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Too Many People, Not Enough Chairs: Social Capital Markets Conference

Not yet. That was the first message I heard at Social Capital Markets today, as I approached the registration table; they weren’t ready for me yet. In fact, they weren’t ready for me, nor were they ready for the 20 other people who had queued up early. If there’s any indication of interest in a conference or event, it’s usually the line of people arriving 2 or 3 hours early. (No, they weren’t giving away iPhones.) Read my SoCap08 conference preview here for some context.

When the table finally opened, I was greeted by a familiar face – Meredith Lobel, now a second year MBA student at Harvard Business School and formerly a tried-and-true changemaker with Ashoka. She’s volunteering here at SoCap08.

Two hours later, the excitement hasn’t died down; in fact, it has steamrolled. Thus far, I’ve run into other base of the pyramid and social enterprise veterans including Jocelyn Wyatt of IDEO, Margot Brandenburg of Rockefeller Foundation, Dev Appanah from ChangeFusion, Pradeep Suthram from the Social Stock Exchange and Ray Cheung from New Ventures. I’m sure more will be filing in as the day continues. (In fact, as I wrote that sentence, David Auerbach and Elmira Bayrasli from Endeavor took seats behind me, and I noticed Ted London across the room.)

All this momentum, despite the fact that the weather’s beautiful and it’s a federal holiday in the United States – people could certainly make the excuse to beg off the event and enjoy the weather.

So – is this momentum just hype or is there some substance behind it? Our first speaker – and the conference organizer, Kevin Jones, opens with an anecdote and a data point: of the 600+ attendees, more than 450 of us registered after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. That’s for a capital markets conference in a financial markets meltdown…which is at least an indicator of the interest here and the fact that we need to do something different.

While Kevin speaks, a few more people walked in. Wilton Agatstein, retired from Intel and now an Executive in Residence at UC Davis, squeezed into a seat on the floor. Another Will, another seat on the floor – this time it’s Willy Foote, founder and CEO of Root Capital. Aden Van Noppen, who interned with us at Acumen Fund this summer, is standing against the opposite wall. It’s really amazing how this conference is filling up.

We’re off to track sessions – so that’s all for now. More from the panel sessions and the keynotes later today. By the way, Sasha Dichter, Brad Presner and I will all be speaking here at SoCap this week…hope to see you if you’re here!

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