“Oh, please, I could care less.” Of the warring emotions, I tried to focus on my anger, but in truth, I was secretly curious about what Alli might find. Until yesterday I hadn’t heard of Blake, but judging by the way they let him run the show at Angelcom, he must have some influence. Alli stared intently at the screen, reading with obvious interest. I finally caved. “Well, what does it say?”
“He’s a hacker.”
“What?” She must have had the wrong Blake Landon, though he’d hardly looked like an upstanding corporate citizen this morning.
“Well, he used to be anyway. He has rumored connections to M89, a U.S. based hacker group that compromised over two hundred high-profile bank accounts about fifteen years ago. It doesn’t say anything else about it though. Officially, he’s the founding developer of Banksoft, which was acquired for twelve billion dollars. He’s the executive director of Angelcom and is an active investor in a number of early-stage Internet companies.”
“Self-made billionaire, then.”
“Sounds like it. He’s only twenty-seven. Says his parents were teachers.”
The information did little to diminish the anger I felt toward him sabotaging my pitch, but it did fill in some of the blanks. I had to admit, I respected him more knowing he wasn’t handed his fortune, but between him and Max, he still acted like the privileged brat of two. “Well, I don’t suppose it matters much now. If I’m lucky, we’ll never cross paths again anyway.”
It had been drizzling rain for hours. Streams coursed down the windowsill beside my desk where I overlooked one of the many courtyards on campus. The dorms were quiet as most of the students had already left for the term, so I decided to catch up on work. I was checking the traffic statistics on Clozpin when a new mail alert popped up on my screen from a name I didn’t recognize. The subject line read, “TechLabs Conference Panelist.” A thrill of excitement coursed through me. It was a request to fill in for a last minute cancellation at TechLabs, the biggest tech conference of the year.
She grumbled something from under her blanket where she had been napping.
“Do you want to go to Vegas?”
“I thought you were hung over.”
“I am, but I just got invited to speak at the TechLabs Conference this weekend.”
Alli threw the cover off and sat up. “Are you serious?”
“Very. They had someone cancel on their social network CEO panel, and they want me to fill in.”
“We should do it, no question. This could be an amazing marketing opportunity.” She clapped her hands excitedly.
The trip would be expensive, but how could I pass up an opportunity to potentially launch us into the spotlight? What the hell. I couldn’t justify going half way at this point.
“Let’s do it,” I said, immediately giddy at the thought. Sure, networking could be great, but the idea of going to Vegas was pretty exciting all by itself. If I stayed away from the casinos, we’d be fine.
“Awesome, we need to start packing now,” Alli said.
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“Erica Hathaway, you’re the CEO of a fashion social network, representing your company in Las Vegas, the capital of glitz and glamour. We have serious work to do.”
I rolled my eyes as Alli snapped into action, losing herself in our miniscule closet, throwing what looked to be every mini dress she owned onto the bed.
“I’m going for the CEO look, not the call girl look, okay, Alli?”
“You’ve never been to Vegas, sweetie. Trust me.”
We spent the next few hours negotiating outfits while I booked flights and prepped material for the conference. In a little more than twenty-four hours, we would be in Vegas.
* * *
By contrast, Friday was warm and sunny, an invigorating promise of summer which, in New England, could make its appearance anytime between May and July. One more reason to go to Vegas, I thought.
Just past noon, I started across campus to meet with Sid. It was about time for his wake up call.
Not surprisingly, Sid and I met online first. I had the concept, the designs, and a small investment for start up costs, so after mulling over my original idea for a few weeks, I put out the call to the student body for a programmer to help build the site. Sid had been the first to reply. After a couple meetings, we decided to partner on the project, allowing me to put the money I had saved toward marketing instead, which had been critical for our early growth.
I banged on his door for a few minutes before he finally opened it. Sid was tall, well over six feet, and literally the skinniest human being I had ever known. With his dark skin and big brown puppy dog eyes, he was adorable in his own special way, but he’d been painfully single ever since I’d met him. I wasn’t the only one who needed to get out more.
This morning his eyes were bloodshot and tired, and I silently wondered if a new video game had come out. That usually had an effect on his already erratic sleep schedule.
“Here, I brought breakfast.” I tossed him an energy drink, and he grumbled a response before heading back into the cave—a messy suite he shared with a handful of other hermits. I followed him in and sat down on the couch.
“What’s up?” He cracked open the can and settled in at his desk covered in empty cans and pop tart wrappers. I resisted the urge to start cleaning.
“I’m going to Vegas to speak at the TechLabs conference, so I wanted to touch base with you before I left tonight. We might get a spike in traffic from the exposure. I just want to make sure we’re prepared for that.”
“How big of a spike?”
“I have no idea, but there are forty-five thousand people attending the conference. Alli is coming, so she’ll be doing PR too.”
“Okay, I’ll monitor the stats and have some load bearing servers set up for overflow.” He scribbled something into his notebook and booted up his machine.
“Do we have those already, or do we need to buy more?” I asked, hoping that we could avoid downtime with minimal funds.
“We can always use more. Is it in the budget?”
“Uh, not really. This trip is going to be a stretch.”
“How long until this money with Angelcom comes through?”
“If it does at all, I have no idea. I’m hoping to get a better sense of that when I meet with Max in a couple weeks. I think it usually takes a few months, but I have a feeling he might be able to get it pushed through more quickly if he’s really interested.”