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a personal note from Mario Morino ...

why is  netpreneur sunsetting?

As you may have already heard, we have made the decision to sunset Netpreneur by the end of 2002. On behalf of our Netpreneur team past and present, I want to express our gratitude and appreciation for your enthusiasm, participation, and support over the past six years, dating back to Netpreneur’s inception.  I personally want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have done to support the mission of Netpreneur.  I know that because of you, the spirit of Netpreneur will live on in this community even after the program sunsets.  

As many already know from conversations and local news reports earlier this year, I have decided to focus my personal efforts on innovative philanthropic approaches to improve the lives of children of low-income families.  A necessary outcome of this decision is that I must step away from Netpreneur and other Morino Institute initiatives not related to this focus.  As far back as 1998, I began to seriously explore the potential of social venture concepts, and our work has continued to evolve since then.  As much as I love entrepreneurship, I’m pulled even more to the plight of children and the opportunity to make a difference in the nonprofit sector that is their vital support link.

This is a very personal decision having little to do with Netpreneur or current economic conditions. Instead, it has everything to do with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children at a time when funding and support are being cut at all levels as a result of state and federal deficits, funding shortfalls in the District, the troubles at the region’s United Way, and changes in giving overall. This has been a difficult decision for me, because I so enjoy working with entrepreneurs and feel privileged to have been able to engage with talented, committed people like yourselves who have contributed so much to the entrepreneurial community here in Greater Washington.

 As many will also know, for the past few months Mary MacPherson and the Netpreneur team have worked very hard to secure financial support from other groups with the goal of spinning out Netpreneur as a separate organization.  We greatly appreciate commitments from MAVA, the Telecommunications Development Fund, and Virginia’s CIT, and the strong encouragement of NVTC and the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and so many others.  Unfortunately, we came up short on the funding required to continue Netpreneur with the quality, energy, and responsiveness that have characterized its performance over the past five-plus years.

Even as we prepare to sunset, we continue to believe that entrepreneurship is an extremely important force that will help this region and its economic future, and we intend to spend the next several months ensuring that Netpreneur’s legacy and benefits continue.  We are inviting other groups to assume some of the Netpreneur services and goals and to support similar efforts on their own.  Mary MacPherson will lead an effort that will extend through the first quarter of 2003 to work with and advise individuals and other groups interested in carrying on Netpreneur functions.  Updates on our progress will be posted on the Netpreneur Exchange website, in Netpreneur discussion lists, and through Netpreneur News, which we will continue publishing into next year.

Because this always seems to come up, I want to emphasize that I am not leaving the region, but rather refocusing my efforts in the region.  The vast majority of my time is now concentrated on our work with Venture Philanthropy Partners, where we aim to improve the lives of children in low-income communities of this region by pursuing two interrelated goals:  First, we seek to strengthen nonprofit organizations, through funding and especially through the contributions of management expertise and other non-financial resources. Second, we are joining with others in the field to inspire philanthropists, corporate and nonprofit leaders, and policymakers to help increase the effectiveness and the flow of capital, talent, and other resources to nonprofits serving the core needs of children.

To a large degree, the effectiveness of Netpreneur is what enabled us to launch Venture Philanthropy Partners, and for that we are forever grateful.  The relationships that came naturally from Netpreneur allowed us to bring together some of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs—starting with Raul Fernandez, the founder of Proxicom, and Virginia Governor Mark Warner—to do what few others in the country have achieved.  We were successful in raising in excess of $30 million to fund philanthropic investments, and these investments are now well underway.

I invite you to join us in our philanthropic work in Greater Washington; our community-based organizations could benefit so much from your expertise, your network of contacts, and your caring involvement.  Difficult economic times can help us all gain new perspective on what’s important in our lives.  I hope in this regard that each of you will think of doing one more thing to benefit others—whether it is to mentor another budding entrepreneur, contribute even modestly to a worthy charitable cause in an area you care greatly about, or simply reach out to help someone that just needs a better chance.

Although Netpreneur will be winding down, it’s clear that the hard, devoted work of the entire Netpreneur team will live on through people like you, through the continuing work of those Netpreneur has touched, through the many successful businesses it has helped, and, most of all, through the number of people it has encouraged to stay the course as entrepreneurs.  Speaking for the entire Netpreneur team and our closest stakeholders, I want to thank you for your support over the years and for your contributions to Greater Washington’s community of entrepreneurs.  Finally, I want to express my most heartfelt appreciation and admiration to each member of the Netpreneur team, from those who were with us in 1996 when it all began, those that have been with us over the years, right up to today’s team. You have all been so great!


Mario Morino



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