INTERVIEW: Anita Manwani, first woman to serve as TiE Silicon Valley president

Ritu Jha-

Anita Manwani is no stranger to national and international recognition. A seasoned corporate executive and entrepreneur, Manwani was one of 80 Americans selected as a ‘Technology All Star’ for the National Women of Color Conference for her executive leadership in technology in 2002. She also received the YWCA TWIN award for executive leadership and impact in 2003 and was recognized as one of the Top 100 Women in Silicon Valley in 2011.

In 2023, though, Manwani, the founder and CEO of Carobar Business Solutions, will don a new hat – that of president of The Indus Entrepreneurs Silicon Valley (TiE SV) chapter.

Manwani is not new to TiE either. She has had limited participation in early years and became a charter member finally in 2018.

She told indica in an exclusive interview that it was two friends of hers that convinced her to take up larger responsibilities at TiE Silicon Valley.

“They told me that I must become the change I want to see,” Manwani said.

“It made me realize that while I was busy and over-committed, I have to join the organization as a charter member and try to make a difference.”

Manwani is a Valley veteran of 38 years, and has been affiliated with TiE SV since its inception. In 2020, she became a board member and the president-elect in 2022.

Manwani said she took long to become a charter member because, “As a woman leader, I was committed to mentoring, and there were lots of other organizations that I was involved with. I was mentoring young people in the Bay Area through various organizations like Girls For A Change. I’ve also been on the boards of institutes such as the Foothill-De Anza Community College, and an MIT spinout – Graduate School for the Science of Teaching and learning, along with many other organizations in mainstream America. I think TiE has been well served over time. There were strong founders and male leaders at the time and I just did not know how and where I could contribute as a corporate executive. What could I do differently from what they were already doing.”

When she joined as a charter member in 2018, she said, she felt diversity had been missing among the charter members as well as in TiE leadership. “Both in terms of gender and the demographics of Silicon Valley. In fact, in 2020 there were only two women board members – Radhika Iyengar and me.”

Manwani told indica that TiE’s mission is as much about technology as it is about entrepreneurs. “We need to make sure that it can serve and be the go-to stop for every entrepreneur in the Valley and in the country.”

Manwani feels that TiE cannot be an organization only of entrepreneurs. “It needs to include investors who are looking to support them, and corporate executives who will be buyers of their innovations. For TiE to deliver successfully to entrepreneurs, it has to bring all three pillars together.”

She added for good measure, “You can’t foster entrepreneurship by only having entrepreneurs as your members.”

She feels these three pillars are looking for each other. “The ecosystem needs to come together as a network so that all three benefit,” Manwani said. “The only pre-condition to join is that you have to be affiliated with technology as a user, a developer, or a provider.”

The new TiE SV president says it is important to mainstream corporate experience, entrepreneurial experience, or investor experience. “We’re looking for innovative thinkers who really contribute to technology. I mean, even a life sciences company is technology.Pretty much any corporation is a consumer of technology. There’s a huge opportunity to promote innovations that corporations will buy, and this will encourage investors to put money in innovative entrepreneurial ventures.”

This means networking is important. “It means engaging the charter members and entrepreneurs in a meaningful way. We need to make it a fun, and learning experience. Whether it is in half-day summits or TiEcon, the goal is to really spark innovation amongst entrepreneurs. Make corporate executives aware of the trending innovations. And help bring more investors to the table.”

Manwani said even as she will work on strengthening existing programs and creating new programs, we first need to enhance the brand and value of TiE Silicon Valley. “We need to give back value to our entrepreneurs, investors, charter members, and corporate executives.”

She added that brand value cannot improve unless you energize charter members and their engagement. Everything is going to be about value, engagement, and metrics. Not just on goals that are being set, “but on how we meet them and how people perceive us.”

TiE SV’s speaker series will focus on bringing interesting people from across the globe into relevant conversations. “Also, this year’s TiEcon on May 3-5 will be in-person. It’s going to be focused on networking, dinners, birds-of-feather sessions, hospitality suites, lots of opportunities for sponsors but more importantly, lots of opportunities for people to network in smaller intimate gatherings,” Manwani said.

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