Networking It

A tall, tan Grace Kelly in a T-shirt and white jeans, the blonde college sophomore in seat 12D is still too young to know just how good-looking she is. But the 42-year-old man in 12E, who looks a little like George Clooney, can’t keep his eyes off her. As the MD-11 taxis down the runway, he strategically picks a topic sure to connect with any undergrad: “Do you use Napster?”

She turns to him with a look that says she’s busted. “Um, yeah,” she giggles. “A lot. I have about three gigabytes of songs at school.”

“You don’t even buy CDs anymore, right?” he teases.

“Not really.” She blushes.

“Let me ask you something,” he says, leaning toward her. “If you could go online and see live concerts from bands like Blink-182 and Ben Folds Five, would you do it?”

“Oh, yeah – definitely!”

Introducing himself, Andrew Rasiej explains that he runs a start-up company in New York called Digital Club Network, which Webcasts and archives hundreds of concerts a week from nightspots all over the country. He drops some more band names, working the nonchalant big-city charm.

She loves the idea. She would totally check out a site like that – at least a couple of times a week. She wants to know what musicians he’s met. She wants to know about New York.

“New media, education, politics, the nightclub economy – there’s almost no one whose combination is as good. Here is a Zelig with substance.”

He smiles, ever so slightly. A successful flirtation and a very encouraging one-woman focus group: It’s going to be a good flight.

Working multiple angles is Andrew Rasiej’s specialty. True, the 50-employee Digital Club Network (DCN) commands the lion’s share of his attention these days. The start-up’s four-day, 30-city festival opens Saturday with big-name acts like Ben Folds, Wu-Tang Clan, and Aimee Mann Webcasting live sound and video from the tiny clubs that spawned them. In the process, Rasiej (pronounced Ra-shay) hopes to open another front in the war on the Napster-beleaguered traditional music business.

But DCN probably wouldn’t have attracted a dollar of venture capital had Rasiej not come to his backers’ attention as the founder of mouse (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools & Education), the $1.5 million-a-year charity whose volunteers have wired more than 50 New York City schools with computers and high-speed T1 lines. DCN’s seed investors took him seriously “not because I was the most brilliant digerati guy,” Rasiej says, but because “I had started this nonprofit organization without any money.” mouse has also helped Rasiej draw the attention of politicians such as Hillary Clinton and New Jersey senator Bob Torricelli, whom he advises on tech policy. The president of the city Board of Education has called him an “instrumental” contributor to its forthcoming plan for an income-generating education portal.

Indeed, DCN probably wouldn’t have been able to pull together its nationwide network of otherwise fiercely independent clubs if Rasiej hadn’t made a Palm-VII’s worth of connections as the former owner of Irving Plaza and the current president of the New York Nightlife Association, a political lobbying group. Then there’s his background in real-estate development (South Street Seaport, World Financial Center), which inspired DCN’s underlying concept that brick-and-mortar club owners are entitled to their piece of the content business.

As his connections keep coming around, Rasiej is emerging as one of the most versatile players in manically multitasking New York. “New media, education, politics, the nightclub economy – there’s almost no one whose combination is as good,” gushes eventual mayoral candidate Mark Green. “Here is a Zelig with substance.”

The real crisis facing the music business isn’t Napster, the software that lets Internet users download hundreds of thousands of songs for free. The crisis is the Internet itself. Napster is only the most dramatic sign that widespread broadband will put everything having to do with music and money up for grabs. As the major labels contend with copyright problems, ever-evolving technology, and the media culture germinating in Gen-Y’s networked bedrooms, Rasiej means to make sure club owners (and he himself) grab their share.

As any music executive will tell you – off the record, of course – one of the greater pleasures of using Napster is finding unusual live material: R.E.M.’s mid-eighties cover of the Stones’ “Paint It Black” or that too-nasty-for-radio number D’Angelo did in London. But actual A-list material is in short supply, and much of it sounds like it was recorded on a Walkman hidden in someone’s pants.

What Rasiej and DCN co-founders Michael Dorf (better known as the brains behind the Knitting Factory) and Ted Werth figured out is that individual clubs own some of the rights to transmit any performance that occurs under their roofs. But those clubs, small and often disorganized, have seldom had a way to exploit them. DCN’s business plan hinges on buying up broadcast rights from the best little clubs in the world, then installing Webcasting equipment and putting their concerts online. Of the 70 U.S. venues he wants, Rasiej says he’s already signed 60, including Brownies and S.O.B.’s in New York, First Avenue in Minneapolis, and the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. He’s also doing deals in Europe, Australia, and Asia.

