Viva the Entrepreneur!

TiECON 2003 – the 10th edition of the world’s largest conference for and by entrepreneurs – reaffirmed one’s faith in entrepreneurship. It reaffirmed the belief that in spite of the present-day gloom in the technology sector, if only we would care to take off our blinkers and look, a lot of bleeding edge work is actually taking place, not just under the surface but right on
top of it.

And that technology still holds the promise of bettering our lives so radically that even the prophets of doom will be positively affected by it. Be it the keynote addresses by Qualcomm co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer Irwin Mark Jacobs, Sequoia Capital founder Donald Valentine, noted marketing author Regis McKenna and Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado author Jeffery Moore, or be it the panel discussions on the 12 most exciting fields in the technology business today – where TiE veterans believe most of the action would be concentrated in the near future – it was one message that made itself clearly heard: entrepreneurship is striving, stabilising, growing and thriving in the world today, naysayers be damned.

Seventy-two companies from 12 fields, out of over 300 that had applied to be spotlighted at the TiECON, covered the entire spectrum of information technology businesses today, ranging from such golden oldies like storage, software applications, security, networking, semiconductors, services (yes, services… software services… there is a lot happening there still, and a lot of wealth remains to be created), to new and not-so-new kids on the block like indoor/campus wireless, life sciences, mobile wireless, software infrastructure, digital media and

Since its formation in November 1992, TiE today has grown into being a global body with 39 chapters across nine countries.

TiE’s global appeal was underlined by the presence of representatives of organisations and government bodies from the US, China, Singapore, Dubai and Canada. To seamlessly incorporate such diverse nationalities and interests into its fold, TiE is transforming itself from being “The IndUS Entrepreneurs” to “The Innovation Ecosystem”, to “Talent, Ideas and Enterprise”.

The reasons for this transformation are not difficult to fathom. To quote from the conference supplement, which provides a succinct explanation, the name change is not an effort to depart from its roots as an organisation, where cohesiveness was bonded by ethnicity. Instead, it is about becoming mainstream while keeping its roots intact. “There is realisation that business is business anywhere in the world, and TiE, being an open organisation, believes its message is equally relevant to all entrepreneurs, irrespective of their Indus origin. Despite its extended appeal, TiE continues to leverage its core strength – the community of its founders,” says the supplement.

Striving, stabilising, growing and thriving – the four phases of entrepreneurship – were the theme for the first day’s sessions, which allowed entrepreneurs with businesses in each one of these stages to benefit from the experiences and wisdom of those who had been through these before them. Attendees were provided insights on a number of issues like identifying bright spots, how to turn the downturn into an advantage, how to start and how to restructure or reshape a company for future success.

The buzzword was “reality entrepreneurship”.

Apart from the above, there was the constant goading buttressed by unimpeachable rationale to become an entrepreneur if you were not or continue being one if you already were. “Good ideas need not wait for opportune times,” said Vish Mishra, the convenor of TiECON 2003.

The barriers to building businesses are lower in a slow economy, considering lower start-up costs and an abundance of labour, Mishra, formerly of Novell and Telera, said. “Even the competition wilts away, giving you more than a reasonable chance of success. Entrepreneurship in a slow economy is the way to go,” he added. Mishra should know. After all, he sold his company and made his packet in one of the so-called “worst years of entrepreneurship”.

You would have felt great as an Indian if you were there. But most importantly, TiECON 2003 made you feel very proud to be an entrepreneur – in the era of talent, ideas and enterprise – in the new era of

By Ranjit Dhuru
The author is chairman and chief executive officer, Aftek, which took part in the “Showcase” section at
TiECON 2003

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