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Heart of an Economic Transformation
Netpreneurs Show Their Community Reaches Beyond the Potomac at First Baltimore Meeting

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, Netpreneur.org or any of their affiliates, agents, officers or directors. The transcript is provided "as is" and your use is at your own risk.  

Copyright 2002 Morino Institute. All rights reserved. Edited for length and clarity.  

(Baltimore, MD--June 12, 1998) The home of the Orioles, Fells Point and the National Aquarium is also a hotbed of netpreneurial start-up activity. Charm City's thriving digital age entrepreneurs showed that at the first Baltimore Coffee & DoughNets, held last evening at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Featured speaker for the evening, Mario Morino, Chairman of the Morino Institute, brought the message of The Netpreneur Program to 170 entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and students. The action in the netpreneurial start-up arena, said Mario, extends from the northern suburbs of Baltimore through Blacksburg, Virginia. The entire region offers golden opportunities for technology-based start-ups. It is rich in investment resources and houses big industries with a need for communications technology development. Baltimore’s medical and biotechnology industries are fertile ground for netpreneurs, said Mario and the evening’s host, Carey Kriz of JHU’s School of Medicine.

Mario pointed to several indicators of the growing entrepreneurial spirit nationally. People are dissatisfied with unrewarding or unstable work environments. They feel let down by the big institutions that rule our lives. The communications revolution, meanwhile, is making it easier to connect to others on a one-on-one, by-demand basis that fosters individual initiative.

Unlike the Silicon Valley area, the Baltimore/Washington region’s netpreneurial growth is driven by content and communications more than by software and hardware. The entry barriers, therefore, are lower. Technology entrepreneurs in this region come from all walks of life and bring a variety of professional backgrounds.

The entrepreneurial spirit has changed little in the country’s history, but today’s netpreneur faces some new challenges, compared to entrepreneurs of earlier years. Netpreneurs must embrace the fast pace of change and create businesses that can adapt instantly to the market’s demands. They must collaborate and surround themselves with clients, employees and funders who are all partners and offer input. A multi-disciplinary, "hybrid" approach, is emerging as the norm in these new businesses, and focusing on and unearthing niche markets is a good path to success.

Audience members responded enthusiastically with their own call to develop the regional community of like-minded netpreneurs and advisers. The Netpreneur Program offered immediate help to Mark Cyr, a JHU undergraduate and co-founder of the school’s Entrepreneurial Society. He appealed to the group for help in brainstorming Web-based business opportunities for the society’s members. Mario and Penny Lewandowski invited the Society to spend a day visiting the Netpreneur Program offices to talk to the Program’s organizers.

Greg Steinbach of Real Computing, attending a Netpreneur Program event for the first time, underlined the value of partnerships. He said that his Annapolis-based business recently found a partner among his former clients, whose experience has led them to quadruple in size in the last four months.

David Troy of ToadNet, an Annapolis-based Internet service provider, voiced a common concern, that it is hard to find partners and like-minded individuals quickly in this area. Because of the speed needed to capitalize on market trends, he wants to see networking and community-building that will facilitate faster relationship-building. "Even if it means you bomb more quickly and can get on to your next product development, that’s a good thing," he said.

Program veterans contributed their success stories and offered advice on resources, like the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center, that Baltimore-based netpreneurs could use. Ross Stapleton-Gray of TeleDiplomacy  found two business partners through a recent Netpreneur Program event, bringing in much more financial backing for his business plan. Tom White of The Sales Channel said that he has formed strong outsourcing relationships through the "Talk the Talk" email discussion group.

Coffee & DoughNets regularly draws new attendees from the area who have heard about the Netpreneur Program, but this month the program went global with visitor Joachim Burvall of Sweden’s SecureNet AG.

The growing strength of the community was evidenced in the many Virginia and DC-based netpreneurs who made the trek up I-95 to attend and meet their Baltimore colleagues. Chris Metsala, Managing Partner of Falls Church-based telematique, even brought a potential business partner from Florida with him to the meeting because "we wanted to get him to understand how this area is different from any other," said Chris.

Past Coffee + DoughNets Articles:

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