A collage of all the action at TiEcon 2017 and TiE Silicon Valley 25 year celebrations. (All photos: Vansh A. Gupta/Siliconeer)

TiE marked its 25th. anniversary in style, with the exclusive TiE Influencers’ Circle reception at Levis Stadium, and the Banquet featuring Mika Singh, May 6. While one was a cocktail reception with techie conversation flowing freely, the other was an epic party with the playful and lively spirit of TiE and its members finally surfacing, all this in addition to the mammoth conference and expo that has grown with the years, writes an impressed Siliconeer youth editor Vansh A. Gupta.

With the deepened interest of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, gaming, and other technologies fresh off the boat, our world is slowly becoming the future depictions of a 1990s’ sci-fi movie. The evidence? — TiEcon 2017. This year, TiEcon had many keynotes and tracks focusing on AI, AR/VR, autonomous vehicle technology, gaming, drones, and entrepreneurship.

As the tech jargon was flowing in the rooms of the Santa Clara Convention Center; entrepreneurs and representatives from startups were marketing their offerings to the many venture capitalists attending the conference, at the expo.

TiE marked its 25th anniversary in style, with the exclusive TiE Influencers’ Circle reception at Levis Stadium, May 5, and the Banquet featuring Mika Singh, May 6. While one was a cocktail reception with techie conversation flowing freely, the other was an epic party with the playful and lively spirit of TiE and its members finally surfacing.

Curating the Expo

The heart of this conference was the expo. The genesis of TiEcon and its success is due to the expo as it gives the ideal environment for motivated and eager entrepreneurs to connect with the experienced and the wise. It is like LinkedIn, except rather than connecting through screens, you are connecting face to face. I know, intimidating but exceptionally effective.

Like every year, this year there were companies and startups coming from all over the world. Ram Reddy, President of TiE, states that, “The Expo was entirely focused on startups this year,” and indeed it was. As usual, delegates from Silicon Valley and India were present, however, companies from the magnanimous island of Singapore were also present. Yes, Singapore!

Delegates from the Singapore government were attending to present the Singapore Fintech Festival later this year. The inaugural event took place last year around November. This year the goal of the event is to bring “even more exciting discussions, stimulating demos and insightful debates over the period of 13-17 November 2017.” The organizers of the event urge you to come if you are or part of a start-up, technology company, investor, financial institution, research institute or innovation professional. This was only the base of the cake; the icing was still to be discovered from Singapore’s TiE delegates as they are striving to innovate assets and financial management using Artificial Intelligence.

FOMO Pay is one of the startups from Singapore that was marketing its product in TiEcon. The co-founder of the company, Zack explained that FOMO Pay is a service “providing one-stop Chinese payment solution for global merchants.” With TiEcon he got a good perspective on whether the Indian market would be interested in using a service like FOMO Pay.

Another well-established startup present from Singapore was O2O Technologies. Co-Founders Vivek Mohindra and Asheesh Chanda were presenting their latest utilitarian software: Kristal AI. Kristal AI is an assets management program powered by Artificial Intelligence. The co-founders of Kristal AI were at TiEcon this year so they can “get more familiarity for [their] company. So that people know what [they] are doing.” They also attended to network with many and to find out what is happening in the “whole Fintech space.” Here were a few delegates from TiE Singapore, so what about our motherland, India?

India is a major contender in the world’s tech industry with IT and IIT. It is often said that anything regarding tech, whether it is software or hardware, can be done for a good price in India. It is no surprise that India is following the trend of entrepreneurship, Artificial Intelligence, and AR/VR. This year most startups in India focused on entrepreneurship and funding, digitizing health, and AR/VR. T-Hub was also a big part of TiE this year with an impressive display of some of the startups born from it. All this was great, but at this point, I was getting a bit overfed with Artificial Intelligence and AR/VR. To my luck, Silicon Valley delegates delivered.

The repetition of AI was getting seriously monotonous and I was craving for a startup that had a different purpose and a new market altogether. Fortunately, Silicon Valley has an abundance of creative minds and one of those creative minds created Ovenues. Ovenues is an online service that provides an easy and intuitive way to plan an event. The hassle of planning an event is seriously daunting but there was a simple solution all along and Ovenues showed that.

Along with all these startups, the usual suspects were also present. Like last year, IBM, JetBlue, ANA, and Siliconeer was also omnipresent. (Pun intended!)

Dissecting the Tracks

The current President of TiE, Ram K. Reddy had provided some stats for the many tracks held at TiEcon this year. This year TiEcon’s “Track teams delivered an outstanding conference with quality speakers and content. More than 90% of the speakers had never spoken at TiEcon previously. Despite the short timeline and the use of TiEecon data in combination with their own networks, [their] track leaders were able to sign up some of the best domain experts and influencers. The speakers were also inclusive in gender, age and ethnic diversity” as more than 20% of the speakers were women, more than 60% of the speakers were non-Indian speakers, and there was a higher number of younger speakers than previous years.

