Shahid Khan's Grand Keynote Speech at TiEcon 2014 in Santa Clara
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) organization was founded in 1992 by a group of successful entrepreneurs of South-Asian origin mainly anchored in technology. Its presence has now mushroomed way beyond its original roots as it now boasts of over 14000 members in many chapters across the globe in countries which include India and Pakistan. TiE Silicon Valley can now be referred to as “The Mother Ship” of this organization because it all started here.
When TiE holds its annual conference known as TiEcon in Silicon Valley, the technology world way beyond just the South-Asian Diaspora notices. This year was no different as over 4000 people attended TiEcon 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center with many of the heavyweights in the technology arena present. Those who presented Grand Keynotes included Steve Mollenkopf (CEO Qualcomm), Michael Rhodin and Manoj Saxena (IBM), Steve Lucas (President SAP), Romesh Wadhawani (Chairman & CEO Symphony Technology Group), Sanjay Poonen (EVP and GM of VMware) and Shahid Khan, President of Flex-N-Gate and owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL football team.
TiEcon 2014 was a two-day affair with the first day presenting three tracks under the subject headers: Internet of Things, Big Data and Cloud Infrastructure which featured their own keynotes, panel discussions and fireside chats by venture capitalists, and the new idea start-ups. The second day concentrated on Healthcare IT, Entrepreneurship and the futuristic NexGen Tech Service before lunch and continued on with Entrepreneurship, Energy: Oil and Impact Investing in the afternoon. There is a lot more that could be added here including the TiE50 start-ups awards program but for the purpose of this report we will concentrate on just a slice of the closing of Day 2.
Before approaching that finale some observations on the exhibitor company booths and entertainment. Upon entry G1G Insurance services was quite prominent as travelers often look them up online and local corporations ask them questions about the Obamacare’s impact. Many Indian and South-Asian media outlets had their booths including Andaaz Television, India-West, KLOK Desi 1170 Radio, Women Now (a South Asian TV Talk Show), just to name a few. The San Jose State University Lucas School of Business was there along with that of the US-India Science and Technology Endowment Fund. The Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services was also present as well as Belgian Tech Startups and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (again just to name a few) along with many more companies just trying to get their foot in the door or to establish a stronger presence.
A part of the entertainment lineup which this scribe could witness on Saturday night included the amazingly funny Sunil Thakkarwho pushed the envelopeofethnic humor sparing no Punjabis, Gujaratis etc. in the audience. Shekhar Rahate of haute couture gowns fame lit up the stage with eye catching models presenting his impressive clothing line during the fashion show segment. Something more traditional was added with the Kathak dance performance by Shambhavi Dandekar and her co-performers plus some fine music by Robin John: The Band which livened things up for everyone.
The two Grand Keynote speeches that closed the business side of TiEcon 2014 earlier were delivered by Sanjay Poonen and Shahid Khan respectively. An observation first and then some detail. One commonality that exists in these leaders of large corporations and success stories in the business world who happen to be South Asian is that they are all great communicators. Both Sanjay and Shahid proved that theory correct. And incidentally they reflected many of our own immigrant experiences when we arrived in the US with just a few dollars in our pockets. The only difference is that a few became multi-millionaires and billionaires after many years of struggle in this country.
Poonen described his journey when he landed in this country and took the bus to cold Dartmouth with just $50 in his pocket. If you are willing to work hard, anything is possible, he said. But cultural adjustment is necessary, he added. He charted his career path through tech companies including at Apple. He also shared his love of playing the piano. He elaborated on Innovation today and what needs to be focused on, namely, Product, Processes and People and the advantages that his company VMware has to offer. He ended his talk with quotes from Rabindranath Tagore and Nelson Mandela.
The richest South Asian on the Forbes billionaires list today, nearing a 4 billion dollar net worth, Lahore-born Shahid Khan delivered the final Grand Keynote at TiEcon 2014. It seemed somewhat fitting that the Santa Clara Convention Center venue of this conference is right next door to the beautiful under-construction Levi's Stadium which is to be the new home of the San Francisco 49ERS Football Team this coming August. Shahid Khan is the one and only South Asian to own an NFL football team today and along with Vivek Ranadive the only (majority) owner of an NBA basketball team (Sacramento Kings ), they are heroes for sports fans from Pakistan and India here. They are now members of a select club and we Desis are sure proud of them.
Introduced by Sohaib Abbasi, CEO of Informatica, Shahid Khan is an amazing American success story, one which has been featured in a CBS 60 Minutes television show (that film clip was shown here) during which his mother in Lahore was also interviewed. He arrived in Chicago, Illinois in late 1960’s to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne during a blizzard and spent his first night in a $2 room at a local YMCA (to which he later donated a large sum of money) and his first job was that of a dishwasher. He worked for Flex-N-Gate while attending university, was hired by it after graduation and later bought the company. Shahid started off with a short speech. He said that two great things about South Asians here which were significant: 1) We were born in a culture, very nurturing with our parents that put the right values like education in us, 2) And then you take that and transpose it here in the US and that is absolutely a 1-2 punch, a combination for success. He said that he hoped we were here because we wanted to make a difference (and a few bucks). He said that IT is a good business but there is a big world outside IT. He added that Health Care and the Automobile industry were bigger businesses and that IT is number 3.
Khan said that he was coming to Silicon Valley from a very different background in entrepreneurship with another approach that we might look at. He later joined Abbasi in a casual chat during which Khan’s survival struggle and his eventual success in the automobile business world as a newcomer-outsider were discussed. Adaptability to change appeared to be his secret to success. His successful utilization of Japanese graduate students to make his pitch to the Auto industry in Japan should certainly be worthy of note in any business school textbook or class. On the subject of winning in football he thought that predicting wins is a very dangerous thing. In sports or business one has to find the best people and empower them, he said. A great deal more was talked about including his unique mustache which Khan partially attributed to his Punjabi identity or pride and his quest to emulate his grandfather!
In conclusion TiE (Silicon Valley) has delivered another huge success with TiEcon 2014. It was good to be back here after a number of years and to see that this annual conference is still going strong.