Tête-à-tête with TiE’s outgoing President: B.J. Arun


B.J. Arun, President of The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE) Silicon Valley must have never thought his tenure would be tested by the pandemic and he has to overcome the challenges calmly, collectively, and magnificently that too at the global level. He will be officially stepping down from the role on December 31, 2020, and will be welcoming AG Karunakaran to take the helm.

In the past 2 years, under Arun’s leadership TiE Silicon Valley has reached many corners of the world, inspiring and bringing together innovative minds onto their platform.

B. J. Arun (middle) at TiEcon (2019) with Guests of Honor Shantanu Narain, CEO of Adobe(right) and Shashi Tharoor, author & Member of Parliament(left).

Even under the challenging situation of COVID-19’s lockdown, he had helped provide entrepreneurs of the world opportunities to interact, discuss, and soak in wisdom from some of their finest contemporaries.

In an exclusive interview with indica News, he opened up about his journey as the President of this elite institution.

“It was a bittersweet journey,” he said and added, “but still very satisfying since there were various challenges to overcome during my two-year tenure.”

Managing a not for profit like TiE is definitely not a cakewalk, especially during a pandemic that wrought hell for many entrepreneurs. However, as a seasoned leader who has been the CEO of three different companies prior to becoming the head volunteer at TiE, Arun was well prepared for the challenges and the hurdles thrown his way.

When asked about his first-ever exposure to a TiE SV event and what led him to become its President, Arun said that it was in the year 1994, when Nitin Mehta, one of the founding Charter Members of TiE invited him to attend TiEcon.

(Lto R) B.J.Arun with Kanwal Rekhi and Dr. Suhas Patil.

After that the rest is history. Inspired by some of the legendary early stalwarts of the organization like Dr. Suhas Patil, Kanwal Rekhi, and Vinod Khosla, the TiE community inspired and opened up his vision for the future.

“I attribute a lot of my own success as a serial entrepreneur to the inspiration, knowledge, connections, and lifelong friendships that I made via the TiE network,” said Arun.

Most recently, Arun was the CEO of July Systems, a leader in location-based, digital customer acquisition and multi-channel engagement platform that enabled enterprises to acquire customers at their physical locations.

About his journey to becoming the TiE President, he said, “When July Systems, the most recent company that I was running as CEO got acquired by Cisco in late 2018, I had the opportunity to give back to this wonderful organization that has been an integral part of my own journey as an entrepreneur.”

TiE has today grown to become one of the most exclusive and respected network world wide, thanks to keeping up with the growing needs of the budding entrepreneurs. Under Arun’s leadership many new programs were launched:

TiE Advisors Program: Identify the most promising startups from India to help them scale faster by matching them up with mentors from the Silicon Valley.

Ask Series: A series of moderated conversations with movers and shakers who have the expertise and the vantage point to help other entrepreneurs make sense of the rapid changes, and crystallize the opportunities such changes present.

TiE Cares: Bring together resources from TiE’s ecosystem with a commitment to help entrepreneurs successfully navigate through the challenging times of the pandemic.

CIO Forum: An opportunity to facilitate a dialog between the most innovative startups from Silicon Valley and the CIOs/CDOs of the largest US companies in domains such as healthcare and other verticals.

The pandemic was one of the biggest challenges anybody faced this year. Yet TiECon 2020 was one of the most successful events ever hosted in its history.

With regard to the challenges he faced to keep the show going, Arun said, “We realized in March that hosting an in-person gathering of thousands under one roof anytime this year was not a prudent move.  Rather than cancel the conference completely, we decided to switch to an all-digital format.”

However, the challenge was to implement it without a glitch since the organization did not possess the required experience or skills in hosting a mass virtual event like a large conference.

“This required a lot of new learnings since we had never hosted anything of this magnitude online before.  We broke down the conference into a series of three (starting with two ‘Road to TiEcon’ events in June and July 2020) so that we could figure out how to make this all work,” said Arun.

He added, “I am happy to share that our conveners, board members, TiEcon volunteer team, and staff all rose to the occasion and we successfully put together not only our very first virtual TiEcon, but with over 7,800 registered attendees for our September event alone, the largest TiEcon in Silicon Valley history.”

When asked about how difficult it is to run a non-profit like TiE versus running a company, Arun was very candid by saying, “it is definitely easier running a company vs a not for profit like TiE.”

However, he added, “I learned to work with the various types of people that come forward to volunteer their time.”

Although his term as President ends on Dec.31, Arun mentioned he will continue to serve the entrepreneurial ecosystem as he was just elected to TiE Global’s Board of Trustees.

Arun was appointed to the Board of the San Francisco – Bangalore Sister City Initiative by the Mayor of San Francisco on June 2016 and continues to play a significant role in promoting trade as well as culture between the two cities.

In addition to various awards and recognition, Arun was awarded the prestigious ‘Karnataka Rajyotsava Day Award’ by the Chief Minister of Karnataka on November 1st, 2004.