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Event Summary
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the spirit of entrepreneurship,
the power of community,
and a new era for netpreneur


Netpreneur’s IGNITION event was one of the most inspirational evenings in the community’s six-year history. More than 1600 entrepreneurs and their supporters signed up to hear some of the region's leading tech business figures talk about the critical lessons they’ve learned over the years. It was also a night of reflection on how conditions have improved since the days when "Washington, DC entrepreneur" was almost an oxymoron. How did we get this far? According to John Sidgmore, "We've grown so much over the past years because there have been so many people here helping each other." Beyond business, the IGNITION speakers are also leaders in a new wave of philanthropy that reaches areas ranging from healthcare, to education, to helping kids from low-income families. That was another major theme of the event as the call was made for entrepreneurs to give something back to their communities when they find the right time and methods for doing so.



Kathryn Bushkin, President, AOL Time Warner Foundation and SVP, AOL Time Warner

Caren DeWitt, Chairman, webMethods Foundation and co-founder of webMethods

J. L. (Jack) Davies, founder, AOL International and Special Advisor, General Atlantic Partners

Raul Fernandez, founder of Proxicom and Special Advisor, General Atlantic Partners

Ted Leonsis, Vice Chairman, AOL Time Warner and founder of Redgate

Mary MacPherson, VP of Marketing, Blackboard

Phillip Merrick, founder, Chairman, and CEO of webMethods

Mario Morino, Chairman, Morino Institute and Venture Philanthropy Partners, and Special Partner, General Atlantic Partners

John Sidgmore, Chairman and CEO of ECI2

Mark Walsh, Managing Partner, Ruxton Ventures and former CEO, VerticalNet


Copyright 2003 Morino Institute. All rights reserved. Edited for length and clarity.

Disclaimer: Statements made at Netpreneur events and recorded here reflect solely the views of the speakers and have not been reviewed or researched for accuracy or truthfulness. These statements in no way reflect the opinions or beliefs of the Morino Institute, or any of their affiliates, agents, officers, or directors. The transcript is provided “as is” and your use is at your own risk.


mary macpherson: welcome

It is so wonderful for all of us to be here tonight. It's just great to see so many people here.

           It's very clear that Ignition is not a new concept to this group. Entrepreneurial sparks continue to fly in the region. We're here tonight to celebrate, acknowledge, and salute the people and groups that have helped cultivate this culture of entrepreneurship in Greater Washington, and we're here to look forward toward a new era for Netpreneur. Third, we're here to listen to and talk with some extraordinary individuals who volunteered their time tonight to share some of their hard-earned wisdom about starting and growing businesses. These are people who have also come to a point in their lives when giving back to their communities and to causes that they believe in has become very important to them. Lastly, we'll hear from Mario Morino, who has been a friend and inspiration to entrepreneurs for many years. Mario will always be an entrepreneur at heart, and he is now focusing his energy and resources on a new approach to philanthropy.

           To hear all of that, you’d think we're going to be here all night. Well, it is a lot to accomplish, but we're going to use our best entrepreneurial determination to get through the program, have a lot of fun, and get you out of here shortly after 9:00.

           Let's start with “celebration and acknowledgment.” As I look around the room, it looks like the celebration part is certainly working.

           The development of our entrepreneurial ecosystem began with coalescing the entrepreneurs in the region. Once they reached critical mass, the venture capitalists came, then the service providers and the other infrastructures developed, such as the technology councils, the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association, industry and trade groups, university programs like the Dingman Center at the University of Maryland, the Century Club at George Mason University, and other efforts at other schools, as well as new learning and networking groups like MindShare and the Potomac Officers Club.

           Last October, Dunn & Bradstreet ranked Washington, DC, as the best city for entrepreneurs in the United States. That’s a big change from the early 1990s when the term "Washington entrepreneur" was almost an oxymoron. Today, obviously, we're on the map and poised for a new era.

           For Netpreneur, that new era is being driven by the very entrepreneurs for whom the program was created. When we dream of the best legacy for Netpreneur, it is that the region continues to have a vibrant entrepreneurial community, and that people, organizations, and groups are engaged in cultivating it; perhaps by continuing some of the things that we did at Netpreneur, but certainly by beginning new things and starting new activities to keep the community together.

