Thousands of engineers, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists budding startups gathered in Silicon Valley for TiEcon 2019, the world’s largest tech entrepreneurship conference. The theme of this year’s two-day conference, which was hosted by the IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE) on May 10 through 11, was “Start, Connect, and Scale.”
TiEcon has been hosting the conference for the past 27 years, but this year there were many unique events including a used to be a lavish lunch meal during the conference which turned into a scoop that surprised many and although TiE has invited women speakers in the past, this year the first time in its 27-year history that TiE Silicon Valley (TiE SV) had a woman CEO of Indian origin to give the TiEcon grand opening keynote.
Self-made billionaire and businesswoman Jayshree V. Ullal has served for a decade as President and CEO of Arista Networks. She began her historic keynote by thanking TiE SV founders Kanwal Rekhi, Dr. Sushas Patil, and Kailash Joshi, all of whom are iconic Indian-American figures in Silicon Valley and who took the stage with Ullal for the opening remarks. Ullal, candidly garbed in a traditional Indian salwar suit, expressed to them her gratitude for her being included in TiE, adding, “It’s their movement that has created so many successful companies in Silicon Valley and has been an inspiration to me.”
Ullal used the keynote to emphasize the importance of fostering teamwork, the characteristics of a great entrepreneur, and of building something with enduring value, without the intention of cashing out through a quick exit. Sharing about company culture, she stated, “Part of our culture is not living quarter by quarter.” Ullal, a former Cisco employee who joined Arista Networks in 2008, said that she has faced many challenges, but in June 2014, she spearheaded a historic, successful IPO, growing the company under her leadership into a multibillion-dollar business. Arista delivers software-driven cloud networking solutions for large data center storage and computing environments. Before joining Arista, Ullal was a senior vice president at Cisco, overseeing the ten-billion-dollar Data Center and Switching department.
“Be clear [about] what you want to do and what you don’t want to do,” she said to journalists during the press conference, adding, “If I can do it, anybody can do it. And it’s a combination of perseverance, support from your support structure, the right qualifications, and hard work. Bring your recipe together, and do your work.”
Ullal holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from San Francisco State University and an M.S. in engineering management from Santa Clara University. She is known as a self-made woman and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including E&Y’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2015 and Barron’s “World’s Best CEOs” in 2018.
She asked women at the conference to not be afraid of technology. “Without playing the woman card, I can say you can be a leader, being a man or a woman. And if I can do it—I come from a very middle-class family and have come from an average university, not from an Ivy League.”
Founded in 1992 by a group of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals in Silicon Valley, TiE SV is one of the world’s largest networks of tech entrepreneurs of Indian origin. It has formed a cohesive global network of half a million tech and finance professionals in sixty cities in sixteen countries; TiE SV is the largest TiE chapter.
B.J. Arun, the TiE SV President, told indica that they are not having a “women track” as in previous years because a few TiE women leaders said they are equal to men and don’t want to feel second-class or that they require a special kind of reservation.
Concerning having a woman deliver the keynote for the opening of the world’s largest entrepreneurship conference, (which still has a fairly low ratio of women attendees), Arun said, “We try extremely hard to bring in woman grand keynote speakers because we completely understand the need to have a role model.”
“We really need to have these people, otherwise we just we keep talking about equality, etc. But if you don’t actually find a real-life model, it’s just lip service,” said Arun, who also is a TiE SV Board member and has helped to convene past conferences.
Arun added further examples of successful women, including Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, and Padmasree Warrior, who served as the US CEO of the electric car company NIO and as CTO for Cisco.
“It’s not about lack of trying and year after year we reach out to them, but for various reasons they are not available [….] We are lucky, Jayshree Ullal made the time. She herself is a very busy CEO,” he said.
Arun also shared his vision about TiE Silicon Valley, saying he would focus on adding more charter members, “We are working very hard to bring back the past glory.”
Explaining further, he said that TiE Silicon Valley was formed in the early Internet era when the world wide web was first getting launched, and today fast forward a decade, there are many readable plans for entrepreneurs available on the internet.
Arun said, “When they arrived they needed a role model but in the past 25 years, not only [have] we [Indian Americans] broken the glass ceiling but in fact, they have shattered that glass ceiling.
“For me now the challenge is moving forward, what are some of the things that still resonate? what value can TiE add for the next 25 years? So, these are the things I am dealing with,” he said and added, “I know one thing that is [still] resonating for sure and that is not going to go away with the internet and that is “TiE network”.
“The Charter member network is something that adds value and it’s very strong. So, I intend to keep building on that and we are going to expand that and we are using our data-driven approach to reach out to people who traditionally have not been a part of TiE and that is something which I think I am focusing a fair amount of effort on,” said Arun.
Referring to his future plans he said that there are some other programs but he will focus on what the audience appreciates.
CIO forum and CMO forum are resonating well because entrepreneurs and people who want to grow their business want to be connected with decision makers. “TiE is where we bring in people who are either accomplished entrepreneurs or senior executives and try help grow the businesses they want, to be connected to these decision makers.”
“More than just teaching them what is an entrepreneurship one on one, we now help by offering them high-level connections and this is another area of my focus which I know is resonating very well,” said Arun, who served as CEO of July Systems, acquired by Cisco.
Arjun Malhotra, co-founder of HCL Group, industrialist and philanthropist on the changing face of TiE Silicon Valley told indica on the sidelines of the conference, “Young people have a different priority on how you sell your product to millennials and Z generation […] they are different from us. So, everyone has to change and has to think differently.”
He continued, “[…] but how to motivate people that’s the key, there are different ways. Earlier loyalty was considered important, today loyalty is not seen as a value. People are a little more self-centered and they have to know how to deal with it.
When you are working with people you have to find out what they need and not what you want.
“The important thing for TiE or any organization is not one size fits all. What’s right in India might not be right in the US. The message has to change, so I think here [in the US] when we started it was one size fits all but that is changing,” said Malhotra.