Startups 1996 vs 2006: Panel Discussion Hosted by OPEN-SV in San Francisco
By Abdulrahman Rafiq

The speakers

On Thursday March 16, 2006 over a hundred Pakistani-American professionals and entrepreneurs gathered at the World Trade Club in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district. They came from all corners of the San Francisco Bay Area to attend the first-ever networking event in the city hosted by the Organization of Pakistan Professionals and Entrepreneurs (OPEN Silcon Valley,
The theme, though fairly open-ended, centered around comparing and contrasting the entrepreneurial environment in IT today vs. ten years ago.
It was ten years ago that Netscape first went public, the Telecom Act of 1996 was being formulated and Y2K was around the corner. Today, Google is a dominant force, a billion people are on the Internet, and IT is a global phenomenon. What are some of the similarities and parallels between the two eras? How are they different? Corporate executives who were there then and are here now, discussed these and other questions.
The panel of four was moderated by OPENs current executive committee vice president Ammar Hanafi, who is a General Partner at Alloy Ventures, based in Palo Alto.

A section of the audience

On the panel there was Jonathan Stern Manager at Bain & Company. He has over 15 years of strategy consulting experience. Then there was Ian MacLeod, who is the Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, where he leads the firm's software investment banking practice in the Technology, Media and Telecom Group (TMT), and Matt Holleran who is the Vice President of AppExchange ISV Alliances at, and last but not least Ahmed Khaishgi, Chief Operating Officer and a co-founder of SquareTrade.
The first speaker, Jonathan Stern discussed how in 1996 the Internet was misperceived, and the evolution that occurred since then. Infoworld in December 1995 predicted that 1996 will witness the collapse of the Internet revolution which barely had begun.
The second speaker, Ian MacLeod, discussed the M&A activities in 1996 vs 2006. He went into greater details about the specific areas of the M&A activity and the sectors where the growth had been the largest. His gist was that IPO activity has significantly declined; however, the M&A activity is on the rise, and seems to be the trend nowadays.
Other than the panel discussions, there was plenty of opportunity for attendees and panelists to networking amongst each other, thus contributing to their ever-expanding business and professional network.
The author is a Signal Integrity Engineer working in the Silicon Valley. He is an OPEN fellow (, and the founder/President of PakSEF Foundation ( He can be reached at arafiq@paksef



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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