TiE Inflect, an event transformed

With fewer booths, more youth and women rejuvenate 25-year-old event


Ritu Jha


Thousands of Indian techies, young students aspiring to be an entrepreneur attended The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE) Inflect 2018, (an annual conference formerly known as TiEcon).

Ram Reddy, TiE Silicon Valley president.

This year’s focus of the two days conference on May 4 and 5, was on artificial intelligence, along with Fintech, Blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), MarTech (marketing technology), and healthcare.

A huge booth in the middle of the conference expo hall addressed one of the biggest concerns of those in the industry, the finer points of the EB5 visa.

According to Ram Reddy, TiE’s Silicon Valley president and the host, “We are not endorsing but it is going to be an important part on how companies can fundraise so it has some significance.”

Elsewhere, the event also included a panel dedicated to address the worries of those budding entrepreneurs on H-1B visas despite the Trump Administration’s moves against them. It pointed out that there are various visas and venture funds available for startups. Arun M. Kumar, chairman and CEO, KPMG, provided advocated about investment in India.

During his keynote Vishal Sikka, former Infosys CEO, spoke of his passion for AI since his college days, while Romesh Wadhwani, chairman and CEO of Symphony Technology Group, in his keynote address, discussed how he had earlier this year has invested millions to establish India’s first AI research institute in Mumbai.

Young attendees at TiE Inflect 2018.

The TiE event this year sported fewer booths but had a lot more young attendees than last year. As heartening was the heightened presence of TiE Women, missing the year before.

Reddy addressed the change of the conference’s name.

“After 25 years we are seeing rapid changes in what entrepreneur looks for,” he said. “TiE has reached an inflection point.

“Long gone are days of inspiration mentoring,” said Reddy adding that now entrepreneurs only have five minutes to pitch and specify why they need to be mentored. TiE is more data-driven and in engaging domain expert worldwide and cataloging them and ensuring they are giving us their time. This is a whole new process, a more domain focused entrepreneurial development,” he said.

The process included such strategies as the use of instant badging, a way to track who attended which event, the plan being to use the data to tailor events according to both audience and interest.

Moving on to discussing AI, he said that there was a lot of hype about it, with about 2,000 events addressing it worldwide, without going over what was meaningful.

Wadhwani had fewer reservations when he spoke to indica about it.

Romesh Wadhwani, chairman and CEO of Symphony Technology Group.

He described the present as the golden age of AI, asserting it has changed a lot in the past couple of years. He said there were opportunities in it for business, government, education and healthcare.

Rohit Ghai, president of RSA, a Dell Technologies firm, addressed the misuse of data impacting cybersecurity, as in the case of Facebook’s deal with Cambridge Analytica that exposed private data of millions of users.

“I still think humans are the weakest link. Having said that as we are going to the world of AI, you have machines making decision on our behalf and so the vulnerability shifts to the machine as well..” Discussing the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica fiasco, he said, “It was about data governance. And if you think about data, it’s the fuel for AI. We have to do more a rigorous job of thinking about data and data governance, about the value chain of data – where it comes from, where it lives within the organization and where it goes to.”

Sikka saw AI more as an opportunity, saying it helps us learn about data, but while saying that it was creating the right climate to thrive security concerns also surrounded it.

”AI will be a powerful force for security but it will also be a target. So, we have to be very careful… If you tamper with the data, you can cause machines to do things that you don’t want them doing,” he said.

Rohit Ghai, president of RSA, a Dell Technologies (2nd from left).

“I think at his point we are at a point of industrial learning, learning as a community … How to think about data as an asset just as we thought of physical assets. It has to happen at Facebook but each of our organizations have our respective Cambridge Analytica [to address] and so each of us are vulnerable.”

We are quite vulnerable and GDPR [the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation] will also draw attention to the same issue and we will do better and we have to improve both the technology aspect as well as people on process.

He, however, believes that the implementation of GDPR on May 25, which will be applicable to any organization globally that does business in the EU, is going to transform companies.

Another speaker Amit Sinha, Ph.D, CTO and executive vice president, Engineering and Cloud Operations, Zscaler, believes that GDPR gives end users the rights over data.

Amit Sinha, Ph.D, CTO and executive vice president, Engineering and Cloud Operations, Zscaler (first from right).

Now companies working with EU have to be restrictor, second, you have to be very clear where the data resides and you have to clarify and say where the data is and if someone says I want to delete it should be.

In the US he said that there is a lack of clarity about where the consumer space is and the regulations about it.

“They are still very old school,” he said with a laugh didn’t you see the questions asked by the committees to Mark Zuckerberg.

Another keynote speaker on health was Dr. Vanila Singh, chief medical officer for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said the Indian community also had to be made aware of the opioid issue and how honored she was to work for a president who had correctly identified the crisis.

“It is a national priority and he cares about his people – who could be white, homeless, in the rural or urban areas.” She said the opioid crisis spared nobody and so was being addressed not just by the HHS with its $1.2 trillion budget but also the Department of Justice and the Depart of Transportation.

“A lot of drugs are coming through the postal service,” she said, adding that it was a very complex issue.

She said she hoped AI could help deal with the data generated and ultimately translate to better patient outcome.

“It’s a struggling market but market action, regulations, and technology barrier have to overcome but we are optimistic,” he said. “I am very optimistic in next five years we are going to see positive developments in this (autonomous vehicles, connected cars, shared vehicles and electric car) space.”

Vijay Bist of Amber India Corporation told indica that AI helps his firm get the orders processed quicker.

“But I still believe that we should have interactions with people,” he said, while saying that AI implementation could cut costs and improve functioning in the hospitality business.

Ankit Bhatia, CEO & co-founder of Sapien Network.

The TiE Youth keynote speaker was Ankit Bhatia, CEO & co-founder of Sapien Network, a decentralized social news platform that gives users control of their data, rewards content creators and fights fake news.

He told indica that the idea generated in 2016, while he was a student at UC Berkeley, addressed fake news as a problem.

He said his work called for 16-hour work days, and 100-hour work weeks.

But it just comes with a job, If you want to create a difference in the world and we have to be passionate about it,” he said.

Taarini Dang, a 14-year old eighth-grader is a Venture Fellow at SoGal Ventures, the world’s first female millennial-led cross-border VC firm investing in diverse startups.

Attendees at TiE Youth.

She told indica her project started when her best friend’s sister was a runner-up Miss Santa Clara, getting a lot of attention and respect.

“Then I thought, should I be a society definition of beautiful or I could break the rules?” That led her to decide to be an entrepreneur.

“Entrepreneurship is the key to bring change in the world because you can influence other people, create more jobs and ideas,” said Dang, who has raised $100,000 and has a target to raise $1 million to support young entrepreneurs, mainly girls.

Meanwhile, Jay Chaudhry CEO, Chairman & Founder at Zscaler, Inc. was honored with TiE Entrepreneur of the Year award at the TiE Inflect 2018 Banquet.


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