Event: Tech Coast Angels summer party 2007

 

 


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The Tech Coast Angels Los Angeles chapter, held its annual summer party on June 24th, 2007. The event was hosted at the home of TCA member Elizabeth Tito and her husband Dennis Tito (Dennis Tito is founder of Wilshire Associates and originator of the Wilshire 5000 index. He was also the first space tourist, and spent 8 days in space on board the International Space Station).

 

The party was attended by 100+ TCA LA members and spouses. TCA founder Luis Villalobos of Angel Venture partners, and TCA president Frank Peters of the FrankPetersShow, were also in attendance. The fabulous event was organized by TCA members Joyce Freedman and Elizabeth Tito. The TCA board of governors - Richard Morgenstern, Al Schneider and John Morris, was present in full force.

The hilltop Tito home provided a magnificent setting for the late afternoon event, with views of the Bay, Century City and downtown LA.

 

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Twitter: What are you doing?

twitter logoI decided to join the crowd and try out Twitter. Whether or not Twitter can be called a killer app, might be up for debate, but it sure does what it promises, and that too, with a minimum of hassle.

Twitter is simple. It asks “what are you doing?”. You can write a short clip on your activities. It gets posted to your page on Twitter. Once you sign up friends, they can join in on the chirping. If you post a picture, your clips also appear on the main Twitter home page (but you have the choice to not allow that).

Entries can be typed in at the website, or sent via IMs (Google talk but no Yahoo IM, why?), or from a cell phone. Set up for both of these turned out to be remarkably easy and transparent.

The best feature is the ability to embed your Twitter into your favorite home page. This is where you can put some of your down time (if you are fortunate enough to have any) to good use - like if you are waiting in line for the iPhone to come out on Friday - and blog away remotely from your mobile phone.

While I have every conceivable application on my Palm phone, I rarely use them. Twitter is easy that way - you simply send a quick text message to your account with the latest piece of news, and you are done. No need to download a large application. Also since people generally write short clips, there is less of a time barrier, not to mention writer’s inertia, to deal with.

Twitter is already becoming quite a platform (in the way Facebook has, and LinkedIn plans to). Applications such as Twitteriffic, built upon their API, lets you know when other Twitter members are near by.

The most interesting story behind the story of Twitter is about its CEO Evan Williams who is considering raising VC funding - but more on that later. With 4 million users, it is interesting to note that Twitter actually has a choice on that front.

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Tech Coast Angels: Night at the Geffen

TCA-LogoOn June 21st, the Tech Coast Angels held its second Night at the Geffen Playhouse, in Los Angeles CA. The event was organized by Frank Peters, President of Tech Coast Angels, and the prolific podcaster of the Frank Peters Show (in his show, Frank engages prominent entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists in in-depth conversations about the state of innovation in southern California).

The Geffen Playhouse is housed in a historical building that was originally a Masonic lodge in 1929, and today stands as a reminder of the past association between the Freemasons (an organization that is hundreds of years old and believed to have roots in the medieval stone masons of Europe) and UCLA. It is one of the first 12 structures built in Westwood Village. The original building still stands today, but it has been extended through renovations to the tune of $17M that were completed in 2005.

10 TCA members and their spouses attended the intimate evening at the Geffen Playhouse. The event started with a tour of the Geffen followed by a private dinner in one of the original rooms of the Masonic lodge.

Gershwin Hershey logoThe highlight of the evening was the one-person play “George Gershwin Alone”. The play celebrates the genius of the composer George Gershwin. Hershey Felder, who has written and directed the production, also played the role of the intense and sometimes whimsical Gershwin to perfection.

At the end of the play, Hershey Felder led a sing along of some of Gershwin’s best loved songs, including the ever popular “Summertime”.

The evening ended with an intimate champagne reception , over which Hershey Felder answered questions from the Tech Coast Angels members (including what it is like to be married to a prime minister - Hershey’s wife is ex Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell!). Felder also described his experiences over the 3000 shows that he has staged around the world for “Gershwin Alone”, and talked about his newer productions based upon the lives of Chopin and Beethoven.

The evening ended with directors of the Geffen giving TCA members CDs of the Gershwin Alone sound track to take away as mementos.

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ChipIn: Fundraising meets social networking

chipin logoWe were excited to hear about ChipIn, a micropayment service, that just went live on the Facebook platform. The application lets you accept payments for a cause that you set up, and promote to your friends, via a widget that you can embed into your website.

While it is a clever app that people are already using for all sorts of purposes including raising money for a birthday gift, or supporting a charity, it is not a true “micropayment” system per se. It is more of a social vehicle that allows you to get the word out about your cause, and conveniently collect the payment.

A while ago we lamented the fact that no one is coming up with a true micropayment system for transactions that are about a dollar or less. Paypal and credit card carriers apply a transaction charge of 0.30 or so, along with a percentage on the amount collected (2.9% to 5.0%). These charges can add up quickly for the merchant. We also talked about Payoneer, a new entrant in the debit card market, that was focusing on streamlining the processing of online payments for small merchants, while charging lower fees than the standard issuers.

Honolulu based ChipIn does not charge for its service, other than pass on Paypal’s fees to the fundraiser. The site mentions that payments can be collected via Paypal or ACH, but the sign up screen does not provide any option other than to enter information for a Paypal account.

While ChipIn does make it easier to give to, and collect for charities, and has some spiffy tools that allow you (and your donors) to track the progress on your fund raising, one problem still remains - how to find a worthwhile charity where you can be sure your dollars are actually making a difference!

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