Eric Schmidt, I blame you.
Right as you announce that you're holding your third-quarter earnings call from atop a treasure chest made of sustainably-harvested teak filled with $22 billion in gold doubloons (okay, so maybe I'm being a bit imaginative there), a smattering of prominent folks in the dot-com industry start coming out of the woodwork with ideas that would've sounded absolutely ludicrous a few months ago. Namely, they're getting into the booze business.
Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams are launching a wine label for charity, it was revealed on Thursday. Then, on Friday, AllThingsD's Kara Swisher posted the fruits of a discussion with former AOL exec and current Pilot Group venture capitalist Bob Pittman, whose latest venture is the $275-a-bottle Casa Dragones tequila. (We first reported on Pittman's tequila ambitions about a year and a half ago, but didn't have any further details.)
Have you seen the Twitter feed for Casa Dragones? It's awesome. "Sipping Casa Dragones with Alec Baldwin, Tory Burch, Andre Balazs, Bon Jovi and friends last night at East Hampton's Blue Parrot." Or, "Parthenon, new Acropolis museum, Cy Twombly's opening. Leaving Athens now after a night of sipping. Hot!"
One more entry in the space and this is officially an industry trend. Anybody else in the VC or entrepreneurship community want to fess up to launching a tangy new microbrew (Fail Whale Pale Ale?), a sleek new underground cocktail lounge (muddle those strawberries like you mean it!), or a high-end moonshine distillery nestled in the hills of Marin County? Or who're the real innovators readying their business plans for the chance that the Golden State opens the floodgates to marijuana?
Come on, you can tell me. I won't bite...but I might ask you to buy me a drink.
All joking aside, there have been some rather positive signs for the health of the industry, at least on the surface. There was Eric Schmidt's declaration this week of sunnier skies ahead (at least for Google). Facebook is rushing toward profitability faster than it expected. And next week, the annual Web 2.0 Summit rolls into San Francisco with its reliably impressive lineup of speakers: MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Intel CEO Paul Otellini, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, News Corp. digital chief Jon Miller, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. Some of their companies might not be in particularly terrific health right now, but I'm pretty sure they won't be talking about how much everything sucks.
Then you look at the party lineup. Microsoft has put together a Windows 7 launch party with a few edgy music acts on the bill. There's a start-up focused "After Dark" soiree at San Francisco's St. Regis Hotel (from the invitation: "Explore the streets of the ever-changing Web 2.0 landscape. Whether you cruise the strip or creep down the alleys of the Web metropolis, meet us after dark for a night to remember." Ooh, scandal!) And MySpace, hastily trying to counter sputtering traffic with an ongoing executive shakeup that may or may not turn out well, is throwing one of its "Secret Shows" concerts and some folks are hearing they've booked alt-rock gods (and "Rock Band" staples) Weezer.
The open bars are crawling back onto my Google Calendar. The Dow has inched back into the five figures. And the Valley elite's wacky, expensive side projects are starting to make their way into the headlines.
It's great to see the tech industry's entrepreneurial spirit carrying over into well, spirits. But are we really seeing an end to our long, cold "nuclear winter," as Valley mainstay Marc Andreessen so eloquently put it back in April 2008 --or have we just been deceived by the calm, numbing, bloodstream-warming sensation of expensive sipping tequila?
Whatever. See you at happy hour.