TiEcon 2015 Highlights Disruptive Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley
By Ras H. Siddiqui

The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) is now an important presence in many countries, encouraging innovation, business, technology and a great deal more through annual TiEcon conventions. But it has to be noted that TiE started in Silicon Valley, California and that the convention held here still remains the largest annual event of its kind in the world. The TiE Silicon Valley Chapter has been called the “Mother Ship” of south-Asian entrepreneurship. It is from here that the mainly Indian (many graduates of IIT campuses) and some Pakistani technologists ventured out of the ranks of being mere employees and stepped  into the world of business to found their own companies, to become a source of strength to others who followed in their footsteps.  Today TiE is about all kinds’ business entrepreneurship and is not restricted to technology related to computers alone.

It is interesting to note that the original “Silicon Valley” has almost no large silicon based manufacturing left in it since those manufacturing plants have pretty much moved out of California to other states and to Asia. But other technology based businesses  that rely on computing power, software, the internet, data, social media, and what is today known as “The Cloud” have replaced silicon and seem to be still growing rapidly here.

“TiEcon 2015” was held at the Santa Clara Convention Center on May 15 and 16 with over 4000 people in attendance.  The theme for this year’s conference was “Disruptive Entrepreneurship: Break-In. Break-Out. Break-Away” and no matter what images that might bring to mind, it was all very positive. The fact that a billionaire or two, and people who are “mere” multi-millionaires delivered keynote speeches here can be overlooked,  but what one cannot possibly ignore is their sharing of how they got there.  The conference ran for two full days with movers and shakers in many Hi-Tech areas focusing on topics such as IoT, Cloud & Security and Data Economy plus TiE50 Technology Awards on Day 1, and Online Education, Entrepreneurship, Tech in Oil and Gas, Social Entrepreneurship, Healthcare and TiE Youth on Day 2. 

Prominent personalities who were slated to speak at TiEcon 2015 included Jack Welch (ex CEO, GE), Suzy Welch (Co-Author of Real Life MBA), Vivek Paul (former VC, Wipro), Aamir Hussain (EVP & CTO, CenturyLink), Tom Reilly (CEO Cloudera), Gary Gauba (Founder & CEO Cognilytics), and Vishal Sikka (CEO, Infosys) during Day 1. On Day two John Kapoor (Founder and Chairman, INSYS Therapeutics), Blanca Trevino, CEO Softtek, Preet Bharara, Arun Kumar, Vivek Wadhwa, Raghava KK and last but not least Vivek Ranadivé(CEO TIBCO and Owner of the Sacramento Kings).  And this was just a list of the Grand Keynote speakers.  

Others delivering regular keynotes included Johan Lodenius (CMO, Media Tek), Mark Interrante SVP, HP) Phil Libin (Founder and CEO, Evernote, Vic Bhagat (CIO, EMC), D.J. Patil (Chief Data Scientist, White House) Jay Vijayan (CIO Tesla), Suja Chandrashekaran (Walmart), Ashar Aziz (CSO, FireEye) Antony Deighton (CTO, Qlik), Anand Oswal (VP, Cisco) Sandy Carter (GM, IBM) and Purit Soni (CPO, Flipkart).  Osman Rashid (CEO, Galxyz), Steve Balnk, Sharad Sapra (Director UNICEF), Vineet Rai (CEO Aavishkaar) Shanu Hinduja (Hinduja Foundation), Deborah Quazzo, John Zimmerman (VP GM, GE), Saurabh Srivasttava  , Paraag Marathe (President SF 49ers)Tracy Gale, Sridhar Sudarsan, Deepinder Goyal (CEO Zomato) Dheeraj Pandey CEO, Nutani), Dr. Didar Singh (FICCI) and George Sibley (Co Chair, USISTEF).     

It is not possible to cover the whole conference in one article here, so we will at best try to highlight just a couple of speeches. “A Slice of TiEcon 2015” is the most appropriate headline here and the choice of which slice to take this time has been guided by both uniqueness and current events. First, this article is being written around the time of Memorial Day here in America and securing the defenses of our country is on our minds. So here we highlight the keynote by Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz, CSO of FireEye Inc. which is protecting America’s most sensitive networks (and our personal data). The second choice is guided by the fact that the NBA basketball finals are almost upon us and the only South-Asian to own a NBA team is Vivek Ranadivé majority owner of the Sacramento Kings.  So with a mix of cyber security and NBA basketball, let us proceed.

FireEye (FEYE) is a seven billion dollar (market cap) publicly traded company today, one which has been utilized and recognized by many defense and security establishments. It was founded in 2004 in Milpitas by Ashar Aziz who is currently its Vice Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer.  FireEye has a security platform providing real-time threat protection against cyber-attacks. And it all started with Aziz’s approach to “Find poorly solved problems that map to a large market”. During his keynote Ashar highlighted the genesis of FireEye (My Living Room Year) and how he raised seed money to fund that idea in the years 2004 and 2005. The FireEye Mission Statement is to “Create Products and Services to Allow Networks to React in Real-Time to Rapidly Evolving Threats”. Aziz did share with the audience that FireEye ran out of money and had to shut down or scale back its operations on more than one occasion especially during the economic meltdown in the US economy around the year 2009 (a lesson for aspiring entrepreneurs here is to never give up!). But bounce back they did. He also shared the road to the company IPO in September 2013 and how it has gone global today with a presence in over 100 countries. 

The closing session of TiEcon 2015 included humorous/serious deliveries by Preet Bharara  and Arun Kumar and a journey into our technological future (including flying cars) by Vivek Wadhwa. He was followed by Raghava KK, the man who wants to build a more visual internet. The TiE organization also brought to the stage (and  overflowing on to the floor) the many volunteers who made this event possible (and thanked them all) just before the final keynote of TiEcon 2015 which was delivered by Vivek Ranadivé, founder of TIBCO Software Inc. and now majority owner the Sacramento Kings. 

A video on Ranadivé included developments leading to his role in the biggest commercial venture in the Capital City of California today, the building of the new (under construction) Sacramento Kings basketball arena downtown and how he was able to save the Kings from moving to Seattle, Washington by buying the team.  Vivek during his keynote shared with the packed hall his decision to move from Bombay to America including what inspired him to take the journey, and his arrival at MIT with almost no money. He later went on to much bigger and better things including founding TIBCO. He also somehow ended up coaching his daughter’s school basketball team (he knew next to nothing about basketball at the time).  He made that a success, increasing his interest in the game, eventually leading him into first buying a minority share in the Golden State Warriors, and in the year 2013 moving to the Sacramento Kings as majority owner. Vivek’s “Civilization” concepts which he shared was also quite absorbing but how an Indian origin engineer transformed himself into a basketball coach was certainly quite an inspiring story. 

To conclude, TiEcon 2015 was a success both in terms of attendance and in the quality of information shared. It was great to witness both established success stories and those aspiring to learn from them interacting here. Many small meetings were taking place here; business cards were being exchanged and potential clients and future business partnerships being formed. In the realm of the technology business it does not get much better than this in Silicon Valley or possibly anywhere else in the world!

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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