TiE50 – A Compelling Story



The TiE50 Startup Awards Program annually recognizes 50 top startups worldwide has come a long way, and has made its brand today.

It was conceptualized and created in 2009 by Vish Mishra, the then President of TiE Silicon Valley. He handpicked Ram Reddy, who runs a market analytics firm, to head the initiative.

Indica News spoke last week with Ram K Reddy, past President of TiE Silicon Valley who is a serial entrepreneur, CEO, and Venture Partner at 9 VC funds. Ram played a pivotal role in building the TiE50 brand. Early years were a hard sell and the first year saw about 300 participants. By 2012, more than 1000 were screened with participants from more than 20 countries. Over the next few years the pool of screened startups kept on increasing. Ram attributes this success to diehard persistence and a targeted data-driven approach involving early screening to identify quality startups and pursuing their founders with personalized invitations to participate. This “really changed the dynamic by expanding the pool while also significantly enhancing the overall visibility of the program,” said Reddy. This TiE SV’s premier annual awards program today is well recognized in the global startup ecosystem.

Ram makes a key observation that “the best of breed startup founders are often not looking to participate in awards programs. They are busy building their companies. They need to be pursued!”.  This pursuit included making phone calls, email, and even thousands of snail mail. He remembers anecdotally, how TiE staff were printing the mail cards and his children and company’s employees also got involved in phone calling. It became an annual ritual for 3 months preceding TiEcon, where winners are announced.

Ram added “we laid out the framework and constantly tweaked it based on learnings”. Alluding to how the screening and judging process needed transparency and domain expertise, Ram points out that upwards of 40 charter members with specific domain expertise committed about 30-40 hours each year to screen and rank. This was a unique value add for the program. Additionally, well-recognized domain experts from big enterprise and the venture capital worlds were brought in as experts to further validate and enrich the judging process.

“But success took years to build and needed consistency and commitment to keep the brand going strong and staying relevant”, says Reddy.

In recent years, TiE50 partnered with legendary venture capitalist Tim Draper, enabling TiE50 winners to pitch on his TV show, Meet the Drapers.

According to Kumar Sripadam, TiE50 Awards program chair, who is deeply involved not just with TiE50 but also has chaired TiE Angeles for several years, “Tim Draper recognizes the TiE50 brand for its quality and for picking the right winners”. Kumar Sripadam and Vish Mishra played a major role in recruiting Meet the Drapers.

“Being a critic is good; he’s (Tim) actually helping the company. These privileged participants benefit from the opportunity to be part of the coveted show and often helps them fine-tune their product or solution”, added Sripadam.

Today, TiE 50 Awards are proudly flaunted by startups worldwide. 600 winners and more than 3000 finalists account for few unicorns and 180+ exits in excess of $100 Million. The program thus far engaged 30,000+ startups and continues to be a strong brand for TiE Silicon Valley.

Indica is pleased to present these perspectives and wishes TiE50 continued success.