“So is Jason as good as I hear he is?” asked the improbably named Sparrow Mahoney, who’d come to network with the best. She’s the founder of Venture Lanes, a Virginia company that hooks up VCs (shockingly, some still exist) with startups (ditto). And if this were 1999, she’d be tracking down Jason McCabe Calacanis, editor and CEO of the Venture Reporter, formerly the Silicon Alley Reporter, at one of his supersize, six-figure parties.
But last Tuesday night, Calacanis was standing in the wind outside a McDonald’s on West 34th Street and Tenth Avenue, greeting the 700 guests who’d arrived for his magazine’s “Back to Reality” party. Inside, McDonald’s employees served hors d’oeuvre off the Dollar Menu. Five minutes later, Mahoney found Jason and a venture capitalist, RRE Ventures general partner James Robinson, and chatted them up. Later, Robinson said a few people had come to him for money, Big Macs in hand, but he wouldn’t say who or for how much.
Farther downtown, at the Cutting Room, Philip “Pud” Kaplan of Fuckedcompany.com was still kicking dirt on the New Economy’s grave at his book party, but at the McDonald’s, it almost seemed like happy days (and meals) were here again. “It feels kind of like 1999 right now,” said Jerry Colonna of JP Morgan Partners, high on the moment. “As I’m walking through the crowd, what started out as irony is becoming earnestness, if that makes any sense.”
Scott Heiferman was experiencing double déjà vu. A former dot-com CEO (of i-traffic), he’s just founded a new startup, MEETUP, which he can’t talk about (“We’re in stealth mode”). But in between these gigs, he worked at an East Village McDonald’s – “to experience the opposite of the New Economy” – where he suffered burns from the fryer. “The big reason I wanted to work there was to get away from the VC-lawyers-accountants talk,” he said. “And here we are at McDonald’s doing that talk.”
Which is music to Calacanis’s ears. He’s ready for everyone to drop the self-discovery shit already and go back to pulling eighteen-hour shifts (but in front of a computer, not a deep fryer): “You can only go to yoga so many times before you have to build something. Yes, we need people to work at nonprofits, but being able to create 50 real jobs and help families pay their rent, that’s the most beautiful thing you can do. That’s getting lost in this whole anti-business sentiment from Enron and Andersen and Merrill Lynch.”
Others were just happy to see familiar faces. “My whole social life disappeared in just six months,” said literary agent to the digital stars John Brockman. “So many people in this dot-com arena have just vanished. It’s like they – and this whole thing – never happened. Twelve people I had a dinner with one night a year ago, their e-mails don’t even work now. I think it’s great that Jason had the balls to throw this.”