AGK Karunakaran’s two eventful years as TiE Silicon Valley chief

Ritu Jha-

It has been two eventful years for the President and CEO at MulticoreWare, AGK Karunakaran, as the President of The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE) Silicon Valley, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship.

Karunakaran shared with indica on how TiESV performed, and shared what worked and what did not. He also has a message for the Indian government since most of the US-based Venture Capitalists (VC) invested in India-based startups. TiE Global hosted its worldwide event in Hyderabad in December 2022.

“It was a humbling and learning experience to lead TiE SV as its chief volunteer,” Karunakaran said. He said he wanted to focus on four areas – charter member engagement, retention, and recruitment; create a vibrant under-40 community with TiE youth, university, and members; work closely with partners organizations that also support entrepreneurs; support local and global entrepreneurs.

“The goal was to uphold the five pillars – education, mentorship, networking, investing, and incubation – of TIE with good governance, transparency, and financial prudence,” he said. Despite COVID, he said, they were able to engage the charter members and educate the entrepreneurs with various virtual and in-person programs every month. TiEcon 2021 and 2022 were held virtually with record-breaking global and local registration crossing 31,000 registrations.

Thoughtful content, diligent sponsorship drive, and prudent spending resulted in phenomenal financial performance, Karunakaran said.

“All of this would not have happened without the tireless efforts of our co-conveners, leadership team, and volunteers,” he stated.

TiE SV was founded in 1992. Over this period, TiE has established a global network of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals spread across 61 chapters in 14 countries. The new initiatives that were taken during Karunakaran’s term included, focus on the under-40 demography and working closely with partner organizations. Programs and events were specifically designed and implemented to lay the foundation for a TiE that is more relevant in the years to come.

“We hosted young entrepreneurs from other parts of the world so that they can understand the nuances of global expansion or US market penetration and raising money for such growth,” Karunakaran said.

Karunakaran shifted focus to the Indian government’s policies towards start-ups and entrepreneurs in the US. “Indian governments (both Central and state) should treat US entrepreneurs and start-ups as customers. Research and development tax credits for the subsidiaries of the US or international start-ups will encourage them to scale research and development activities in India. It is important
to make it easier for them to set up operations and also perform an orderly shutdown. Indian government should increase research funding at educational institutions which will produce more Masters and Ph.D. scholars who can then apply their research experience at the R&D labs of the subsidiaries of US startups.”

He added, “Recently I was part of the TiE Global Summit in Hyderabad and Jagriti Yatra where about 510 young adults travel together in a train for two weeks to understand “middle India. Entrepreneurs I met are keen to start and scale companies. Most of their questions revolved around go-to-market strategies, financing, and managing people. TiE Silicon Valley helped to start many chapters in India. Our charter members should engage with TiE chapters near their homes in India and also work with incubators or alumni associations of their alma mater. TiE SV will have to catalyze the efforts in India to build one million startups.”

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