View of the expo at the IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference, June 17, in Santa Clara, CalifView of the expo at the IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference, June 17, in Santa Clara, Calif (Amar D. Gupta/Siliconeer)

Cookies, Macarons, Samosas, Chai, and Coffee along with tech, entrepreneurship, IIT wizards, all assembled for a talk at the IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference held on June 17 inside the halls of Santa Clara Convention Center, writes our youth editor Vansh A. Gupta.

Indians excel on three criterions: tech, entrepreneurship, and hospitality. Google can be used to prove my point. Google’s CEO is Indian and it is the leading tech company with new innovations and business opportunities created daily. As far as hospitality goes, Google provides the world population with a brain that knows everything, Google Search. If one IIT Alumni can lead so much disruption then what can a group of IIT people do?

Siliconeer Youth Editor, Vansh A. Gupta, and Seshan Rammohan during an interview session. Watch the interview online. (Amar D. Gupta/Siliconeer)

Like TiE, IIT Bay Area was created by a group of IIT Alumni with a shared vision of a platform where eager entrepreneurs and former IIT grads “can meet express, connect, ideate, and extract all the benefits that being part of a vibrant alumni community provides.” The IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference had a similar setup to this year’s TiEcon, however, while TiEcon focused on a large scale of subjects, the IIT Bay Area Conference focused mainly on tech and entrepreneurship primarily connected to the IITs.

View of the expo at the IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference, June 17, in Santa Clara, CalifView of the expo at the IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference, June 17, in Santa Clara, Calif

This year’s IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference, held June 17, at the Santa Clara Convention Center featured 3 Keynotes, 6 Lightning Talks, and 8 Panel Sessions, accompanied by an expo with IIT grads who showcased their innovative products and ideas, referred to as “Startup Mela.” Along with the food, beverages, was an evening reception to seal the deal.

The Keynotes

All of the presentations mainly focused on tech, business, and entrepreneurship. Speakers included Rajat Gupta, Ravi Mhatre, Arjun Malhotra, and other influential IIT Alums who were eager to share their wisdom with the attendees.

Arjun Malhotra, an influential figure speaking to IIT Bay Area Conference attendees (All Photos: Vansh A. Gupta/Siliconeer)

One of the keynotes covered here, was presented by Prith Banerjee, an IIT Kharagpur graduate, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Schneider Electric; Maneesh Joshi, IIT Kharagpur graduate, Chief of Staff to the CEO of AppDynamics; Mangesh Pimpalkhare, IIT Bombay graduate, Vice President of Product Management at Aviso; Abeer Dubey, IIT Delhi graduate, Director of People Analytics, Google; and moderated by Rohini Chakravarthy, IIT Madras graduate, former partner of VC firm: NEA. The keynote focused on “Career Inflection Points.”

(L-r) Rohini Chakravarthy, Prith Banerjee, Maneesh Joshi, and Abeer Dubey presenting the “Career Inflection Point” track at IIT Bay Area conference, June 17, in Santa Clara, Calif.

“What’s the difference between doing an engineering role versus a… product role?” Mangesh replies with, “…There is no one magic formula for becoming a great product person and what you need is a few core elements…” He explains that he has seen great product managers with no technical background and managers who are “technologists” before they are product managers.

Mangesh Pimpalkhari speaking at the “Career Inflection Point” Track at IIT Bay Area conference

The final keynote: a ‘Fireside Chat’ with an influential figure, Ravi Mhatre. Ravi Mhatre is an IIT Kharagpur Alumni and Founder of Lightspeed Venture Partners. He shared his experience from childhood. He alluded to his father’s career and explained that his father had left an executive position at Becton Dickinson and decided to fund a research project at Stanford that was supposed to shut down. Mhatre then talks about himself and explains how he created a VC Firm with his classmates from Stanford. He believes that a VC startup “is like entrepreneurship” and that “…we essentially were entrepreneurs in the VC industry.”

Ravi Mhatre speaks at the IIT Bay Area conference.

Start Up Mela

There are is an abundance of digital communication channels available in 2017. Facebook, Email, Facetime, WhatsApp, and for the business bunch, LinkedIn. While all these resources are great, there is nothing more effective than the traditional formal introduction, business card exchange, and a firm handshake. The Startup Mela was the perfect setup for entrepreneurs and visionaries to connect with VCs and the experienced.

IIT Madras Alumni Seshan Rammohan at the IIT Bay Area conference.

Exhibits in the expo included showcases from various IIT locations, large companies like NVidia and VMWare, and startups by IITians like Sentry, TrueShelf, and Fingertips Lab. There was a large stress on autonomous driving, AI, security, and safety with these startups.

Event host Mohindra Sikka conversing with attendees at the IIT Bay Area conference

NVidia had an impressive display showcasing advancements in Autonomous Driving and AI-powered graphics. It is no surprise that NVidia is one of the leading hardware companies. After being impressed and a bit baffled by how the tech industry has progressed exponentially, I was yet to be completely blown away by the startups.

Sentry was the first startup exhibit I visited. Sentry takes home security to a whole new level. Using AI, facial recognition, body recognition, sound recognition, the Sentry system could determine whether the building is in danger of being robbed or not. I was quite impressed with the display.

The team behind Sentry Security System at the IIT Bay Area Conference.

The next exhibit: TrueShelf – An AI-powered adaptive mathematics learning platform for middle and high school students. It is much more intuitive and interactive than other services like Chegg or Khan Academy. It is definitely a one-stop shop for students in need of help. I am the perfect potential user for this platform.

Next, was Fingertips Labs. This was probably the best product I have seen that actually is a viable and useful innovation. There are many accidents that take place because of immature juveniles using their smartphones. Many car companies are using measures like CarPlay and Bluetooth but these don’t limit the persevering teens to Snapchat their despicable driving or messaging their companions. Fingertips Lab created a universal remote that could connect your smartphone and can simply work like a Siri on level 100. I was genuinely astonished and impressed by this. I would have funded this project and mass marketed it right away.

Founder of Fingertip Labs presenting his universal remote at the Startup Mela.

Two of the three criterions: technology and entrepreneurship were covered and executed well. The third: hospitality and this is where the team behind the conference shined. The clichéd line, “Chai… Paani ka intezam karna hai,” which basically means that a whole feast of food along with Indian chai, water, coffee, and juice has to be organized. That is exactly what the event team did. There was food present on the tables every hour of the event. Samosas, Naan, curries, cookies, brownies, and macarons were served along with Masala Chai, Coffee, Paani (Water). As an avid foodie, I was overdelighted and stuffed to brim with the food and drinks, during the short guerilla breaks I could steal in between the interviews and covering the talks.

Attendees at the IIT Bay Area Conference Startup Mela.

Lastly, to conclude the whole event, there was an evening reception with music, entertainment, drinks, and hors de oeuvres. As the organizers put it, the attendees experienced “Entertainment, Wine, and Unwind!”

The IIT Bay Area Conference was an exclusive event that had hints of TiEcon. With two years of operation, it is a successful and worthwhile event an opportunist should attend.

Poster shot of IIT Kanpur campus.