Most of the tracks I was able to attend focused on artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, gaming, entrepreneurship, and marketing. Yep, these keynotes were the real deal.

The first keynote attended was presented by Steve Omohundro, President and Founder of Possibility Research. He mainly focuses on the subject of Artificial Intelligence and the ethics of it. He talked about the endless possibilities of AI and how it could change many industries like autonomous mobiles, and virtual assistants. He then presents scenarios with a car getting close to a crash and how AI could help avoid it. Lastly, he ends with telling two stories where AI had gone drastically wrong and what can be done to avoid such malfunctions.

The next keynote was a Grand Keynote presented by Vinod Khosla, Founder of Khosla Ventures. The keynote used a “Fireside Chat” setting where Vinod Khosla was joined by Jillian Manus, Managing Partner of Structure Capital. Vinod Khosla was reflecting on his experience and had very powerful and useful advice for entrepreneurs in this keynote. He shared advice, “…If you naively believe you can do a lot more, then you would actually do a lot more.” He also states, “Entrepreneurs innovate and they think from scratch and are not constrained by the conventional wisdom in the space of innovating…” The bottom line of this keynote was to motivate entrepreneurs and break their illusionary expectations that a person with a lot of wisdom is needed rather than the zeal to change the world and innovate. Khosla used Tesla, Amazon, and social media companies as examples to prove his point.

The Grand Keynote also featured some lifetime achievement awards by TiE in which Vinod Khosla was a recipient of one. The awards were presented by former TiE President, Vish Mishra, and current TiE President, Ram Reddy. There was a brief message from Marketing Chair, Anand Akela, as well in the beginning. There was also a brief mention of TiE50 with the awards given later in TiEcon.

“TiE50 is TiE Silicon Valley’s premier annual awards program keenly contested by thousands of early-stage technology startups worldwide” (Source: www.tie50.org). This year there were many TiE50 award winners from all around the world. The TiE50 awards was presented by Jillian Manus. Followed by an evening cocktails and connect reception at TiEcon 2017.

The second day of TiEcon 2017 had many enticing tracks stacked up to the brim. There was a track for anyone interested. This year, TiE had tracks focusing on modern and future tech: gaming, AR/VR, Artificial Intelligence, and autonomous vehicles. There were five tracks on the second day that were noteworthy this year.

The first of the five was a panel discussion on the subject of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. The panelists talked about the current research and development in the AR/VR segment, as well as, a forecast of what is to be expected within the next few years. The experts presenting this panel were Kimberly Culp, San Francisco Venable LLP attorney, Dany El Eid, Founder and CEO of Pixelbug, Ashish Agrawal, Head of VR and New Initiatives at Matterport Inc., and Arun Karamcheti, Head of Partnerships and Business Development at Nod Labs. Kimberly Culp had introduced the concept of haptics with Ghostbusters and had asked Dany, “…where are we on that?” He responded, “…Some are exploring using gloves, some are exploring using sound waves to get a response from actual virtual objects…Still very experimental now, but it is a very exciting field to be in.” If you ask me, I think we should focus more on Augmented Reality than Virtual Reality. We can see the successful trend of AR and AI implementation on new smartphones and Apple announced on June 5, they will also be implementing AR to its next-gen iOS and iPhone. At least you are still in reality with AR.

The next two discussions were directed towards autonomous vehicle technology.

The first panel was more of a status check on autonomous vehicles and how much progress has been made. The event was presented by Ravi Puvvala, CEO of Savari, Modar Alaoui, Founder and CEO of Eyeris, and Louay Eldada, CEO and Co-Founder of Quanergy Systems Inc. This discussion covered questions like “How quickly are things evolving with autonomous vehicles? Are we 3 months or 3 years away from cars that drive better than people? How important is deep learning and data? Does more data make the leader stronger?” (Source: tiecon.org)

The second panel discussion covered the technicalities of the autonomous vehicle. It was more of a report on what is currently happening and how current developments in the autonomous vehicle industry are precursors to new government regulations. Then a forecast of what to expect in the next three years. The panel was presented by Marc Berman, Assembly member representing the 24th District – southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County in the heart of Silicon Valley, Lance Eliot, CEO of Techbrium, and Annabel Chang, Lyft’s Director of Public Policy. The discussion’s moderator: Elliot Katz, one of the heads of DLA Piper’s Connected and Self-Driving Car Practice. Elliot inquired, “[Are] autonomous vehicle regulations needed, and if so, why or why not?” All the experts agree that regulations are needed. Lance Eliot states, “You are going to see a tremendous amount of lawsuits,” and he used the recent Tesla Autopilot Lawsuit as an example. Annabel Chang states, “In 2017 alone we have had more than 20 states actually having autonomous vehicle legislation being discussed.”

The last two tracks were a panel discussion and a keynote on gaming and marketing, respectively.

