No one has been an Internet microcelebrity longer than Hilary Rowland, who began her Web career in 1995. But her hunger for attention could doom an April ski party for startup founders. Oh no!
The Summit Series, an event for Internet entrepreneurs under the age of 36, is gearing up for a third get-together, this time in Aspen.
Rowland, the founder of Hilary Magazine and New Faces, a modeling agency, was one of the few women who went to the last Summit Series, a phenomenally ill-timed November junket in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for some 60 Internet-industry second-raters who partied and drank in the midst of an economic meltdown. (One attendee, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, came straight from laying off 8 percent of his workforce.)
The event was supposed to be off the record, with no names released, no photos posted, and no mention made of the event's existence. But Rowland, a very attractive blonde with a decidedly unattractive penchant for name-dropping, issued a press release and posted photos of the event for her vast number of Facebook friends. The summit's stated mission was the exchange of ideas and the promotion of charitable works. Perhaps that happened! But if so, Rowland's photographs did not document it:
Among the people Rowland exposed: Drop.io founder Sam Lessin, the son of a Wall Street banker who took 19 of his closest friends to his dad's vacation home in Cyprus, where they filmed a video of their frolics. The clip leaked and the event, promptly dubbed "Camp Cyprus," became an infamous example of the Web 2.0 set's irrational exuberance. In other words, Summit Series Mexico was only the second money-wasting event Lessin, whose startup is hardly setting the world on fire, got caught attending.
And that's the problem that the Summit Series' organizers are now facing. Rowland has proven that they can't keep the event private, and the likes of Lessin surely don't want to be caught out as wastrels a third time. Elliott Bisnow, the event's founder, is also trying to cajole invitees to the four-day Aspen event to pay $3,000; past events were free save for airfare. (Here's the full text of his emails, including an amusing followup to beg for ticket purchases.)
I suppose Bisnow could disinvite Rowland. But there will always be someone willing to barter privacy for a little taste of fame. Isn't that what the Internet was made for? With all her experience, Rowland should know that better than anyone.