How hard work, passion and fun make TiE SoCal stand out

Ritu Jha-

It was double the joy for Ashish Saboo, Anushman Sinha and Shankar Ram, respectively the president and conference co-chairs of The IndUS Entrepreneurs’ Southern California (TiE SoCal) chapter’s 25th-anniversary celebrations. After all, TiE founder Kanwal Rekhi and TiE global chair BJ Arun Ram had chosen their chapter to host the first-ever TiE Global Angels Investor Summit as well as announce the launch of the TiE Endowment Foundation (TEF).

Sinha said he felt honored and proud, for it was under his leadership during Covid that TiE SoCal successfully launched the first TiE SoCal Angels Fund of $1 million. Current president Saboo seems to be following Sinha’s path. TiE SoCal Angels launched the second fund of $3 million and is now actively looking for companies they can invest in.

Ram is a serial entrepreneur who “curiously joined TiE SoCal in 1997 to know what Safi Qureshey, TiE SoCal co-founder offered” and even pitched to get funds for his business. In an interview on the sidelines of the summit, he told indica that he eventually raised the funds from elsewhere but he has been associated with TiE SoCal and its founder Navneet Chugh since then.

Chugh was just 35 then, and an attorney by profession. “I attended the first TiE conference in 1994 in Silicon Valley and asked them to allow us to open a chapter in Southern California. They told me to find someone rich and famous to become president since I was poor and not famous. I found Safi Qureshey, CEO of AST Computers and convinced him to become president. Fortunately, he did and he was super awesome, gave me the freedom to run it,” Chugh said.

Kanwal Rekhi, founder of TiE Silicon Valley said at the 2022 gala that he offered $5,000 to start the TiE SoCal chapter in 1997. Chugh told indica that they politely refused saying “we will stand up on our own.”

He said, “Our first event was on September 16, 1997 and 120 people showed up. We signed up 60 to become members at $200 each and we were ready to go.”

Since its inception, TiE has had 14 presidents, and has, admittedly, seen several ups and downs. But Chugh says all that non-profits need is “one crazy person who is optimistic and action-oriented to take charge, and bulldoze through all the noise and drama while staying focused on the mission.”

He said, “The mission was simple: to impart knowledge, learn, network, and create wealth.”

To be sure, TiE SoCal is not the only investment-focused non-profit around. So, what’s special about it, indica asked Chugh. He said with a pause, “It is special because it’s not country-specific; it is South Asian in its ethos. There are chapters around the world so we have friends everywhere. It is multi-generational; the leadership is open-minded and cares about humanity. It is inspirational and fun and it is inexpensive.”

But Ram said TiE SoCal was not easy to run. “At one point, Navneet (Chugh) and I had to write personal checks at events we hosted. Early 2008 especially was a tough time for TiE SoCal with a handful of members. People split and many wondered whether they are getting anything from TiE. That was a tough phase because we faced questions of how to keep TiE SoCal going and increase membership. We survived that and look at us now “

He said TiE SoCal today has 180 members and is growing at a record pace. “You have to sell what customers want,not what you want. Without our members we are nothing,” Ram told indica. “This growth was initiated by Anshuman Sinha and he is still going strong at it.

There is a dark cloud on the horizon, though – recession. Will a recession impact funding? “Yes, it definitely will. We have to keep asking more and more questions of the entrepreneurs – Where are your sales coming from? What kind of customers have you lined up? What kind of guarantees can you give on your numbers? Company valuations will be hit and it’s going to be tough. Entrepreneurs will have to reduce their expectations,” he said.

One of the advantages at TiE SoCal is that its membership is diverse. “We are not all tech-based,” Ram said. “The businesses are small- and medium-sized, so we have to provide a vehicle for them. Our members also have great interaction outside of business – hiking, playing golf, and social outings. It makes them feel good, it’s a win-win. I am an investor. If you ask what keeps me young at 69, it’s TiE’s entrepreneurs and their passion… when you do good you feel good.”