President • IKON Business Group Inc. • New York City • Age: 34
The youngest of four children, Kenwyn Nero is president of IKON Business Group Inc., a technology consulting firm for businesses with five to 10 employees. He got his start in technology at 10 years of age, when his older brothers passed down to him their video games and a Wang computer system. A graduate of Aviation High School in New York City and the College of Aeronautics in Jackson Heights, N.Y., Nero has become a technology whiz, specializing in voice- over Internet protocol (VoIP). He launched IKON in 1996, when he was just 23, and partnered with Cisco Systems Inc. and M5 Networks.
In 2000, he was forced to reinvent his business after losing a $1 million contract with Citibank, which had undergone a management change. The loss “impacted our revenues and taught us not to put all our eggs in one basket, not too much with one customer,” Nero says. Always putting ethics before money—one of the lessons of his strong Caribbean upbringing, he says—he once walked away from a $250,000 contract because the contract facilitator wanted to be paid under the table for awarding his company the bid. “We didn’t want to develop a reputation for doing business that way,” he says.
Nero finds inspiration in the words of the 19th-century Scottish poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson: Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant. “It’s all about getting things done, where execution is as important as vision,” he says.
IKON has experienced 100 percent growth over the last three years, with gross service and hardware sales of $2.5 million at the end of 2006. With the current $1 billion hosted VoIP market projected to reach $12 billion in the next three years, Nero plans to keep pace by taking his company public in six months and establishing an international presence. He already is in talks with the Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Brooklyn, N.Y., to expand VoIP to his native Caribbean.