The local tech community is mourning two men who were killed in a Santa Monica plane crash.

Paulo Emanuele, L.A.-based general manager of Airliners.net, and Martin Schaedel, an entrepreneur and Internet consultant, were flying together when Emanuele's plane lost power and crashed at the Santa Monica Airport on Jan. 28. A fire destroyed much of the plane. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Emanuele, who lived in Los Angeles, helped run Airliners, which claims to be the largest aviation enthusiast Web site in the world and is owned by Santa Monica-based Demand Media Inc.

A statement posted on the site called Emanuele, 46, "an amazing pilot, an amazing photographer, an amazing friend, and an amazing father. He will be deeply missed." Hundreds of people from around the world have posted messages of condolence to the Airliners forum.

Less is known about Schaedel, a native of Sweden. On his blog, Schaedel described himself as a former venture capitalist now focused on buyouts and mergers. Acquaintances described him as a well-connected globe-trotting entrepreneur and consultant for Web and tech companies. By some accounts he was 23.

It's not clear how the two men knew each other, but acquaintances said Schaedel was interested in aviation, and Emanuele was likely giving him a flight demonstration.

Schaedel "was great fun, he had a great zest for life," said Howard L. Morgan, member of Pasadena-based incubator IdeaLab's board. "He'd call me and say he was at a party at a pier in New York with a supermodel. He just wanted to live life as full as he could."

Morgan said he recommended Schaedel meet with executives at Santa Monica-based GumGum Inc., an Internet startup that specializes in licensing content.

Schaedel dropped by GumGum's offices on the morning of Jan. 28 to meet the staff, and came back after lunch, said Ophir Tanz, chief executive at GumGum.

When Schaedel left that afternoon, he mentioned he was going to Santa Monica Airport to take a ride in a vintage warplane, Tanz said. That night around 10 p.m., a friend called Tanz to tell him about the plane crash.

Tanz tried calling and e-mailing Schaedel, but he received no response.

"It's sad, he was clearly a rising star," Tanz said.

Geni and Yammer

A recession isn't slowing down local entrepreneur David Sacks.

Sacks, a former PayPal executive, recently raised a total of $10 million for his two West Hollywood-based startups, Geni.com and Yammer.com. The money will be split evenly between the two companies.

Geni is a social networking Web site built around the concept of compiling a family tree that can link as many families as want to participate (the company's name is short for "genealogy"). Users log in and build a virtual family tree with videos, photos and other media, which they can then connect to other families.

Yammer, which spun out of Geni last year, is a microblogging service for businesses. It provides a networking site for companies where employees can go to type each other short messages and track progress on projects what Sacks likened to "a virtual water cooler."

Both companies currently offer their services for free, but have recently started trying to generate revenue. Geni rolled out an about $5-a-month subscription that lets users access "premium" services, such as faster customer support. Yammer, meanwhile, is selling companies accounts at a cost of $1 per month per employee.

Sacks conceded it was tougher than usual in the current economy to raise money from investors, but was pleased to get a $10 million vote of confidence.

"People judge the businesses by the magnitude of the opportunity and how they assess your ability to execute on it," he said.

Sacks said he hopes this financing round Geni's third and Yammer's first will be enough to get both companies into the black. Much of the money would probably be invested in product development along with hiring engineers and a sales staff for Yammer, he added.

Activision Returns

Welcome back, Activision Blizzard Inc. Or at least the Activision half.

A year after the Santa Monica-based video game publisher made headlines by leaving the Entertainment Software Association and dropping out of E3, the association's summer video game convention, Activision is rejoining the fold.

A list of E3 2009 exhibitors for the June 2-4 show released by the ESA lists Activision Publishing which produces console video games for Activision Blizzard at the top. Blizzard Entertainment, the other half of the company and publisher of the "World of Warcraft" franchise, will not be an exhibitor.

In previous years, ESA had tried to scale back on some of the glitz and glamour of E3, imposing restrictions on booth size and moving the conference to a smaller venue in Santa Monica. But amid complaints in the media, ESA decided to go back to the old model.

Activision spokesman Ashley Dyer said the publisher was returning because "we like the tradeshow format."

Activision still is not a member of ESA, he added.

Staff reporter Charles Proctor can be reached at cproctor@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 230.

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