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The Chairman's 1997 Report
 
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Presented by Mario Morino at the 1997 Chairman's Dinner
November 25, 1997

The Accomplishments of Our Collective Efforts

Much of what has happened in this region is the result of building critical mass and tapping the reservoir of rich intellectual resources that the region has long possessed. But, some of what has happened is the result of the efforts of the Potomac KnowledgeWay Project and our investors and supporters – including many of you here this evening.

On September 28, 1994, I delivered a speech to the Northern Virginia Roundtable describing a new economic engine for the region that would focus on the emerging "networked-based information products and services" industry. Many in the room were enthused by the presentation, but few really understood the significance of the opportunity that was being described. Fortunately, a core of progressive executives, including many of you here tonight, grasped the vision and believed in it – and today, contribute as Board members, investors and/or partners.

Were we clairvoyant? Not at all! We simply redirected the thinking and focus of the region to where the action was going. We did what leaders are supposed to do. We spotted a trend and moved out in front of it. There was little risk that the vision presented would fail to materialize to some degree – the Greater Washington Region's concentrations in Internet, telecom, and content made it a certainty. But what was unpredictable was "when, how or who" would make this happen.

How remarkable is this convergence? Imagine the incredulous looks we would have received in September, 1994, if we had suggested that within three years:

  • Little UUNet would evolve to become part of a telecommunications & Internet juggernaut that would acquire MCI in the largest transaction in corporate history

  • that America Online would amass a base of over 10,000,000 subscribers and be the dominant brand in online services, eclipsing the likes of Microsoft, AT&T, the Bell Companies and others who had sizable leads

  • that the Internet would not only continue its meteoric growth but would realize an annual compound growth rate of 1,000 %
But all that has happened and it is safe to say the vision conveyed three years ago is on its way to being realized. What is even more exciting is to imagine what the next three to five years will bring – with companies like Ciena, Teligent, Manugistics, Nextel, Baan, Network Solutions, Discovery and scores more, the names of which we don't even know today. So when one asks "what has the Potomac KnowledgeWay Project accomplished and how has it contributed to this incredible opportunity that sits in the lap of our region's leaders," I would answer by describing what we hear others say about our efforts:
  • Self-Realization -- More than any other group, we helped this region understand its potential in the Digital Age. In speaking with the producer of NBC Nightly News this past weekend, she specifically said that it was the context and insights that we provided that enabled NBC to frame the story as effectively as they did and to provide an underpinning for the story that allowed them to substantiate the region's future as the next coming of Silicon Valley.

  • Regionalism – We have become a catalyst and THE neutral broker to help coalesce and bring together resources, institutions, and personalities from throughout the Greater Washington Region. Some of the outcomes are the direct result of our efforts, such as the creation last spring of the Regional Work Force Coalition and the upcoming symposium series that will see the University of Maryland, George Mason University and John Hopkins University come together to educate CEO's in the region on high-technology trends. The indirect results of our efforts and influence is that there is far greater receptivity to working together cross region and cross industry than there was when we started.

  • Social Fabric – We have been an agent of change to cultivate and nurture an emerging social fabric in the region that is increasing the flow of information cross sectors, changing the flow of partnerships and funding, and increasing the connectedness of players from different sectors. We also have been working to advance the Washington Technology Initiative for the betterment of schools and youth in the District, contributing to making the Capital Region Technology Investors Conference first effort a success, or helping the Mid-Atlantic Venture Fair make its first program in the region a record breaking performance. Throughout these diverse initiatives, the Potomac KnowledgeWay is the one common thread.

  • Entrepreneurial Force – The Potomac KnowledgeWay has hit a home run with its first strategic initiative, the Netpreneur Program, as it has cultivated a rapidly evolving entrepreneurial community conducive to business start-ups. The Greater Washington Region is seeing a younger, faster breed of businesses and executives evolve. Ideas, people and deals are flowing more freely, faster, and more openly, making the region much more friendly to start-ups and venture activity. The Netpreneur Program has been center stage in making this happen.

    The Program, introduced as a pilot in January and formally launched on April 23 of this year (7 months and two days ago), has already reached thousands of people, created a score of partnerships, and directly touched over a thousand "netpreneur" businesses. The Program's newsletter is broadcast to over 2,500 subscribers and re-circulated to an estimated 40,000 others. Our monthly networking sessions are having great impact – we've now run 10 such sessions and have had over 1,500 individuals – over 60% of which are card-carrying netpreneurs – attend and participate. We have a Web site, the Netpreneur Exchange, that continues to grow in its use and receive "top grades" from folks as far away as Australia, Italy, Japan, and the UK. We have run two magnet events, "An Evening with the Barons" and the "Stars of Telecom" that have opened many peoples eyes and minds to the true potential and vibrancy of this region. Most importantly, we are beginning to see tangible results from our efforts – partnerships, funding, relationships. The most tangible result of all is the growing number of entrepreneurial successes taking place in our own back yard, several of which are with us this evening.

  • Visibility and Recognition – The Potomac KnowledgeWay has been generating the best possible kind of media coverage – not ads and stories promoting ourselves – but rather independent coverage that is reporting the excitement and innovation taking place in Greater Washington. We've now enjoyed such coverage in Fast Company, Wired, NY Times Online, Business Week Online, E-Business online, TECHCapital, and The Washington Post – all of which have focused on the innovation and entrepreneurial activity occurring in Greater Washington. And to leave you with the best news of all – it appears that NBC will the air that national feature they ran on the region on CNBC in the near future and run the feature as part of the NBC News they provide to United Airlines (for an entire month) – collectively they estimate the feature will reach a total of 128,000,000 viewers.
As a Board member, investor, partner, sponsor, or management of the Potomac KnowledgeWay Project, you should step back, assess what has happened, and savor this very positive impact and the systemic change that our collective actions are affecting in the region.

next.... What the Future Holds for the Region and the Potomac KnowledgeWay

Download the entire speech in PDF format.

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