Schmooze It or Lose It

The tech boom has South Florida's Internet pioneers and newcomers in a state of rabid networking

Nearby Duane MacPhail was raving about his cutting-edge Website, which offers commodities that, for many South Floridians at least, are as important as sex: boat parts. Even MacPhail has caught the World Wide bug. The day after the meeting he dashed out an e-mail message to New Times. "It was good to talk to you last night at the first-Tuesday meeting. We feel our Website,, represents many of the dynamic things happening in Florida today. Our 'clicks to bricks' evolution is truly unique in today's business environment."

On the Internet Coast, fantasy and reality often meld. Back at the Fontainebleau, a euphoric Ronald Kronen stood in a circle of prospective clients who were equally high on the Internet. "I say it's all starting right here," he declared. "We're some of the innovators of the backbone of the industry here." Then he noticed a tall blond woman approach, and changed his tune. "Wow, she's pretty."

She is Heather Storm, president of Mundo Nuevo, which operates a Website ( that plays Latin music on personal computers. "We're looking to create strategic alliances," Storm says. In other words she and Gregory Alexander (her husband and the company's CEO) want to get their Website on the home pages of major music companies. The couple drove down from West Palm Beach just to strategically mingle.

Despite all the high-tech hoopla, Anamaria Manzano was sticking to a one-on-one, evangelical sales approach that worked just fine before the Internet came along. She was attempting to proselytize people into forking over $20 per month for prepaid legal services. "What if someone sues you?" she said, pointing a finger at New Times's chest as she joined us at a cocktail table on the side of the banquet room. (Legal assistance and peace of mind are just a phone call away. Affordable, quality legal protection for just pennies a day! And it's only because she cares about you.)

Other strange behavior has been sighted at the sessions. Chatting near the buffet table in a suit and tie, Glenn Harris remembered one odd participant at the Colonnade Internet happy hour. "This guy collected a big stack of business cards," recalls Harris, an advertising manager at El, a Spanish-language portal (which means a site created to provide access to other sites). "He had been going around telling people he worked for some kind of Internet company. And then on his way out he said to me: 'Here, do you want them?' It was bizarre."

As the Fontainebleau cocktail party thinned out, Diaz got down to brass tacks: He could hook up New Times with a gizmo that processes credit cards on the Website. We'll need that to get our porn business going. But Diaz knows the porn industry isn't for every eager e-entrepreneur. He also can arrange an offshore bank account, he says, to help us set up a cyber casino.

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