Supercharged Networking at Sparks + Spirits

May 12, 2014

When the Mohr Davidow Ventures’ talent team brainstormed the concept for its then-upcoming VP/Director of Product Marketing Meet-up, the third in an ongoing series, we knew that we wanted to unite the best product minds in technology with some of the best products in Silicon Valley. The event had to ignite conversation between brilliant product managers and marketers in an environment that wasn’t just effective for knowledge share, but also took our invitees from their ergonomic office chairs behind the screens of their computers to the driver’s seats of a conversation where they could share best practices among their peer set. The big question: who really nails product (non-software) development and distribution?

Enter Sparks + Spirits: a supercharged networking event featuring test drives of Teslas’ flagship Model S electric vehicle, arguably one of the most thoughtful products on the market today, paired with tastings of artisan beers by Speakeasy Brewery, a handcrafted beer with nods to the 1920’s and 30’s, the days of liquor runners, mobsters, and capers. Product geniuses from companies including Infusionsoft, Citrix Online, Coupa, RichRelevance, Retention Science, BandPage, RelateIQ, Practice Fusion, Mobiquity, Lending Club, AirPR, Splice Machine, Ticketfly and more joined Mohr Davidow Ventures in the parking lot of 3000 Sand Hill Road for a totally transformed “track to table” experience.

The shiny Teslas revolved like carousel horses at 3000 Sand Hill, each masterly maneuvered by a brainy product guy and his copilot, one of Tesla’s product specialists from the Palo Alto showroom. While accelerating from 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds in one of their ultra-sleek racing chairs, our Elons-for-the-day heard about the details and specifications that have made Tesla a household name from coast to coast and the envy of every gadget guy (and girl). Later, Tesla’s VP of Sales, Matt Eggers, talked to the group about Tesla’s product strategy, which centers on creating products that people love and want to talk about. In fact, they do not spend money on marketing, only PR, and think that their direct-to-consumer approach grows faster with personal experiences (they will gladly bring a Tesla to your home for a personal test drive) than with high-powered digital marketing spend. He also took questions from the product managers in the audience and illuminated the thinking behind the battery recharge feature, superstations, and the GigaFactory that has been much-rumored about in both tech rags and mainstream press alike.

Post the drive experience, guests recharged on bacon blue cheese burgers, fried chicken sliders, and pulled pork sandwiches from infamous Bay Area food truck, Eat on Monday, and washed them down with tastings from Speakeasy Ales and Lagers’ collection of liquid gold. Speakeasy’s line-up of artisan beers, including Untouchable IPA, Baby Daddy Session IPA, Harvey Milk Stout, Prohibition Ale, and Betrayal Imperial Red Ale, demonstrate how attention to detail and strong brand coherence drive successful products to resonate with consumers. The newest product in their offering, Metropolis, a German-style lager, was released for the first time to the public at the Sparks + Spirits event. Founder & CEO Forest Gray spoke candidly about what it takes for them to bring the identity of each beer to life, culminating in an iconic comic-book-styled label with a LA Confidential vibe.

Amidst torrential rain, over 50 product managers and marketers talked shop, plugged-into non-IT product strategies, and dreamt about taking home a Tesla.