Rasiej and his partners designed DCN to dodge Napster’s legal hassles. It’s offering only live performances, which shouldn’t cannibalize artists’ album sales. It’s working with bands, managers, and major labels from the get-go. And it will negotiate with a certain amount of leverage: Anyone who wants to broadcast or record at most of the country’s most prominent small clubs will have to talk to DCN.

“Rather than being a lab experiment like a lot of other Internet plays, Andrew’s connected to something real in the music culture,” says Danny Goldberg, former head of Atlantic and Mercury Records and now chairman and CEO of Artemis Records and, as of last spring, a DCN board member.

That something real is live club performances. And while the audience for an initial Webcast might be modest, DCN also archives every concert for posterity – and, Rasiej hopes, profitability. After the first year, Rasiej estimates DCN will have banked 50,000 concerts, the largest online library of digitally recorded live performances in the world. “You have to assume that 99 percent of them are worthless,” Rasiej concedes – which is to say, most of the bands that play DCN clubs will never even get a record deal, let alone lay down a hit. But the incremental cost of recording each gig is only about $100, Werth estimates. So come 2004, amidst the dreck, DCN could quite possibly own hundreds of early concert recordings of tomorrow’s Pearl Jams and Sheryl Crows at a nominal cost.

Which raises the question: Will there be any money left in the music business in 2004? Napster and the more decentralized (and therefore harder to shut down) Gnutella and Freenet have the industry fretting that people will flat-out stop paying for recorded music. This would hurt DCN as much as anyone: One user could record its concerts and put them up on Napster the same night.

Such deathbed scenarios have become the favored topic at media-mogul meetings from coast to coast. After dinner on the first night of Silicon Alley Reporter editor and CEO Jason Calacanis’s recent Rising Tide Summit – a kind of junior TED conference – Rasiej discusses the future with David Friedensohn, former CEO of SonicNet. Friedensohn now runs the video site Bigstar.com, which is changing its focus from the retail business – since “traditional distribution of any digital product vaporizes as a business in the foreseeable future” – towards e-mail marketing.

“Four months ago, I started looking at Napster and Gnutella, and I said, ‘You know what? This business sucks,’ ” declares Friedensohn. “The record companies are going away.”

“They’ll figure something out,” shoots back Rasiej, who’s been busy making sure his fellow conferencegoers have the drinks they need and know the people he wants them to meet. “They’ll morph.”

“Andrew, you know the execs there – that’s not going to happen.”

“What do labels do?” Rasiej asks rhetorically. “They promote bands, and they act as merchant banks. Napster doesn’t kill the need for those. They morph.” He swaggers a little, enjoying the argument.

“Nev-er hap-pen,” Friedensohn insists. “Time Warner has never gotten one thing right on the Internet!”

But, Rasiej parries, now that it’s AOL Time Warner, maybe it doesn’t care about making money the old-fashioned way. A crowd begins to gather: Everyone in the Alley wants to know what everyone else in the Alley thinks about history’s most popular piracy tool. “Look, David, if there’s no way to make money on content, no one’s going to make content.”

“That’s crap – people will always make music.”

“But imagine a two-tiered Napster system, one that pays the artists a little and one that doesn’t. Which one do you use?”

With Rasiej, one enters into not so much a debate as a jovial war of attrition: As many rebuttals as someone offers, he’s got one more. And when it comes to DCN’s business prospects, he’s full of ideas – none more fixed than a trailer home in a tornado.

In other words, there’s only one thing he hasn’t yet figured out (this is the new-media business, remember): how exactly DCN will make money.

Rasiej was born in northern New Jersey to Polish Catholic immigrants, survivors of a Russian World War II prison camp. The middle child of five, he was a parochial-school star, but unlike his older brothers, he didn’t get into no-tuition Regis High School, a sort of Jesuit magnet school on the Upper East Side. “Mortified” that his father had to shell out for Fordham Prep, Rasiej applied to Cooper Union for college not because he had any artistic inclinations but because it was free. Cobbling together a photography portfolio, he somehow got in and proceeded to blow off the darkroom to study architecture. After graduation, he went to work in real-estate development – first for Harry Macklowe, then South Street, then Olympia & York. He left in 1989 to start his first nonprofit, a consultancy that gave real-estate advice to other nonprofits.

