Desperate situations call for cheeseheads.
That's how Hal Halladay, chief financial officer for Intelogis Inc., ended up wearing a Green Bay Packers cheese wedge hat before the audience at Internet Showcase.The invitation-only gathering in San Diego is considered one of the premiere conferences for Internet-related companies, particularly startups. It draws 850 industry analysts, top-level executives, national media and venture capitalists.
Make it here, and chances are good money, contacts, publicity and partnerships will follow.
Internet Showcase, which is put on by pundit David Coursey and Upside Magazine, is one of the smaller conferences on the technology show circuit.
There are literally dozens of conferences, each varying in size, focus and audience. The circuit includes COMDEX, the Consumer Electronics Show, Mac World, NetWorld/Interop, Demo, PC World and Agenda.
"You have to be judicious in picking the right venue for what you want to accomplish," said Martha Felt, of the Martha Felt Group, a consulting firm with many high tech clients.
Internet Showcase is a completely different game from most shows. Coursey handpicks about 80 companies to display products at the show, and they pay about $5,500 for a booth.
About half the companies are given eight minutes on stage to explain their products. Microsoft, Apple and Intel get the same amount of demo time as smaller companies.
The demo gods frowned when Intelogis, which makes powerline networking products, first appeared on the stage at Internet Showcase. The computers crashed. So it got a second chance, which company execs went after with gusto - and props.
Hence the cheesehead and, in quick succession, a woman's silk scarf, skirt and flower-adorned straw hat.
This time the gods smiled, and the praise flowed for the company.
The payoff? Intelogis received mentions in the Los Angeles Times and PC Week in the past two weeks. A venture capital firm arranged a meeting in the Bay area for the company to talk business.
That's the primary goal of any conference: get the company's name out.
"Trade shows provide a lot of visibility company-to-company and to trade publications," said Michael Nelson, CEO and co-founder of emWare, a Midvale company that has made two consecutive appearances at Internet Showcase and attended the 1998 Consumer Electronics Show.
emWare's technology allows devices equipped with microprocessors to be controlled remotely or over a network like the Internet or a corporate intranet.
During last year's Internet Showcase, emWare made the Wall Street Journal's marketplace feature. It also got a good reception at the Consumer Electronics Show, as did Intelogis.
Intelogis officials met with more than 65 editors and analysts over 21/2 days during the January electronics show, said David Politis, president of Politis Communications in Draper.
"We're not talking futzy newsletters and stuff. We're talking CBS Evening News, New York Times, Business Week, San Diego Union-Tribune, PC Week," he said.
David Coursey, organizer of Internet Showcase, says his show also serves a more basic function: It forces companies to get a working product to show.
They then get valuable feedback from peers - and often money. Coursey figures that his various shows have led to $150 million in venture capital investments, mergers and acquisitions.