OPEN Networking Event
Focuses on Success
By Ras H. Siddiqui
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
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.
: 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