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Follow Mother's Advice: Do Something Nice for People

James F. Kenefick, Founder, BetterWorld Telecom

Jim Kenefick had to have been born with a genetic predisposition to entrepreneurship, if such a thing is possible. Combine that with the gene for social responsibility and you end up with a company like BetterWorld Telecom, which donates three percent of sales to charities focusing on children, education, and the environment.

The road to founding BetterWorld Telecom began for Kenefick as a finance and entrepreneurial studies major at Babson College. Since graduating, over the next 15 years, Kenefick started three Internet telecommunications companies.

First, Keystone, which he transformed into a thriving business with seven offices serving more than 12,000 commercial customers in 22 states and sold in 1995. Next, Epoch Networks, one of the first ISPs in the country, which he sold in 2000. And, then, NETtel Communications, founded in 1997. For NETtel, Kenefick raised more than $300 million in venture capital and managed more than 650 people doing $70 million in sales in 22 sales offices throughout the U.S.

NETtel was poised to go public with a $200 million IPO in 2000 when the telecom market dropped 90 percent in six months. With NETtel sold to another company and in the wake of September 11, 2001, Kenefick’s goal to create a big enough nest egg to make a significant difference as a philanthropist seemed remote. His mother, however, wasn't so sure.

"Why don’t you do something nice for people," she suggested, "since that’s what you wanted to do anyway."

© 2006 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.

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