Panel: Journey of a Young Entrepreneur at TiEcon 2019 Young Entrepreneurs Track. (Photo: Amar D. Gupta/Siliconeer)
With a major focus on bringing sponsorships and big names to TiEcon 2019, the conference’s foundational mantra, “fostering entrepreneurship,” was diluted in this year’s conference. Although, the TiEcon team brought over inspirational speakers like Shashi Tharoor, Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan, and Arista Networks CEO Jayshree Ullal, as their Grand Keynote speakers, the Youth track, renamed this year as “Young Entrepreneurs” track, was probably the only track that stuck true to the original mindset for TiEcon, fostering entrepreneurship.
Like every year, TiEcon always has a new tagline for their flagship conference, this year was no different and couldn’t be more fitting. “Start. Connect. Scale.” It was like TiEcon doing a self-reflection with this tagline. TiEcon started as a small gathering where a conglomerate of Indian American entrepreneurs came together to network and gain wisdom from their likes. In effect, TiEcon became a platform where budding entrepreneurs could connect with influential figures and create magic together. For many years TiEcon’s scale of conference grew exponentially and this year is no different. Based on observations and feedback from attendees, there was an apparent inflect in scale in terms of hospitality, the number of attendees, and conference mindset.
Like every year, TiEcon has its expo and anyone familiar with my articles and TiEcon knows that the expo is like the heartbeat of the conference. It is the ideal platform to create new and valuable connections for exhibitors, as well as, attendees. This time, however, the Expo felt a little dull and incomplete. This year the TiE Youth Entrepreneurs (T.Y.E) Booth stole the show. It was like a hidden treasure chest. Hidden from the front, the TYE booth was one of the largest booths in this year’s expo and was action-packed throughout the duration of the conference. This is of course until the Young Entrepreneurs Track took place. Other companies present included ANA, Chugh Firm, Akshaya Patra, Zoom, and many more.
Along with the expo, there were a multitude of subjects being discussed in TiEcon this year. Although TiEcon is geared towards entrepreneurship, the tracks were geared more towards the current technology landscape. Everyone was buzzing about one thing throughout this conference, AI and ML. Sounds familiar, that is because AI was the whole focus of last year’s TiE Inflect and this year, TiEcon used the ‘cookie cutter method’ and decided to showcase similar lenses of the technology landscape that is being discussed in many other bigger conferences, and TiE Inflect 2018.
Along with the monotonous tech argot, the one track that stuck true to TiEcon’s core was the Young Entrepreneurs track. The uplifting and inspiring tracks focused more on empowerment and the secrets for success. With a lineup of speakers ranging from a Forbes 30 under 30 awardee to an 11-year old with the vision of teaching coding using an interactive game board, the track was rewarded to a theater full of engaged and eager listeners.
TiE Youth gave us a taste of the future as we saw the creative young minds in action. The best part was all these speakers had something very unique to share. To start with, the most experienced and “senior” speaker was 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient Nikhil Basu Trivedi, managing director of Shasta Ventures. He works with many young entrepreneurs and is part of many startup boards. He had very valuable wisdom to share with the youth about what he has learned throughout his journey, starting from the teenage years.
Following Nikhil Basu Trivedi was a quick keynote by Lemelson Foundation Program Officer Rachel Brunette.
Next up, a panel with Nikhil Reddy, a passionate Youth Influencer who uses YouTube as a platform to share valuable wisdom. He focuses on the idea of following one’s passion. Others included Aelisa Carr of RePicture Engineering and Sharon Marzouk, the CEO and founder of TechyKids. Both speakers work with the youth and promote the idea of youth entrepreneurship and diversity. Also, part of the panel was Sachin Gupta, CEO of HackerEarth, and moderator Vansh Gupta, co-founder of DigEthnic and youth editor at Siliconeer. The panel focused on the journey of a young entrepreneur and focused on the idea that being an entrepreneur takes a lot of passion.
Following the panel was a Keynote presented by Doughp founder Kelsey Witherow, who dealt with addiction and worked for Intel before following her passion and opening Doughp. She also appeared in Shark Tank. With an inspiring keynote on her journey and showing that Doughp is a product built on passion, Kelsey Witherow had given the perfect kickoff for the upcoming talented young minds thinking about tomorrow’s generation today.
The next track included celebrity entrepreneurs Samaira Mehta and Harshwardhansinh Zala, as well as, Peersdom Founder, Rohan Gupta. Despite switching through many hats, Harshwardhansinh Zala has created the EAGLE A7 Drone that could be capable of detecting and destructing landmines in war zones. His goal is to rid all the landmines globally to make the world a safer place. Samaira Mehta invented a STEM coding board game, CoderBunnyz, at the age of 7 with the goal of teaching coding to kids aged four to 104 and also help bridge the gender gap in technology. She’s led more than 100 workshops with her board game in Silicon Valley, including Google, Microsoft, Intel, libraries, schools. Along with teaching thousands of kids how to code, Samaira has also started an initiative to teach coding to underrepresented girls. Last summer, she invented the world’s first ever AI-powered board game, CoderMindz. Her goal is to help one billion kids gain access to coding tools by the time she goes to college, and she’s very well on her way with her 1 Billion Kids Can Code initiative.
The TiE Young Entrepreneurs track had concluded with pitches from three finalists from the TYE academy. Learn more about these three teams and the TYE program in Siliconeer: https://siliconeer.com/current/next-generation-entrepreneurs-tie-youth-entrepreneurs/
Going back to the name “TiEcon,” from “TiE Inflect,” many had expected the conference to be the best TiEcon held till date. Although marketed as the “World’s Largest Entrepreneurship Conference” TiEcon felt more like a tech conference over an entrepreneurship conference based on the subject areas of each track. In these exciting times when technology is on top of us in every aspect of our lifestyle, TiEcon this year added more express lanes to the freeway where budding entrepreneurs are not yet ready to enter because there was a slight inflect from the idea of fostering entrepreneurship to reinforcing the current tech trends. We hope TiEcon is listening and we will see the much-anticipated inflect in the coming years.