OPEN Silicon Valley Forum 2009: A Genuine Source of Community Pride
By A.H. Cemendtaur

There are many different ways to look at the annual OPEN (Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America) Silicon Valley forum: a crash course in computers and the Internet, an assortment of colloquia on the fads of the technological world, a venue to catch up with friends and acquaintances, a job fair where employers find great talent to recruit and where would-be employees market their skill-sets. But no matter who you are or why you attend OPEN’s flagship event, the annual program is a sure bet in fulfilling your intellectual appetite in multiple ways. This year’s OPEN Forum took place on Saturday, June 13, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
OPEN Forum 2009 kicked off with an introductory speech by Dilawar Syed, president of the Silicon Valley Chapter of OPEN, followed by the morning keynote address delivered by Warren Packard of Draper Fisher Jurvetson. In his speech Packard put great confidence in the entrepreneurial spirit of mankind; he assured the audience that "we" will triumph over recession, environmental problems, and political instabilities around the world.
Trying to learn new things in an OPEN Forum is like trying to drink water from a fire-hydrant. With three parallel tracks of panel discussions going on, scores of knowledgeable speakers to listen to, and hundreds of people to reconnect with, the whole-day affair is a tiring exercise. The task is especially demanding for a reporter who needs to be at three different places at the same time. So this scribe floated from one hall to another, collecting wisdom from various presenters, but not sitting through any presentation in-to to.
The first panel discussion he caught was on ‘Cloud computing and Opportunities for Entrepreneurs.’ Here, the jargon of and around ‘Cloud Computing’ was deciphered for the audience. The discussion was moderated by Ping Li of Accel. Panelists included
Lew Tucker, Vice President and CTO of Cloud Computing, Sun Microsystems, Inc.; Mark Trang, Director of ISV Marketing & Programs,; Bernard Golden, CEO, HyperStratus; and Michael Crandell, CEO, RightScale.
Needed to understand "Where's the Green in Clean? Investment Opportunities, Valuations and the Funding Gap in Cleantech"? You should have attended a panel discussion on that topic, moderated by Mamoon Hamid, Principal, US Venture Partners -- the subject matter experts included Adam E. Bergman, Senior Vice President, Jefferies & Co.; Nadim Maluf, EIR, US Venture Partners; Rob Romero, Portfolio Manager, Connective Capital; Riaz Siddiqi, Managing Partner, Denham Capital; and Matthew Trevithick, Partner, Venrock.
And in case you were in love with Facebook, Twitter, and other online portals of social networking, you should have listened to a conversation on "How Social Media is Shaping Our World." There the panelists included Rashmi Sinha, Co-Founder and CEO, SlideShare; Alex Mehr, Co-CEO, Zoosk; Brett Keintz, CEO, Sharethrough; and Dan Merritts, VP Marketing, Eduify. The discussion was steered by Ro Choy, Chief Revenue Officer, RockYou.
In the second series of seminars, a panel discussion on "Innovations in Energy: Viable business propositions after Market Corrections" was lead by Tarek el Aguizy, Managing Partner, Emersus Capital. Speakers included Rahul Prakash, VP of Biz Dev & Marketing, Virgance; Tamin Pechet, Principal, Catamount, Chairman, Imagine H2O; Corwin Hardham, CTO, Makani Power; and Stefan Heuser, President and CEO, Siemens TTB Center.
A parallel program exploring ideas on "Entrepreneurship: Stabilizing Force in the World" was moderated by Dilawar Syed, President, OPEN Silicon Valley -- Dr. Khurram Afridi, Project Director, LUMS School of Science & Engineering (SSE); Misbah Naqvi, Acumen Fund; and Shashi Buluswar, Associate Partner, Dalberg Global Development Advisors, spoke on the topic and answered questions asked by the audience.
And in case you wondered who was funding new ventures in this recession you needed to listen to Carlos Cashman, CEO, Costellation, Inc.; Geoffrey Arone, CEO, Dancejam; and
Jack Porter, CEO, Forward Innovations Inc., discussing "A Fistful of Dollars: The good, the bad and the Ugly of Fundraising in a Hostile Environment." That meeting was lead by Umair Khan, CEO, SecretBuilders.
