OPEN Networking Event Focuses on Success
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Faruq Ahmad
Ashar Aziz
Aamir Sheikh

The Silicon Valley Chapter of the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America (OPEN) held its third quarter networking event for this calendar year at SAP headquarters in Palo Alto, California on Monday, September 19, 2005.
A formidable panel of experts had been asked to focus on the topic of “Profiles in Entrepreneurial and Corporate Success” as three exceptional Pakistan-origin business leaders, Aamir Sheikh, Ashar Aziz and Faruq Ahmad representing large corporations, private startups and venture capital firms enlightened over a hundred people in attendance with their wisdom at this event. Moderator Aaref Hilaly is himself a success story and his expertise was quite apparent on the topic earlier on in the discussion.
After registration, the evening program started off with a presentation by OPEN (SV) President Umair Khan who welcomed the participants and proceeded to provide an update on the organization and the chapter’s activities in particular. In Umair’s words, OPEN was open to both new membership and ideas and wanted to create an environment where the most successful Pakistani Americans and those aspiring to succeed could use the affluence that they have acquired or are acquiring and translate it into influence for the betterment of Pakistan’s image in the world, and to project it as a potential investment opportunity for overseas capital, especially in the technology sector.

Aaref Hilaly
Umair Khan

To how they got their start and created the intestinal fortitude to start their own business Ashar Aziz said that securing seed funding before you leave your regular job is ideal. Ashar who co-founded TerraSpring which was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2002 added that “you put your reputation on the line when you start a company.” He also shared with the audience the fact that he ran his first company from his house for several months. It seems that he has come a long way from there as Ashar is currently Founder and CEO of Netfort, a Sequoia-funded security company.
On Aaref Hilaly’s question, “Why has it worked out? Is it dumb luck, your brilliance or good looks?” Faruq Ahmad who is Vice President at C.M. Capital had this to say: “Luck plays a huge role… Being focused, networking with people who are doing fun things.” Faruq who knows the subject of success really well was co-founder of PenWare, a venture backed software company heavily involved in mobile computing. He is also one of the few Pakistani-origin people interviewed by the legendary Gordon Moore of Intel Corporation. “The rest is history,” he said.
Hilaly made a statement that had much to reflect upon. He said that you need to put yourself in a position to be lucky. He said that 50% of it is to do a good job and the other 50% is to start a job that is good to begin with.

Above : Participants in the OPEN Networking event

Aamir Sheikh, the former President of Barra, a financial services firm acquired by Morgon Stanley for several hundred million dollars in 2004, added many insights of his own on the panel. Amidst several factual anecdotes and his notion of “no regrets about what happened in (his business) past,” Aamir reflected on a chance bathroom meeting that he had with a Berkeley Professor about a business idea. A fan of classic movie Lord Jim, Aamir stressed the need to continually steer the ship (company) in the right direction. On company success he said it “is how well the team does,” that counts.
To another question on whether being from Pakistan had influenced their careers, the consensus was that in spite of the past four years being more challenging for Pakistanis in the US, the overall experience had still been positive.
In the open question and answer session that followed, many important issues came up. “We hope that the next outsourcing destination becomes Pakistan,” said Faruq Ahmad.
To conclude here, one cannot downplay the significance of this networking session by OPEN even though only a hundred people were in attendance. OPEN can literally open many doors for Pakistan and Pakistanis in the United States and beyond in the realm of business. This report was just a glimpse or a small slice of what transpired here. And who knows that from amongst the hundred relatively unknown participants at this event and those who were not on the panel we could possibly have at least one future Safi Qureshey in the making!
(OPEN (Silicon Valley) can be reached at http://opensiliconvalley.com/ for those interested in expanding their social and business horizons)

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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