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an evening with the

barons of the beltway

TechCapital magazine called these business leaders the “Barons of the Beltway”  because of their prominence in the region’s tech community. In this transcript of a Morino Institute Netpreneur Program event, held June 12, 1997, they offer their insights into the new world of Internet opportunities. The “Barons” are Jim Kimsey, founder and Chairman Emeritus of America Online; Bill Melton, founder of VeriFone and founder and CEO of CyberCash; Mario Morino, founder of Legent Corporation, now chairman of the Morino Institute; and Russ Ramsey, co-founder the investment house Friedman, Billings and Ramsey & Co.

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.  

Copyright 1997, Morino Institute. All rights reserved. Edited for length and clarity.  

table of contents

esther smith: introductions
jim kimsey: gee, that sounds exciting
bill melton: the 90 degree rule
mario morino: the right place at the right time
russ ramsey: the sun, the moon and the stars
the audience: q&a
mario morino:
closing -where does your future lie?

part 1: introductions

MS. SMITH: Good evening. I'm Esther Smith, an advisor for the Potomac KnowledgeWay Project’s Netpreneur Program ( and former publisher of Washington Technology. Thank you to everyone here tonight—more than 750 of us.

The Netpreneur Program is the first major program of the Potomac KnowledgeWay, an initiative founded to make our region the global center in creation, production and delivery of online information products and services. The goal of the Program is to be "network central" for our community of Internet entrepreneurs. Well, we are having a little problem with scale.

  • We expected 25 people to come to our first Coffee & DoughNets session. We ran out of space twice before we capped it off at 120.
  • Our spur-of-the-moment idea for a meeting between netpreneurs and venture capitalists swamped the Grand Ballroom of the Tysons Sheraton Premiere. We finally had to cut off attendance at over 400.
  • We were still telling people this afternoon they couldn't come to this event tonight. We had already outgrown two potential meeting sites before we finally landed here at the Mayflower.

You ladies and gentlemen are worth every effort. Incidentally, one of our challenges is that we have underestimated the energy, enthusiasm, talent and guts you have—not to mention how many of you there are! We are running to keep up with you.

I have always believed our region is special. Although it has not been known in the past for an entrepreneurial culture, one is certainly alive and well today. We have companies like AOL, CyberCash, MCI, Digex, PSINet and UUNET—unknown names a few years ago. They didn't have a lot of counterproductive baggage to carry into a new era of commerce and continuity. So they led rather than followed. Our guests tonight have done it all in this revolutionary new arena. The Barons of the Beltway are not just ahead of the power curve—they defined it.

As Daniel Savarese wrote recently discussing Elizabeth Corcoran's article on Silicon Valley Scramble in the June 8, 1997 Washington Post, "I think we'll see many more startups in this area and the beginnings of a new Mecca for technology ideas as entrepreneurs start succeeding and fostering the entrepreneurial cycle we see on the West Coast."

"There's no place I'd rather be than the Washington Metro area right now," Dan continued. "I get tired of the Silicon Valley comparisons because we're not going to be another Silicon Valley. We're going to be something different, but just as innovative. And we're just starting out. There's nothing better than being there at the beginning. Silicon Valley is old hat now." "

Thanks, Dan, for saying that so well.

Tonight's program is a spin-off from Shannon Henry's fabulous cover story "The Barons of the Beltway" in the premiere issue of TECHCapital magazine, a publication of TechNews, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company. Making tonight's event possible are the sponsors of "An Evening with the Barons": America Online, CyberCash, MCI Telecommunications Corp., Morino Institute, Pamet River Partners, Riggs National Bank and TECHCapital. Please join us in thanking each of these companies.

The Barons are assembled here tonight: Jim Kimsey, founder of America Online; Bill Melton, founder of CyberCash and the author of the great quote that "if you are not on the Net you don't exist"; Mario Morino of the Morino Institute and the founder of Legent Corp.; and Russ Ramsey, the founder of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co.

Each will give a seven-minute presentation and then we'll move on to audience questions and comments. The event is being videotaped and transcribed. Information from this evening will be disseminated and press is in attendance. What you ask tonight might wind up on the front page tomorrow. We want an open, informal session, an interactive dialogue among netpreneurs and these industry leaders.

We'll begin our openings remarks, starting with Jim Kimsey.

Part 2: The Barons

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