchase decision. Mr Johnson said, “We can monitor a user over a six-month period and have somebody call the person at just the right time and close the sale.” Two large clients are Nokia and Sybase.

Jakob Nielsen, the renowned website usability guru, talked about some of the usability studies they have been running at his company, Nielsen Norman Group (nngroup.com and useit.com). He mentioned that the biggest usability problem is that type size is too small. “It might look cool to a 25-year-old website designer but most people over 40 have trouble reading it. And also teenagers, because they have poor posture,” Mr Nielsen said.

I asked if he had conducted any usability studies on blogs. He said there was no money in blogs! However, I pointed out all the great publicity he might receive because of the millions of blogs out there and maybe SVW could help in some way? I might have sparked something, he grinned and told me to call him.

Richard Jones, head of Lusora, has developed a system that enables families to easily monitor their elderly relatives, enabling older people to stay in their own homes rather than in assisted care facilities. “We have a motion sensor with an accelerometer that is worn by the person, and it can detect if they have fallen, where they are in the room, and will send out an alert.”

Lusora is using a version of BlueTooth with a much higher range. It seems to be an elegant solution to a problem that is going to be huge as the Baby Boomer population bulge heads off into the sunset.