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The Netpreneur Team
Fran Witzel
Vice President, Netpreneur Program
John F. "Fran" Witzel has contributed to the success of technology businesses for 25 years as a deal-maker and rain-maker. Beginning his career as a sales executive for mainframe systems software startup Morino Associates (MA), he was a top revenue producer, helping the company achieve Inc. 500 awards with over 500% growth in five years. Fran later lead his sales team as Director of North American Sales, increasing revenues 38% while directing the deal structure and negotiation of MA's largest sale ($1+ million) to General Motors/EDS.

After MA became a public company, the key for growth transitioned from sales to company acquisitions, and Fran became Corporate Development Manager. In this role, he was responsible for strategic planning, market analysis, M&A evaluation and negotiation. Fran worked 2 acquisition and alliance deals that strategically positioned the mainframe software company to enter the growing distributed computing market. He also recommended acquisition of an automated operations software technology that became a multi-million dollar product line.

Fran started his own business, Pragmatek, to help build more technology companies with sales, marketing and technology consulting in the emerging client/server, groupware, workflow and document imaging markets. Clients included software companies selling to commercial customers (Fortune 1000 and SME), and to federal, state and local governments. Fran's accomplishments for his clients included expanding sales and distribution channels, recommending a product positioning strategy that resulted in an acquisition and closing six-figure customer deals for a client with an average deal value of less than $20,000.

Fran was recruited in 1995 to manage regional software sales for Legent Corporation, a $500 million company formed by an MA merger. Within months, Computer Associates (CA) acquired Legent, forming one of the largest software companies with over $3 billion in annual revenues, where Fran received CA's quarterly quota award and the Compass Club award for annual sales achievement.

Fran joined the Morino Institute in 1996 to develop and launch the Netpreneur Program, a nontraditional philanthropic effort to accelerate the success of new Internet businesses in the National Capital area. While significantly growing his own network and expertise in private equity financing, Fran helped grow the program into an online business community of over 12,000 people, including the majority of early stage venture capital firms investing in the Mid-Atlantic region. He created the program's Investor Services education and investment deal flow efforts, facilitating 8 seed equity investments within 2 years, resulting in three lucrative exits and four companies still operational today, including Blackboard, Inc., a profitable company with over 400 employees and $100 million in equity funding.

Currently Vice President of the Netpreneur Program, Fran assists program operations, advises hundreds of companies on business development and capital formation strategy, and serves as a program spokesperson. Fran has been featured or quoted by numerous media on early stage financing and entrepreneurship, including The Washington Post,  Fast Company, and The Washingtonian.

Fran is presently on the Board of Advisors for Cyracle Corporation and the George Mason University/Virginia Center for Innovative Technology Techventure Partnership. He has been a speaker for the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association and numerous entrepreneurship organizations. Fran is also a guest lecturer on entrepreneurship in the MBA program at his alma mater, the University of Maryland, where he self-financed his B.S. degree in Business Administration.


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