One of his first clients was the Polish Army Veterans Association, which owned an old meeting hall on Irving Place near 15th Street – a joint that hosted rock concerts for a brief time in the eighties. When the 1990 real-estate recession scuttled the vets’ redevelopment plans, they asked Rasiej to rent the hall out again. He couldn’t, so he eventually found himself running the reborn Irving Plaza with no music or concert-business experience. Bringing the downtown music scene a level of professionalism (paying his bills on time, cutting smart deals with promoters Ron Delsener and Jon Scher, wrist-banding under-21’s), Rasiej turned Irving into arguably the city’s most important small rock venue, not to mention the club Eric Clapton and Prince chose when they wanted to play somewhere intimate. Rasiej moved in across the street at the Zeckendorf Towers, where one apartment grew over several years to encompass three. (He’s also in flagrante renovatio on a recently purchased $1.7 million West Village townhouse.)

As the Web began to bubble up from the primordial media ooze, Michael Dorf approached Rasiej with an idea for what amounted to a wired version of the New Music Seminar, the new band showcase that had collapsed in 1994. When Rasiej heard that Dorf had signed Apple to a $75,000 sponsorship, he grew curious – maybe there was some money in this Internet thing. “There I was with the idea,” Dorf recalls, “but because of Andrew’s tenacity and salesmanship – he’s so charismatic – we walked out of the idea partners.”

The Macintosh New York Music Festival (later renamed the Intel New York Music Festival, for the obvious reasons) became the Digital Club Festival in 1999. Though it had never amounted to much commercially before then, and the labels treated it as, at best, a curiosity, the festival served as a terrifically funded R&D lab and boot camp for people who would soon emerge as some of the most important figures in digital music: Nicholas Butterworth (today president and CEO of MTVi), David Pakman (then of Apple, now senior vice-president of MyPlay), and RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser. Rasiej spent the night before the ‘95 festival personally chauffeuring Bell Atlantic technicians around town in order to get fifteen ISDN lines installed by showtime. When he and Dorf got an e-mail from some guy in Singapore saying “Hey, I feel like I’m club-hopping in NYC,” it got them thinking. Why not have constant feeds from New York clubs running on the Web?

A budding sense that they were onto something capital-B Big started Rasiej evangelizing about the Internet and sparked what he calls his “evolution as a protagonist” in several endeavors. One was the company that would become DCN. Another was mouse. In 1997, Rasiej paid his first visit to Washington Irving High School, just across from his club. “I saw kids typing on Selectric typewriters, and I thought that was fucked up. So I ordered a T1” – he speaks as though this were the natural reaction anyone would have had – “and sent e-mail to ten of my friends asking them to join me to wire a computer lab in the school. Two weeks later, I had 150 people descend on this school on a Saturday.” Martin Luther King High School – which had two dial-up computers on the premises – was next, outfitted with a T1 and 200 machines online. Today, mouse has a full-time staff of ten and more than 100,000 wired kids to its credit citywide.

On the for-profit front, Dorf and Rasiej spent a couple of years as 50-50 partners wrangling and redrafting a business plan, then hired the preternaturally mellow Werth, a creator of the first-generation city-guide site Total New York, to help them get it into final form. When they started off on the venture-capital circuit, the team quickly learned that potential investors didn’t like the idea of co-CEOs; they wanted to know who was in charge. The Knitting Factory’s planned expansion to Los Angeles and Berlin preoccupied Dorf, who’s known as more of a visionary than an executive. Rasiej, who had sold Irving Plaza to concert-promoting powerhouse SFX Entertainment for nearly $2 million, assumed the CEO spot.

In July 1999, DCN landed $1.5 million in seed money from Carlin Ventures, which had known about Rasiej via mouse. Dorf, though still DCN chairman, receded from day-to-day involvement, and his company KnitMedia eventually sold part of its stake in the network to raise cash for its over-budget L.A. club.

Even after the dot-com funding well ran almost totally dry this spring, DCN closed on $12 million more of financing in May at a $53 million valuation. After the festival, DCN will look to raise $30 million to $50 million more, at a price that will probably make the last venture round look like a fire sale.

On a 24-hour-turnaround trip to Seattle, Rasiej pays a call on the Showbox, an 800-capacity room complete with smoke-damaged paint job, stale-beer bouquet, and perpetually twirling mirror ball. Since it pulls in about 100 national acts a year, he wants it badly for his Northwest hub.

