And it begins at the airport. I am making what has become my third annual pilgrimage to South by Southwest (SXSW) to judge a healthcare startup program in the SXSW Interactive Accelerator and I find that the all-consuming techno-weenie goofiness that envelops Austin for SXSW has spread, germ-like, to Virgin America gate 54B at SFO. There at the gate is a huge display of free cupcakes and nerd glasses with an ad for what I can only surmise is the newest extra-marital-activity-while-you-are-on-the-road-pre-planning-app called HereOnBiz.
Contrary to my first impression, HereOnBiz is not intended (or at least is not marketed) as “Tinder for people who carry laptops.” Rather it is being promoted as an app that lets you find people who are in your social networking universe who might happen to be nearby or on your flight. It also lets you shop from the others on your flight whom you do not already know in order to find that very special someone who might be your next source of funding or fondling, depending on your predilections. For the moment, HereOnBiz is the purveyor of very popular free cupcakes and nerd glasses, the latter of which one of my VC friends, Casper de Clerq, picks up; he then tragically unhiply asks the marketing person in charge of the promotion, “do these magnify?” I tell him he might be getting a little old for SXSW if that’s the question he is going to lead with.
But back to my iPhone, HereOnBiz purports to help you “find other nearby professionals in your immediate area” and “network with professionals on the same flight, at the same hotel, or attending the same event” like a tech-enabled professional stalker. Long gone are the days when one can fly anonymously and ignore ones seatmates while snoring and drooling. And on this flight and probably every other one heading to Austin this weekend, the stalking is rich with possibilities. Although I have to say that some of the technosapiens on this plane have taken the hoodie-wearing, facial-hair-sporting zeitgeist a little too far and are looking more like the Unabomber than like Mark Zuckerberg’s heir apparent.
On the actual flight, the pervasive tech culture continues. When you sign into wifi, perhaps to check who is checking you out on HereOnBiz, there is a promotion for:
MAKE YOUR PERFECT #PLANEPITCH. If you could pitch your best business idea to your entrepreneur of choice, who would it be? Make your perfect #PlanePitch to your dream biz seatmate in 140 characters or less for a chance to win six business flights on us, a year of Elevate® Gold Status, and more.
Alright, I bite. I clicked on the link and found this info about who could right this minute be in the same big aluminum tube as I am: Might it be a one-on-one with a start-up strategist, a leading venture capitalist, or your favorite billionaire industrialist, your wildest networking dream could land you a seat on a Virgin America flight with a chance to make your perfect #PlanePitch to your entrepreneur of choice. – See more here.
Given that this plane is headed to SXSW and my seatmates include both Rock Health’s Halle Tecco and the aforementioned Norwest Venture Partners’ Casper de Clerq, it is entirely correct that start-up strategists and leading venture capitalists are present on the flight. But my favorite billionaire industrialist? God I hope that guy has his own plane or what’s the point of making all that money?
But I digress, as I am trying to martial my energy to answer the burning in-flight question, “Do I have that big idea that I should make sure those big shot VCs on the plane see in my Twitter feed?” All of a sudden it comes to me, courtesy of the guy sitting behind me. Ready for my pitch? Here goes:
Cover your mouth when you sneeze or I’ll wrap this headphone cord around your neck and put you out of my misery. #seriouslydudeIamnotkidding.
And I only used 135 characters including spaces so I deserve credit for being concise. Mine is an idea that could literally improve the healthcare of the hundreds of people on the plane, not to mention the tens of thousands of attendees at SXSW, particularly if I follow through on my threat, so it has to be worth a lot, right? And given that my cost of goods is limited to the $14.95 reusable headphones I bought in the terminal, and maybe some Purell, my margins are nearly infinite. I say the pre-money should be at least $750 million, as I bet I could get each of the 65,000 SXSW attendees to Tweet me $10 for saving them from catching a cold from this jackass behind me. And in the digital health business, that’s some serious revenue.