The panel discussion was presented by Brian Chu, Director of Product at Rocket Games, Taehoon Kim, Co-Founder and CEO of nWay, and Wright Bagwell, CEO of Outpost Games, and moderated by Shannon Clark, Founder of MeshForum. The panelists focused on how games have a unique business model. They touched upon the potential of success from “free-to-play” games and the migration from console to mobile gaming. They also point out that a mobile game could be far more powerful than a console game.

The last track of the day was a keynote presented by Tom Kalinske, the Executive Chairman of Global Education Learning. He was also the Former Chairman and CEO of LeapFrog and Former President and CEO of Sega of America instituting key marketing strategies that enabled Sega to gain a leadership position in the Video game industry during the early 1990s. He was also the former CEO of Mattel, helping build the Barbie, Hot Wheels and the Masters of the Universe brands. He recently joined Gazillion Entertainment, developer of the online action game Marvel Heroes. He reflected on his past experiences and shared some very valuable advice. The major point Kalinske was trying to make was never to believe experts, tell an interesting story, say no to “no,” and lastly, celebrate failure. I was more than inspired and entertained by this certain keynote, making this the best keynote of TiEcon in my opinion.

Influencers’ Circle

The special reception was an exclusive event in the field-level BNY Mellon Lounge at the Levis Stadium. The evening cocktail reception was brimming with elites of TiE and community influencers from Silicon Valley. Special Guests Jayadeep Krishnan and Srinivas Kollipara, CEOs of T-Hub, and TiE President Ram Reddy spoke at the event.

With a magnificent stadium in the backdrop, selfies, drinks and tech-funding conversation filled the BNY Mellon Lounge, quite a change from the sports conversations it was probably more accustomed to, but who’s complaining!


A grand event like TiEcon necessitates a Gatsby-style ending, and the enthusiastic TiE volunteers had that planned as well. Being entrepreneurs, they knew that after working hard, playing hard was also vital. The scene was set: Saturday night, huge hall, people dressed in black and white, and all colors in between, loud music, dancing, food, drinks, and you have yourself a banquet.

This year the TiE Banquet was more of a celebration because it has been 25 years since the birth of TiE. Awards were handed out to TiE members. Many members were acknowledged for their dedication to TiE. Then the influential women of TiE were also summoned for their support. The author of “The $8 Man: From India to North America, Immigrants Who Came with Nothing and Changed Everything,” Brenda H. Christensen, was also at the banquet to acquaint us with her novel. After all of that, Mika Singh and his team had literally shaken the place with his bass-filled hits. Songs like ‘440 Volt,’ ‘Tu Mera Hero,’ ‘Jumme Ki Raat,’ and some classic Bollywood songs were featured in his energetic concert. Mika and his co-singer, Kirti Arneja, end with their new single, ‘Jogi.’

In Conversation

Reflecting on what was a hugely successful 25th year celebration of TiE, and the TiEcon, here’s what TiE office bearers and past office bearers had to add about their perspective on this year’s TiEcon. TiE President, Ram Reddy, and former TiE president Venktesh Shukla were delighted to share their thoughts.

Q: The genesis of TiE. What intrigued you the most?

A: The TiE story is extraordinary. As an active participant for several years, I got drawn into this distinct culture and distinguished group. I am motivated mostly by the opportunity to explore new dimensions and build upon past successes.

Q: Reflecting back at this year’s conference, what could be done better?

A: We tried several new ideas. Although our data-driven approach in particular was a great success on many fronts, engagements for sponsored speaking requires a much longer cycle. For the first time, the conference was livestreamed for global virtual audiences. While the technology and execution went flawlessly, the viewership can be managed better by targeting domain focused ecosystems. We had the data and strategy in place but couldn’t coordinate it well enough. We will improvise and get it right next time.

Q: What message do you have for the youth who aspire to be entrepreneurs?

A: Be cognizant of today’s world and dream of changing the future!

– Ram K. Reddy, President, TiE Silicon Valley

Q: As a former president, what intrigued you the most at this year’s TiEcon?

A: The tracks on AI, AR/VR and drones whetted the appetite for more.

Q: In light of your experience with past TiEcons, what could be done better?

A: Greater opportunity of interaction of entrepreneurs with potential investors

Q: What message do you have for the youth who aspire to be entrepreneurs?

A: There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. Take the plunge now. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

– Venktesh Shukla, General Partner, Monta Vista Capital and TiE past president.

TiEcon is perhaps one of the best business conferences to attend. The amount of wisdom encompassing the halls of Santa Clara Convention Center is one of the reasons why. The opportunities to meet and connect with promising people are endless. You work hard, you also play hard, at the TiEcon banquet.

Lastly, the food and drinks served at TiEcon is more than satisfying and there is plenty for everyone. The banquet for one, featured traditional Indian fare from Jalsa in Milpitas, Calif., the most interesting were the desserts.

The unmatched energy of budding entrepreneurs, the invaluable guidance of various leaders in their respective fields and most importantly, the “giving back to the community” gesture of those who made it big in this land of opportunities, inspire one to keep coming back to TiEcon.

With that, it’s a wrap.

See you next year at “Inflect.”