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IGNITION transcript

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June 4, 2003
Hyatt Regency Reston 

kathy bushkin: introductions


Thank you. Welcome everybody. This feels like 1999 all over again, doesn't it? We're glad to be back. I want to say a thank you to Mario and Mary—Mar and Mar—for bringing us all back together to remember some of the great times. I remember a really phenomenal Netpreneur event where the crowd was as big as this one. That people are still excited, that we still have companies that are as bold and ambitious being developed, that this region is alive and healthy and going strong is all so exciting to see. Congratulations, Mario, Mary, and all of you Netpreneurs for coming back tonight.

           I have a pretty daunting task, that of introducing some people that I hope you know well enough so that I don't have to give you a traditional bio on them. If you don't know enough about them, you can read the program, or, frankly, you may be in the wrong place if you don't already know something about these folks. Instead, I decided that it might be more interesting to find out some information about them that you don't know. I didn't find out whether they have a tattoo or not, that's really up to you to find out, but I did find out some things in their past that might have led them to become the great entrepreneurs and Net pioneers that they have become and that we know them as today. So, if you'll bear with me, I'm going to give you a little picture of each one of our cameo presenters, tell you a little bit about something in their past, then ask them to come up one at a time to talk to you about the lessons they've learned along the way.

           I'm going to start with someone that you probably know a little bit about because of the company he founded, Proxicom, which was acquired by Dimension Data, as well as the work he now does with General Atlantic Partners. But what you probably don't know about Raul Fernandez is that his first job was as a lifeguard. He actually had to get a waiver from the child labor laws to work as a lifeguard because, when he did it, he was too young to be working. That was just the beginning of his rule-breaking background. Raul Fernandez, will you come up?



raul fernandez: passion, mission, vision


Welcome. We're here tonight to celebrate a bunch of things. We're here to celebrate the talent, the creativity, the initiative, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the spirit of giving back that many of you represent as individuals and as teams within companies. I'm very proud to be part of this great panel.

           I'm also glad that I'm going first, because none of us wanted to go after Mark Walsh. [Laughing] That's why he's at the end of the panel.

           The individual and team efforts that helped change the region are also represented by all of the speakers tonight. When I started my company in 1991, as was mentioned earlier, this was a “venture capital-free zone.” It was an entrepreneurial-free zone. There was very little of it going on. Each and every one of you were probably involved in companies that helped change the landscape.

           We can't let this night go by without paying a little bit of tribute to a man who did so much, both as an entrepreneur and as CEO of a major software company that grew, was ultimately sold, and then planted the human seeds in individuals who went on to other companies. That individual is Mario Morino, and I would love for all of us to show our appreciation for everything that he's done tonight. [Applause]

           Like a good movie that keeps bringing on sequels, Mario had plenty of them. I'm going to mention one, in addition to Netpreneur, which we're all familiar with, and that is Venture Philanthropy Partners, an initiative that many of us have been involved in. It attempts to take all of the good things that we've learned in building our companies and apply it to nonprofits, helping them build their organizations and their capacity to scale.

           Over the years, Mario has given a lot of advice. He's given it in group formats, in one-on-one sessions, and he's given to me as a member of my board. I was actually able to capture one of those interactions in a short video that I'm going to show you right now.

           [He runs a video clip from the movie The Godfather in which Don Corleone violently berates a supplicant for behaving weakly.][Laughter]

           We live in times of uncertainty. We live in times where the economic news is of rising unemployment and a stagnant or anemic economy, occasionally chaos. Unfortunately, this town has been thrown into that because of events, but these can actually be the best of times. I started looking at the economic statistics in 1991—unemployment, GNP growth, all of the key indicators—and it is incredible how similar it is to today. In 1991, I took all of the savings I had through my early days as a lifeguard and beyond and started a company. The political theme for that year and for the next election, was: It's the economy, stupid. The economy was really, really bad, just like it is today.

           I think that I and the other speakers are living proof that you can start companies in good times and in bad. The key ingredients to success are passion, a clear mission, and a vision. Those three things can come together in a force that can overcome any macro or micro obstacle placed in front of you. If you have those three ingredients, you have the ability, no matter what's going on in the economy or in your sector, to make an impact, to create jobs, to create some wealth for you and your employees, and, ultimately, to give back.

           That’s one of the things I'm proudest of in this region. It is unique because other regions in the country that have been successful in growing their technology businesses have not been as focused on giving back. Again, I give credit to Mario for being a thought leader and an implementation leader in that.

           For those of you who have those three ingredients and are sitting on the sidelines, my advice is to get off the sidelines and get in the game. If you get knocked down, get up, and get back at it. There's really no time like today, when you've got so much uncertainty, to create incredible value and opportunity.

           The last thing I want to say is that as you create value and as you take advantage of some of these opportunities, don't forget to give something back to your community by volunteering your time, by donating your dollars. Mario was a mentor to me, personally, and he was also on my board. As many of you know, Mario can be very persuasive at times. I'm going to share another video clip with you of how Mario asked me to give back. I would say, “Okay, Mario, I will give back, I will give back.” He really wanted to know my commitment, however, so let me show you what that looked like.

           [He runs a video clip from the movie Jerry Maguire in which the sports agent and his last client are yelling “Show me the money!” into the telephone.] [Laughter] [Applause]


Ms. Bushkin: That looks just like Mario to me, too. I would have recognized him anywhere.

           I want to turn to our next netpreneur. I think you'll recognize this one immediately, so I'll bring him on stage. He is one who started his career at Georgetown University. Do you recognize him? He leveraged the bicentennial year by selling red, white, and blue snow cones under the equally colorful motto, “Be a Patriot. Eat a snow cone. Don't eat no yellow snow." Did this guy have a flare for marketing?

           Ted Leonsis is now the President of the AOL core service and Vice Chairman of AOL, the big company. He sees his biggest success as being part of the team that created enough market value to acquire Time Warner, and being part of an organization, the Washington Wizards, that brought Michael Jordan to DC. He sees his biggest failure as being part of the team that has wiped out $200 million of net market cap value for investors after acquiring Time Warner, and being part of the team that fired Michael Jordan. Ever the optimist, Ted always says, “There's always a third act.”

           Tell us about it, Ted.

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