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Ideas Flow at Entrepreneurs’ Conference

October 2005
Ideas Flow at Entrepreneurs’ Conference

Businesspersons and aspiring entrepreneurs gathered at the first-ever TIECON SouthEast 2005, organized by TiE chapters of Atlanta, Carolinas and Florida on September 24 at the Gwinnett Center. Sticking with the theme of the conference, "Ideas, Capital & Entrepreneurship in a globally connected era," the speakers and panelists presented insights into various markets and opportunities that lie in each sector.

The conference began with Vir Nanda paying a tribute to Katrina victims. In his welcome address, he said while TiE's focus was on fostering entrepreneurship and creating wealth, this wealth had to be used for the welfare of society. He said that the world was witnessing true globalization with countries working together on research and development. TiECON's objective, as explained by conference chairman and president-elect, TiE-Atlanta, Chand Akkineni, was to encourage aspiring entrepreneurship following the pessimistic mood in the aftermath of the dotcom bust. He said entrepreneurship was alive and cited recent successes such as Chutney Technologies, Scient, JP Mobile and iFlex. Kanwal Rekhi, a founder of TIE, went into the history of the organization, which was founded in 1992. He is now a member of the TIE Global Board of Trustees. Himself a successful entrepreneur, he started his first company Excelan in 1982. His responsibility towards society has seen him donate $2 million to his alma mater, IIT Powai, for promoting information technology education and research.

The day brimmed with ideas from eminent speakers and panelists who covered various aspects of business ? the trials and tribulations and excitement of starting a company to financing it and making it a big success. Anil Menon, vice president-marketing strategy and worldwide marketing management at IBM, shared his company's strategy for the future, based on its perception of the current market trends. He said IBM had dropped the word e-business to dissociate itself from the dotcom era and re-focus its business on "on demand mode of operation" and "Business Performance Transformation Services (BPTS)"- a mix that includes IT and business-process outsourcing along with intelligent software and consulting services.

Rajesh Hukku, chairman of iFlex Solutions, which recently received a $900 million investment offer from Oracle Corp., discussed the making of iFlex. The reason behind the founding of iFlex was to get Indian software out of the stereotyped "cheap labor" image. He and his colleagues felt strongly that "we (Indians) were underestimating our capabilities in software," and wanted the world to recognize the quality aspect of Indian software rather than its cheapness. Thus iFlex was born with a dream ? "the dream was customers will use us not because we are cheaper than what is available in the country but for our quality." He explained how they made inroads into the global market (currently operating in 117 countries), eventually leading to the deal with Oracle. His message to entrepreneurs is "we have to build products that can be sold again and again like Microsoft, and we have to continually go up the value chain."

Alon Goren, founder and chairman of Radiant Systems, related his company's success story. He said that forming a company and taking it public is a lot of hard work, but exciting nonetheless. His view is that "acquisition can accelerate your strategy but make sure there is a strategy." Currently, Radiant Systems offers POS systems to hospitality, retail and entertainment industries.

Veering away from technology was Dr. Mahendra Shah, chairman and CEO of CWC Pharmaceuticals, who talked about opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly new drug development. Once again it was an interesting story of an entrepreneur's struggles, hard work and ultimate success. According to him, the "next big business is going to be outsourcing of pharmaceutical business." He also touched upon opportunities for technology applications in this industry. A presentation by Mark Fleury, founder of JBoss, was revealing. According to him, "Open source is a catalyst that will restructure the industry." Open source software is software that is released with source code. People are allowed to make derivative works from open source software as long as it is released under the same open source agreement. JBoss is in the open source arena and is a market leader in J2EE compliant application server market.

Panelists Dayakar Puskoor, founder of JP Mobile, and Sanjoy Malik, founder, president and CEO of Air2Web, elaborated on "capitalizing on untethered global growth in wireless." They provided insights into the future of wireless market and its vast potential for entrepreneurs. Malik opined that "wireless devices will soon become the most important medium for advertisers," while Puskoor encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs by emphasizing on the opportunities in the wireless market.

A "Venture Capital" panel discussion, comprising experts such as Sangam Pant, managing director of Evercore Ventures, Bruce MacNaughton, a partner in Crosslink, Michael Sheperd, managing director of Manzanita Partners, was moderated by Anindya Dutta, founder of Chutney Technologies. The panel provided a deeper understanding of current market trends on how to finance ventures. The third panel discussion on "BPO: From concept to IPO and Beyond" was informative. The panelists were V.N. Tyagarajan, executive vice president of mergers and acquisitions at GECIS, Vikram Singh of Innovis, and Chris Tomseth, head of strategic development at TRX, Inc. The moderator was Nitin Kapila, CEO of GRMI.

A dialogue with the attendees revealed that most of them felt that opportunities for entrepreneurship had started growing again, and conferences such as these would give them an opportunity to identify new markets and venture into starting new businesses.

-Shubhangi Pandit

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