An Explosive Event

Date:   Monday , November 01, 1999

The weekend was October 2, 1999. The scene was sunny Santa Clara, California. Time was of the essence. One had only 36 hours to mix and mingle with the most innovative and aggressive minds behind the industry’s success. The halls were packed with biggest and the brightest that the tech world had to offer. The alluring scent was that of deals being made and dreams fulfilled.
More than nine hundred Indian-American high-tech professionals and businesspeople showed up in droves for the two-day meeting of the minds. The weekend opened with a welcome address by siliconindia publisher Mona Sharma who attributed the success of the magazine to the success of the South Asian professionals around the world — and especially those in the Silicon Valley. “Every month we attempt to bring you a quality product that is both intriguing and informative, entertaining and motivating. But I have to be honest with you, all of you sitting here and all of you whose stories have graced our pages, are giving us great material to work with,” she said. On that note, her instructions were, “loosen your ties and your titles, and have a great weekend!”

At that point, siliconindia’s Manesh Judge, took over as weekend moderator. The first keynote presentation by Dr. Desh Deshpande, founder and chairman of Sycamore networks, addressed the opportunities of the ‘Digitial (R)evolution.’ He concluded by reminding entrepreneurs to maintain their balance. “Success will follow when you can juggle several balls: work, family, health, friends and spirit.”

In contrast to a simple educational conference, this power-packed agenda created a forum for CEOs, investors, entrepreneurs and students alike to exchange ideas, advice and information while mixing with truly global business legends like Sam Pitroda, CEO of Worldtel; Atiq Raza, former President AMD; John Dean, CEO Silicon Valley Bank and Vani Kola, CEO Rightworks.

Pitroda also presented a lunch keynote and stirred up much-needed passion and promise for the country from all the non-resident Indians in attendance with his accounts of the technological advancements of India throughout the last 15 years and her growth in the next 25 years. “The more I am away from India, the more I feel attached to her. It is up to the non-resident community to see that we allow India to achieve the success she is capable of with funding and appropriate use of our resources.” The audience was fascinated by his stories and ideas for the future of what technology can do in the developing countries. “It is time to recognize technology for what it is worth. It is needed in sanitation, in irrigation, in everything. We need to double the pace in India.”

Other panels included, “New Rules in the Venture Capital Game, “Software Opportunities and Challenges,” and the “The Brave New World of E-Commerce.” That was one of the most interactive panels, moderated by Supreet Manchanda, lead partner, KPMG. Infospace CEO Naveen Jain excited the crowd with his bold statements and thorough understanding of the topic. “If people think that shopping in a store with their credit card is more secure than shopping online, they couldn’t be more wrong. The Internet is not changing things in the way you think, it is making things easier,” he said.

Investors and entrepreneurs took advantage of the (InvEnt) Investor-Entrepreneur Forum. An opportunity to exchange ideas and present business plans. Plans ranged from hard-core technology ideas to customer service features and more creative ventures involving multimedia. The success of the forum resulted in the need for a monthly forum to amalgamate angel investors and VC’s with the budding entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

The Saturday night banquet was the highlight of the conference honoring ten individuals who showed excellence and promise in the field of technology. The emcee of the evening was siliconindia’s Sharan Gill, Miss India USA 1999. She provided a brief background and then invited a close friend, colleague or partner to present the award.

The awardees’ themselves were showstoppers. Naveen Jain laughed and said, “If I had to do it all over again, I would do it without VCs. We never had a business plan. Anyone who has the time to write up a business plan, is probably the wrong person to run the company.” Pavan Nigam thanked his wife for her support. “I told her that I wanted to go on a three-year sabbatical to form this company. She said go ahead and fulfill your dreams, but one day over three years and you will be getting a call from my lawyer!” Jorge del Calvo, an attorney at Pillsbury Madison & Sutro, introduced Cabletron CEO Piyush Patel, and joked about his time restriction. “I was told I only was allotted two minutes for this introduction, which is unusual for me. As an attorney I am used to speaking in 15 minute increments.” Professor Raj Jain, Ohio State University, advised the audience to “do whatever you like to do best and the money will follow.” CTO Jai Rawat, described by Gill as the perfect example of what the next generation has to offer the industry, thanked his team. “It is moments like this that motivate and drive people to work harder and harder to achieve their goals.” Jayshree Ullal, vice president of workgroup business at Cisco, was the only female award recipient. Gill pointed out, “she has not only made a mark in the industry for women, the truth is she is a role model for any incipient multifaceted entrepreneur.” Other awardees included Piyush Patel, Chairman and CEO Cabletron. Anshoo S. Gupta, president of production systems at Xerox, Suresh Nihalani, chairman and CEO of Accelerated Networks and N. R. Narayan Murthy, CEO Infosys Technologies.

Vinod Khosla, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, was the invited keynote speaker and the recipient of the lifetime achievement award Khosla’s numerous successes encompass co-founding Sun Microsystems to serving on the boards of several leading technology companies, including Juniper Networks, Qwest Communications and Ventis. The entire staff referrs to him as the “granddaddy of the technological boom,” as Khosla graced the cover of siliconinda’s first issue. Mona Sharma said, “When were still just an idea in inception stage, we picked up the phone and asked for an interview with Vinod. We had no reputation, we had no sample product, we had nothing bur our idea, our belief and our drive. We honor Vinod tonight because he recognized that and put his belief in us.”

Keep keyed into siliconindia events as we roll out exciting conferences across the US in the coming few months.