Despite straddling two industries that spearheaded five-day casual, Rasiej wears what he seems most comfortable in – a navy Armani blazer. The old-school touch suggests both a New Yorker’s reluctance to part too completely with his East Coast identity and the slightest strategic whiff of Establishment credibility.

“Andrew will be a politician in ten years,” Calacanis pronounces with just a touch of jest. “He’s done an even better job of branding Andrew Rasiej than Mouse or DCN.”

Jeff Steichen, the Showbox’s goateed fortysomething owner, has been a harder sell than most. “We’ve been met with lots of models for what a Web broadcast needs, how you monetize it,” he explains over the din of noonday beer deliveries and pinball repairs. “We’re right in the middle of a lot of technology stuff here in Seattle – we live and breathe it – so we’re a little skeptical.”

Jason Fitzgerald, a booker and manager, shows more enthusiasm: “DCN brings it all together – they’ll have a great selection, the best clubs in the world, strength in numbers.” In other words, when it comes to making a business of Webcasting, a club cartel should have a better shot than a bunch of unallied Showboxes. They also have a better shot at negotiating with artists, record labels, publishers, and other rights-holders to cut deals everyone’s happy with.

The clubs get a piece of any DCN revenues their shows generate, plus a chunk of DCN stock options, which could be worth somewhere in the mid­six figures if the network succeeds. “The stock certainly sweetens the pot,” Steichen says, although he still hasn’t made a definite decision. “We watch the market daily here on our computers – we gaze at the Internet while we lick our brick-and-mortar wounds.”

DCN’s locational rights are only one element in the music business’s famously byzantine tangle. Live performances themselves are almost always owned by the artist; today, every time it wants to stream a show, DCN has to negotiate with the band. Artists and/or their labels will generally get between 25 and 50 percent of any money DCN makes on both live-broadcast and archived material. Eventually, the network hopes to standardize its clubs’ booking contracts to include Webcasting permission.

Rights to the archive are even more convoluted. Unsigned acts (i.e., most of those that play DCN clubs) can generally grant ownership of their performances to DCN. Why would they sign? Because with worldwide reach and ample royalties, DCN will be able to give them the best deal. But with acts signed to major labels, the label almost always owns all recordings the band makes while under contract. BMG is negotiating an agreement as part of a possible strategic investment; others are at least discussing DCN. But none have committed. Until they do, the value of DCN’s archive remains in question.

DCN also has some brand-name competition. House of Blues, the nation’s second-largest concert promoter behind SFX, already Webcasts an impressive slate of live shows (this summer’s lineup includes the Beastie Boys, Santana, and N’Sync) and has secured a distribution deal with MTVi. The company, which recently filed to go public, has also begun to get into smaller venues, mopping up whatever Rasiej misses (DCN lacks a strong presence in California, where HoB is based) and installing higher-quality video equipment than DCN has in its clubs. House of Blues Senior Vice President of Digital Technology Stephen Felisan thinks DCN’s small-pond strategy won’t work, because the audience just won’t be big enough to pay off. “You can’t have the small emerging artists only – people don’t just want to see those kinds of artists.”

Though DCN will carry some big acts, it will admittedly not feature established stars all that often. (This weekend’s festival will be an exception.) Rasiej charges that House of Blues’ investment in high-end video will prove wasted, and notes that his company will generally have more extensive rebroadcast rights to the material it records. Typically, he ends up spinning the situation as a win-win. He contends that any success for House of Blues would ultimately help DCN by validating Webcasting. “Cybercasting and archiving are going to be part of the business,” Rasiej insists.

Problem is, he isn’t sure which part. At the moment, he’s enthusiastic about one potential source of revenue for DCN: data-mining, or compiling and selling information about how many of which people are interested in what new bands to A&R departments. At least some major labels have taken an interest.

“If there’s an unsigned artist we’re seriously looking at, it’s great to get online usage stats and comments,” says Elektra Records’ new-media VP Camille Hackney. “Outside of an A&R person flying to Podunk to see a show and catch the vibe, it’s a good way to see what’s going on.”

But data-mining is merely this week’s idea. Depending on the prevailing winds, next week’s Rasiej spiel might focus on DCN itself becoming a record label that uses audience data to snatch bands before the majors. Or DCN could go pay-per-view. Or it could charge an all-you-can-eat subscription fee for its thousands of shows a month. Or, as concertgoers head out after a show, it could offer to sell them a CD of the gig. Or it could make its live Webcasts free and charge five or ten bucks for archived shows. Or something.