           To that end, a group of early stage entrepreneurs have come together with a vision for sustaining and evolving the community as an organic, unstructured network of volunteers. These entrepreneurs now host the Netpreneur website, they manage the discussion groups, they oversee the ActionNet bulletin board, they work on Netpreneur News and Netpreneur Calendar, and they continue to offer mechanisms to bring entrepreneurs together for meaningful exchange and learning. Those people are here tonight and you'll meet them a little bit later, but I would at least like to mention them now: Don Britton from Network Alliance, Raj Khera from MailerMailer, Larry Robertson from Lighthouse Consulting, Steve Goldenberg from Interfolio, Andrew Hill and Shadi McPherson from DevElements, Duke Chung and Ben Martin from Parature, Chris Mengle from Iplicity. And there are many others who are contributing their technologies and their time to the new Netpreneur network, along with stakeholders like the Telecommunications Development Fund who have also stepped forward.

           The last time we were here at the Reston Hyatt was in December 2002 for the last Coffee & DoughNets that Netpreneur officially produced. About 200 people came out in a major ice storm to talk about whether or not it was a good time to start a business. Mario had some comments on that; he'll probably have some comments on it again tonight. I remember Shannon Henry of The Washington Post saying that she had taken the Metro, a bus, and a cab to get to that event. As it turned out, that wasn't the last Netpreneur Coffee & DoughNets after all. The DC Technology Council, the Tech Council of Maryland, and the Northern Virginia Technology Council, along with Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology came together as a group to look at the viability of continuing the events as a regional effort. With seed funding from Comerica, Ernst & Young, and Fenwick & West, the councils are working with the new Netpreneur network and others to continue Coffee & DoughNets and to start some new things as well.

           The strength of Netpreneur is, and always has been, the energy, talent, and willingness to share from all who are part of the network. You can just look around and see the extraordinary community that we are all a part of. So, even though we always discourage shameless promotion, I'm going to break that rule and invite you to engage with this new Netpreneur group. You can contact them at to express your interest in participating in whatever way works for you.

           Before we move on to the main part of our program, I would like to acknowledge our sponsors for this evening: The Morino Institute, of course, WIN-WIN Strategies Foundation, Piper Rudnick LLP, Wilson Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, Silicon Valley Bank, Blackboard, Ernst & Young, and Hale & Dorr, LLP, as well as a last minute contribution from our friends at Steve Walker & Associates and Walker Ventures. Thank you so much for contributing to this special evening. It would not have been possible without you. You folks have done more than just support this evening; you have been stakeholders in the community all along.

           I would also like to acknowledge another group of entrepreneurial companies that have played an important part in Netpreneur's development over the years. They are: TVWorldwide, which is doing our video tonight and has done all of our events; L-Soft, which has graciously provided the Listserv product that we use to run our discussion lists; our friends at WebSurveyor, who have helped us keep track of what Netpreneurs want; Willis & Associates, which has provided our reporters and media contacts list; and Parature, formerly Cyracle, which automated our customer support capabilities. Thank you so much for those contributions. We appreciate everything you've done and continue to do.

           As I was preparing for this evening, I went out to the Netpreneur team who are now disbursed with some great companies across the region, and I asked them for their memories of the early days of Netpreneur and of the people and companies that made a difference in the development of our culture and of Netpreneur. It was a great trip down memory lane, but, when I looked at how much we have to get through tonight and how little time we have to do it in, it became pretty clear that having me wax on about the good old days of Netpreneur was not the right thing to do. You know who you are. We're grateful that you're here tonight and that you've been with us all along. Although the Morino Institute's Netpreneur team has gone away, we're all still in the network. There's a wonderful group of entrepreneurs who want to connect, communicate, and collaborate, and it's our hope that you will reach out and engage them as you have us.

           Now, I would like to turn it over to my good friend Kathy Bushkin. She has the job of facilitating a panel like none we've seen. I think it's something that I would rather watch than try to do myself, so here's Kathy.


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