Securing New Ground, day 1

Securing New Ground, right here on Madison Avenue in the Roosevelt Hotel, just couldn't be more New York. If there's a higher Blackberry density at any other security conference I'd be shocked. And it somehow seems very appropriate that the Brooks Brothers store is right across the street. Anyway, the mix of attendees is very heavy with manufacturers and financial types. I'm told this was once more of an alarm conference, where medium-sized companies came to look for buyers/buyees. Now, it's largely dominated by companies with new technology, along with a slew of high-ranking industry types from both manufacturers and integrators. Some notes: • Securitas Direct president and CEO Dick Seger was supposed to present but he was too busy being bought out. Oops. Sure does look good for Securing New Ground, though, as they've clearly identified industry players that the venture and capital world is interested in. Or maybe it doesn't look so good - if they know so much about the M&A market, shouldn't they have known their speaker would be busy today? (Sorry, that was a bad joke - I'm a little punchy down here in the Roosevelt bar, the only place I can get Internet, since the hook-up in my room is busted). • Joe Nuccio, head of ASG, and Robert Farenhem, head of Devcon, presented together, and it was kind of amusing that Nuccio had just this past Friday bought Matrix and leap-frogged Devcon in annual revenues. Nuccio seemed postively elated. Farenhem looked and spoke like a guy who just escaped a year in the bush. I think Devcon's fortunes are looking up, but it's pretty clear the last year hasn't been a fun one. • Brett Bontrager, head of Stanley's Convergent Security Solutions business, is a smart guy, without question, and has a good sense of humor, but has a way of talking where his voice rises at the end of every sentence like he's asking a question. I'm not sure why I find that notable, but I do. • Julie Donohue, head of IBM's security business, predicted sales would jump from $.5 billion to $1.5 billion next year for IBM's security offerings (according to notes taken for me by Anixter's Severin Mulligan - I was busy ironing my suit). That seems ambitious until you realize they group IT and physical security, and they are spending money like drunken sailors. • The lending professionals did not make me feel good about the economy. The basic message from Gretchen Gordon (CIT), Bill Polk (Capital Source), Ed Perry (Murphree Venture Partners), and Steve Sebastian (Nogales) was that capital is going to be harder to come by, you should be selling stuff off right now to increase liquidity, and lenders are going to expect stricter covenants going forward. "If you got a loan this spring," said Gordon, "good for you. You should keep it." • Robert LaPenta, head of L-1, leads a charmed life. Not only did he start a $500 million company from scratch two years ago, but this year he bought a horse, War Pass, for $180,000 that proceeded to win a Breeder's Cup race, among others, and is now worth $20 million. "Now that's a good investment," he bellowed. I'd be shouting, too. You can find him in Kentucky this spring, I'm sure.