There’s one thing he’s sure of: The rights intrinsic to prime brick-and-mortar real estate – for example, several dozen leading nightclubs regularly packed with rabid music fans – will always end up valuable to someone.

Gack at Calacanis’s Rising Tide confab, Rasiej has ascended to schmooze heaven. One minute, he’s pitching former police commissioner William Bratton on a plan to hire uniformed off-duty cops to keep the peace outside nightclubs, as they do at sporting events. The next, he’s mind-melding with an ABC News producer about educational technology initiatives. Then he’s advising a leading nanotechnology CEO on P.R. strategy. Rasiej works a room best when it’s crowded with people from all different walks of life. “He has that ability, in a 1,000-person cocktail party, to make you feel you’re the only person in the room,” says one Alley acquaintance.

That’s a politician’s skill, and elected types recognize it – which is why Rasiej will keep busy this summer between DCN deals by fielding calls from the likes of Torricelli. “Andrew has a tremendous ability to bridge the gap between key leaders in the high-tech community and in government,” says New Jersey’s soon-to-be-senior senator.

On the for-profit front, Dorf and Rasiej spent a couple of years as 50-50 partners wrangling and redrafting a business plan, then hired the preternaturally mellow Werth, a creator of the first-generation city-guide site Total New York, to help them get it into final form. When they started off on the venture-capital circuit, the team quickly learned that potential investors didn’t like the idea of co-CEOs; they wanted to know who was in charge. The Knitting Factory’s planned expansion to Los Angeles and Berlin preoccupied Dorf, who’s known as more of a visionary than an executive. Rasiej, who had sold Irving Plaza to concert-promoting powerhouse SFX Entertainment for nearly $2 million, assumed the CEO spot.

In July 1999, DCN landed $1.5 million in seed money from Carlin Ventures, which had known about Rasiej via mouse. Dorf, though still DCN chairman, receded from day-to-day involvement, and his company KnitMedia eventually sold part of its stake in the network to raise cash for its over-budget L.A. club.

Even after the dot-com funding well ran almost totally dry this spring, DCN closed on $12 million more of financing in May at a $53 million valuation. After the festival, DCN will look to raise $30 million to $50 million more, at a price that will probably make the last venture round look like a fire sale.

On a 24-hour-turnaround trip to Seattle, Rasiej pays a call on the Showbox, an 800-capacity room complete with smoke-damaged paint job, stale-beer bouquet, and perpetually twirling mirror ball. Since it pulls in about 100 national acts a year, he wants it badly for his Northwest hub.

Despite straddling two industries that spearheaded five-day casual, Rasiej wears what he seems most comfortable in – a navy Armani blazer. The old-school touch suggests both a New Yorker’s reluctance to part too completely with his East Coast identity and the slightest strategic whiff of Establishment credibility.

Jeff Steichen, the Showbox’s goateed fortysomething owner, has been a harder sell than most. “We’ve been met with lots of models for what a Web broadcast needs, how you monetize it,” he explains over the din of noonday beer deliveries and pinball repairs. “We’re right in the middle of a lot of technology stuff here in Seattle – we live and breathe it – so we’re a little skeptical.”

Jason Fitzgerald, a booker and manager, shows more enthusiasm: “DCN brings it all together – they’ll have a great selection, the best clubs in the world, strength in numbers.” In other words, when it comes to making a business of Webcasting, a club cartel should have a better shot than a bunch of unallied Showboxes. They also have a better shot at negotiating with artists, record labels, publishers, and other rights-holders to cut deals everyone’s happy with.

The clubs get a piece of any DCN revenues their shows generate, plus a chunk of DCN stock options, which could be worth somewhere in the mid­six figures if the network succeeds. “The stock certainly sweetens the pot,” Steichen says, although he still hasn’t made a definite decision. “We watch the market daily here on our computers – we gaze at the Internet while we lick our brick-and-mortar wounds.”

DCN’s locational rights are only one element in the music business’s famously byzantine tangle. Live performances themselves are almost always owned by the artist; today, every time it wants to stream a show, DCN has to negotiate with the band. Artists and/or their labels will generally get between 25 and 50 percent of any money DCN makes on both live-broadcast and archived material. Eventually, the network hopes to standardize its clubs’ booking contracts to include Webcasting permission.

