AM: Netpreneur Program and YOU make The New York Times/Cybertimes
Enclosed you will find today's New York Times
on both the program and individual
You might want to use this piece as you
and services outside of the region.
Funny, I always read CyberTimes.com for
the NY New
Media/ad-marketing scene- now they're
writing on us!
Also, WiredNews has an article
today on this week's
community Telecom event (address below).
our community is on the radar screen- thanks to
October 24, 1997
New York Times (CyberTimes)
CHERVOKAS & TOM WATSON
Leveraging Government Into New-Media
Business is changing. There's just no doubt about it. If you
only to the latest headlines generated by Fortune 500
companies, you miss
the forging of an intricate and powerful web of smaller
regional growth of a vast number of startups made possible
increasingly networked society.
New York City planners were
stunned two years ago to discover that in a
city that traditionally fought a
very public -- and often losing -- battle
for job retention, an entirely new
industry had sprung up without any help
from government. Silicon Alley, to
those focused only on the stock market,
seemed to rise up out of
But of course, it didn't. Thousands of people saw opportunity in
of relationships made possible by digital communications, and they
businesses. A fast-growing sector was born. The pattern was
elsewhere -- in the Bay Area of California and Boston -- and has
repeated in places like Austin, South Florida, Raleigh-Durham,
Seattle, Minneapolis, Toronto and Los Angeles, and even in Washington,
Washington -- or, in reality, the belt from southern Maryland down
northern Virginia -- is a special case. Just as New York has the
community and advertising industry and Los Angeles has the
sector, Washington has government -- and the billions of
government contracts that go with it. The computer industry is not
stranger in the strip from Baltimore south to Richmond; the Pentagon
has been one of the most demanding clients a database company could
But new media is, indeed, still new. And so is the idea that
one or two
people, working out of a tiny office or an extra bedroom, can
company that can compete internationally.
That's where the
Potomac KnowledgeWay Project comes in. A descendant of a
of northern Virginia leaders at George Mason
University, it's not a trade
organization, like, say, the New York New
Media Association, but it does hold
meet-and-greet events and conferences
in the D.C.-area for entrepreneurs.
Rather, it's a local advocacy group
outside of government that has a tight
set of goals and a five-year plan.
And when the job is done, its founders
insist, the project will shut down.
The goals are ambitious: to cultivate
2,000 new-media startups and, in the
process, create 50,000 new
"knowledge-based" jobs; increase the region's
consumption by $2.5
billion by 2002; and the pie-in-the-sky kicker --
Washington as the top U.S. location for knowledge-based
Greater than New York and Boston? Bigger
than the Valley? Hold on, says
Mario Morino, the self-made computer industry
multimillionaire who's the
guiding light behind the program.
really about competing with those high-tech, new-media centers,
insisted in an interview. It's much more about taking the resources
region and allowing them to grow in the new economy.
on changing the dynamics of the region," said Morino, who
company that evolved into Legent Corp.n, a Virginia-based
distributed computing that was eventually sold for $2 billion to
Associates two years ago in what was the largest acquisition in
of the computer industry. Nowadays, Morino runs the Morino
nonprofit enterprise that aims to use new technologies to
especially for young people.
Morino said that the entrepreneurial spirit
has been dormant in the
Washington area since the late 60's, but that with
corporate downsizing and
the low barriers to entry of the Internet, the
startup business is booming.
KnowledgeWay is tracking nearly 1,000 startups
in the region, he said.
The project, which counts some of the region's
top technologists as its
board members, plans to raise $5 million to aid the
startups in a variety
of ways, from introducing them to so-called
"angel" investors --
essentially, wealthy people willing to take a
chance on a good idea -- and
bringing in venture capital, to creating a
regional sense of growth that
will encourage others to take the plunge. The
most active aspect of the
project so far is the Netpreneur program, which
provides a growing support
network to startups.
turn, we bump into contacts we've made through the program,"
MacKinnon, founder of superSonic BOOM, a Web site offering
and online sales. Her company got an angel investor, a
feature on the local
NBC TV affiliate and a key meeting with the chief
executive of distribution
for the music giant Polygram Records -- all
through the KnowledgeWay
Lisa Amore, director of marketing for TV on the WEB, a small
provides streamed video to other sites, was able to show her
product to 200
members in an informal setting. When she asked for feedback,
she says, "We
were amazed at the response; an hour was dedicated to
fellow executives who
openly and willingly divulged their marketing
strategies and secrets."
Bob Nelson, president and chief executive
of CrossMedia Corp., which
provides wireless e-mail, tells the story of a
visiting Japanese journalist
who contacted his company through the network.
When the story appeared in
Japan, the chief executive of a Japanese
telecommunications company asked
for a meeting. But instead of keeping the
contact all to himself, Nelson
set him up with another Netpreneur company,
Torrent Networking Technologies
of Landover, Md.
established companies are also using the program.
"I approached the
group with a problem and a plea," says Neil Harris,
president of Simutronics Corp., a 10-year-old Rockville,
Md., creator of
online games like GemStone III, with 40 employees. "I'm
getting ready to
go after some investment capital in a big way, and I
wanted to have my
presentation critiqued. The KnowledgeWay people set me up
with a local
consultant who rounded up a review board who gave me several
intense, and invaluable, input -- all for the price of dinner."
Washington, as in New York and elsewhere, business leaders are trying
create a climate that borrows from the capital investing hothouse
Silicon Valley, but on a smaller scale. It's too early to tell whether
will indeed become regional juggernauts, but it is clear that something
The support groups and trade organizations aren't the
horse; they're part
of what's going on in the cart. They're a reaction to a
that puts a premium on information and knowledge, making use
along the way.
Morino says that today's mom and pop
businesses have a real change for
success. "The model for
entrepreneurship," he insists, "has changed."