Jittery because of the pandemic, TiE(The Indus Entrepreneur) Silicon Valley is not giving up on hosting its annual conference TiEcon. Instead, it has come out with a robust plan and is offering not just a two-day conference but a series of three mini-events starting June 24 and concluding on Sept. 3.
Earlier the conference had been scheduled for May, but because of COVID-19, the conference has been divided into a series of three – June 24 and July 22 have been named Road to TiEcon2020, and the series will culminate with the event on Sept. 2 and 3 which will be the main TiE Silicon Valley signature TiEcon 2020.
Talking with indica, TiE Silicon Valley President B. J. Arun on rescheduling the conference and going virtual said, “Switching to an all-digital TiEcon is a completely new experience for TiE, and as such we have had to figure out each and every aspect of hosting a large virtual event from scratch.”
The events would be all virtual, three hours long, and global for the first time (the start time has been moved up to 7.15 am PST to accommodate other time zones).
The opening grand keynote will be delivered by Dr. Deepak Chopra, proponent of New Age philosophy, alternative medicine, physician, public speaker, and writer followed by Tech Legend Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures.
The July 22 Opening grand keynote will be delivered by Amitabh Kant CEO of NITI Ayog (Government of India). The September TiEcon 2020 grand keynote would be delivered by Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo; and September 3 would be · Chirantan “CJ” Desai, Chief Product Officer at ServiceNow – The
Enterprise Cloud Company.
Arun, who prior to becoming President of TiE was Convener of TiEcon in 2015 and 2016, said that hosting the in-person conference for thousands of attendees is not trivial. “we have been doing it for 27 years and therefore had a lot of tribal knowledge on how to host the same.”
Asked why TiE decided to host the conference over three months from June through September, Arun said, “Our in-person TiEcons were day-long affairs and spread over two consecutive days.” Arun said in response to indica’s questions about the reasons for the multiple events. “We realized early on that people do not have the attention span to be sitting in front of their computer screens for 8 to 9 hours at a stretch. We have therefore broken it down into a series of three separate and shorter events so that the attendees do not have to attend for more than three hours per event.”
“Our virtual TiEcon series is available to all of our TiE members across 61 chapters spread over 14 different countries thereby ensuring thousands of attendees from across the globe,” he added. “The response has been very encouraging, and we definitely expect to see more entrepreneurs participating since we are not limited to the Bay Area.”
Kumar Sripadam, who is serving as TiEcon 2020 co-convener, said holding the conference during the COVID-19 pandemic inevitably caused the organization’s flagship conference to go digital.
“We have had a ton of experience doing the live TiEcon, which was always early May, but going virtual needed a reconfiguration of the mindset,” Sripadam told indica and added, “We strive to deliver the same content, value, and information which all our attendees look for, albeit delivering this virtually. The downside was we had never done such a big conference virtually before. So we had to go through trials and tribulations of getting the optimal hosting logistics and the timing right.”
Agreeing with Sripadam, Radhika Iyengar, co-convener of TiEcon 2020, sounding confident and excited about how the virtual conference will go, told indica the whole conference, starting from June 24 through Sept, 3, is an envisioned and cohesive event.
Focused on TiEcon theme “Converge. Create. Elevate,” Iyengar said, “We basically are looking at the convergence of technology, the convergence of different geography, and convergence of diversity of people. So, the big theme this year is convergence.”
TiE is all about supporting the entrepreneur ecosystem and creation and innovation. And the main focus at present is on June 24, however, Wednesday’s conference is not just about grand keynotes but also about the individual tracks.
“The idea is you virtually walk in the grand stage and listen to grand keynotes and then there would be three concurrent tracks of your choice to attend one of the three tracks – Cybersecurity, Healthcare, and Fintech.” Sripadam said.
Anand Akela, chair of Marketing and Sales for TiEcon, told indica that the annual conference has grown from the big event it started out as 27 years ago when TiE started it in the Valley to the global phenomenon that’s big in Delhi, Mumbai, Kerala, and Bengaluru.
“So everyone wants basically a piece of Silicon Valley, and now we are making Silicon Valley available to everyone, “ Akela said.
But is it that easy for a volunteer-run organization that generates most of its revenue through TiEcon? Arun agrees hosting a virtual conference is not easy since all the TiE chapters worldwide have seen an impact to their revenues since many sponsors have requested to sit out this year.
“We are also not able to generate revenues from our expo, since exhibitors are not yet comfortable with the concept of attendees visiting them at a virtual booth,” Arun said but sounded pleased on making it possible for future events.
“We have also made the complete TiEcon 2020 series available to TiE members worldwide at no cost to provide them with resources to help cope with the impact of COVID-19, and this too has impacted our revenues from ticket sales, “ he said.
When asked if TiEcon too will feel the financial pinch due to pandemic, Arun said, “TiE Silicon Valley is no exception to feeling the impact of the pandemic and while we have tightened our belts to the extent possible, we took a decision to not furlough or cut back on salaries of our paid staff.”
Arun also said TiE has been very fortunate that its leadership and Charter Members have stepped up to the challenge in a big way by making larger contributions this year to offset the fiscal deficit.