In a by-invitation lunch meeting dubbed "Fundraising for a Cleantech Startup? Cleantech Pitch Lunch with a Room Full of Investors", businesses seeking capital gave presentations about their products. Potential investors asked questions and evaluated the ideas for their economic merit.
In the conference keynote speech, Ex Sun Microsystems executive Masood Jabbar spoke on the lessons he learned working in the high-tech industry. Among other distillates of experience, Jabbar told the audience that if in any work environment all team members agree with each other all the time, then that particular team is not very effective. Listen to Jabbar's speech here:
“Entrepreneurial Idol” has become a regular feature of the OPEN Forums. In that competition budding entrepreneurs present their ideas and sketch out their business plans; a group of judges grills the presenters to figure out the true worth of the ideas -- the audience loves the show and the top three contestants get cash prizes.
A session on "Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Health Care" was headed by Dr. Rosina Samadani, Board Member, OPEN New York. Discussants included Dr. Tahir Mahmood, Managing Director, Lake Sherwood Partners; Marybeth Sharpe, Moore Foundation; John De Souza, President & CEO, MedHelp; and Ash Damle, Founder MEDgle .
A parallel discussion on "The Stimulus Act: The Impact of Government Policy on Cleantech Start-ups and Investors" benefited from the expertise of Josh Becker, Managing Partner, New Cycle Capital; Donnie Fowler, Principal, Fowler & Crumley, Inc; Matt Golden, President & Founder, Sustainable Spaces; and Mark S. Ostrau, Partner, Fenwick & West.
The audience of the OPEN Forum 2009 included Pakistan's Consul General in Los Angeles, Syed Ibne Abbas. In between sessions, Dilawar Syed introduced Consul General Syed Ibne Abbas to people present in the lobby. Informally speaking to the Pakistani Americans Ibne Abbas said the Los Angeles Consulate of Pakistan was available to serve Pakistanis around the clock.
On the resumption of the program, gamers in the audience learned about "The Business of Gaming" from Charles Hudson, VP Serious Business; David Fleck, VP Marketing & Business Development at Wild Pockets (Sim Ops Studios, Inc); Kai Huang, Co-founder & CEO RedOctane; Omar Siddiqi, Trippert Labs; and Tim Chang, Principal, Norwest Venture Partners.
In "Making Sense of this Downturn: What to do next for your Personal Finances?" presented by Salman Khan, Sr. Analyst, Connective Capital, the speaker predicted another wave of foreclosures in the offing.
A workshop on "Crafting your personal brand to transition into the Cleantech sector" taught by Sasha Grinshpun, Executive Coach, Talent Mosaic, was an interactive session. Participants discovered what their “current brands” were as compared to their “aspiration brands.”
The day-long event concluded with the OPEN Forum 2009 keynote speech given by Ex-Congressman Tom Campbell. If you think most of California’s problems are financial in nature and the state desperately needs a governor who has a deep understanding of money matters then you must pay special attention to Tom Campbell’s bid in the gubernatorial race. At OPEN, a big chunk of Campbell’s speech was on the current economic crisis. Campbell predicted the recession to be over by the end of 2010, but to be followed by a double-digit inflation.
Listen to Campbell's keynote speech at the OPEN Forum here:
So how does OPEN pull such a spectacular show every year? The answer lies in the strength of its hardworking volunteers. The more than sixty volunteers that helped in putting up this year’s Forum included members of the ‘Content’ team: Shuja Keen, Moazzam Chaudhry, Wahid Qureshi, AbdulRahman Rafiq, Naeem Zafar, and Mrs. Mahboob Akhtar; members of the ‘Marketing’ team: Shahab Riazi, Hasan Randhawa, and Mohsin Imam; ‘Logistics’ team members: Ayesha Khan, Faisal Hanif, Iftikhar Ahmad, Babar Yasin, Mariam Ispahani, AbdulRahman Rafiq, Mubashir Yazdani; Sadaf Ahmed, Shabbir, Arif Shamim, and the rest of the OPEN team.
See other OPEN Forum 2009 pictures at:


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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