Rights to the archive are even more convoluted. Unsigned acts (i.e., most of those that play DCN clubs) can generally grant ownership of their performances to DCN. Why would they sign? Because with worldwide reach and ample royalties, DCN will be able to give them the best deal. But with acts signed to major labels, the label almost always owns all recordings the band makes while under contract. BMG is negotiating an agreement as part of a possible strategic investment; others are at least discussing DCN. But none have committed. Until they do, the value of DCN’s archive remains in question.

DCN also has some brand-name competition. House of Blues, the nation’s second-largest concert promoter behind SFX, already Webcasts an impressive slate of live shows (this summer’s lineup includes the Beastie Boys, Santana, and N’Sync) and has secured a distribution deal with MTVi. The company, which recently filed to go public, has also begun to get into smaller venues, mopping up whatever Rasiej misses (DCN lacks a strong presence in California, where HoB is based) and installing higher-quality video equipment than DCN has in its clubs. House of Blues Senior Vice President of Digital Technology Stephen Felisan thinks DCN’s small-pond strategy won’t work, because the audience just won’t be big enough to pay off. “You can’t have the small emerging artists only – people don’t just want to see those kinds of artists.”

Though DCN will carry some big acts, it will admittedly not feature established stars all that often. (This weekend’s festival will be an exception.) Rasiej charges that House of Blues’ investment in high-end video will prove wasted, and notes that his company will generally have more extensive rebroadcast rights to the material it records. Typically, he ends up spinning the situation as a win-win. He contends that any success for House of Blues would ultimately help DCN by validating Webcasting. “Cybercasting and archiving are going to be part of the business,” Rasiej insists.

Problem is, he isn’t sure which part. At the moment, he’s enthusiastic about one potential source of revenue for DCN: data-mining, or compiling and selling information about how many of which people are interested in what new bands to A&R departments. At least some major labels have taken an interest.

“If there’s an unsigned artist we’re seriously looking at, it’s great to get online usage stats and comments,” says Elektra Records’ new-media VP Camille Hackney. “Outside of an A&R person flying to Podunk to see a show and catch the vibe, it’s a good way to see what’s going on.”

But data-mining is merely this week’s idea. Depending on the prevailing winds, next week’s Rasiej spiel might focus on DCN itself becoming a record label that uses audience data to snatch bands before the majors. Or DCN could go pay-per-view. Or it could charge an all-you-can-eat subscription fee for its thousands of shows a month. Or, as concertgoers head out after a show, it could offer to sell them a CD of the gig. Or it could make its live Webcasts free and charge five or ten bucks for archived shows. Or something.

There’s one thing he’s sure of: The rights intrinsic to prime brick-and-mortar real estate – for example, several dozen leading nightclubs regularly packed with rabid music fans – will always end up valuable to someone.

Gack at Calacanis’s Rising Tide confab, Rasiej has ascended to schmooze heaven. One minute, he’s pitching former police commissioner William Bratton on a plan to hire uniformed off-duty cops to keep the peace outside nightclubs, as they do at sporting events. The next, he’s mind-melding with an ABC News producer about educational technology initiatives. Then he’s advising a leading nanotechnology CEO on P.R. strategy. Rasiej works a room best when it’s crowded with people from all different walks of life. “He has that ability, in a 1,000-person cocktail party, to make you feel you’re the only person in the room,” says one Alley acquaintance.

That’s a politician’s skill, and elected types recognize it – which is why Rasiej will keep busy this summer between DCN deals by fielding calls from the likes of Torricelli. “Andrew has a tremendous ability to bridge the gap between key leaders in the high-tech community and in government,” says New Jersey’s soon-to-be-senior senator.

“Clearly Andrew will be a politician in ten years,” Calacanis pronounces with a touch – but just a touch – of jest. “He’s done an even better job of branding Andrew Rasiej than mouse or DCN.” No wonder Calacanis cheers for Rasiej – he embodies the qualities that distinguish the Alley from new-media communities in other cities. San Francisco is about pure tech; L.A. still takes its cues from the entertainment business. Polymath New York likes not to be pinned down.

“There are benefits to having your worlds intersect,” Rasiej says, “though for me it wasn’t premeditated.” For example, “the only reason I’m in politics is education.” Undoubtedly true – but also a great line for a stump speech.

Networking It