Friday, May 25, 2012

TiEcon 2012

TiEcon 2012, Day 1 (Part 1)

The morning of Friday, May 18th 2012 dawned brighter and earlier for those of us that were part of the organizing committee of TiEcon 2012. It was a phenomenal experience putting the various pieces of the conference together and seeing it grow from discussions around a table to a full fledged conference with attendees from around the world and a speaker list that would rival any other top notch conference. Given that this is an all volunteer effort, I was amazed to see the incredible amount of passion and energy flowing out of people and the attention to detail. Granted that I was doing this for the first time and some of these folks were "veterans" - having done this a few times. Nevertheless, pulling off a conference of this magnitude without a glitch requires utmost dedication and professionalism - which I saw first hand. Even though the hall was not full and there was a long line of latecomers at Registration waiting to get badged, Kiran Malhotra, Vish Mishra, Jai Rawat and Farhat Ali opened the conference on time (which I really appreciated - having been to several other conferences where the start would be delayed so that the hall can get filled). They sprinkled a few quotes in their opening addresses, including this one by Henry Ford, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success" - to describe the volunteer effort that helped put the conference together; and this one by a Roman Philosopher, "It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult" - to describe the prevailing spirit of entrepreneurship in the room.

By the time Vishal Sikka was introduced, the keynote hall was not only full, but overflowing. Vishal Sikka's keynote was truly inspiring. The theme for his speech was, "Innovation without Disruption". He began by saying that he wanted to make five observations on the road ahead - his musings based on his experiences of 20+ years at Stanford, Start-ups and SAP.

1. What's Going On

Digital Artifacts are replacing physical artifacts. We are seeing this in music, movies and books. This content ties into our lives in more consumable ways. This results in being able to reach the masses more conveniently. In comparison, Thomas Paine's Commonsense Manifesto that was published 240+ years ago (thanks to the revolution of the Gutenberg Press), reached two-third the population, within a year, and helped seed the birth of America. The connectedness that is accomplished with the digital artifacts creates value and dissolves layers of inefficiency and indirection. He identified the need to understand and evolve complex systems - especially enterprise software - "which is quite primitive," he said.

2. My journey

He identified his journey with three institutions, hosts, paradigms - Stanford, Start ups and SAP. Stanford taught him to learn how to think in an unstructured environment - without boundaries and guidance. He applied this when he was asked by Hasso Plattner to help SAP intellectually renew itself. He treated SAP like a 40-year-old startup while instrumenting this turn-around and did so without  using "processes" or "governance frameworks" - as putting these in place would defeat the purpose of what he was asked to do.

3. Three principles

He used three principles to renew customer landscape without disruption: understanding timeless software constructed around content (application's content, UI, etc.), containers (the runtime) and change (ongoing evolution of the content and the container); systems thinking and evolving systems. These allowed SAP to renew the customer landscape without disruption. The example he provided was SAP HANA that helped simplify enterprise computing and dramatically improve performance thanks to advances in hardware, large amounts of main-memory and massively parallel processing of information. Their 100 TB, 4000 x86 core system is the largest in-memory DataBase system in the world (10x the size of IBM's Watson).

4. Purposeful Work

He urged the audience to take on purposeful projects. Don't waste your time doing things that don't add value. He gave examples of SAP's AppHaus - specifically the RecallGenie iOS app. Another example he gave was Project Charitra - with 10,000+ people here, it is a market for publishing needs and things that one is willing to do.

5. Work Hard. Follow your instinct, your passion and have fun

Vishal quoted the lyrics (by famed poet Gulzar) of a song from a Hindi movie, Kaminey, "Jo bhi soye hai khabron mein, unko jagana nahin" (this is in the song, "Dhan Te Dan". You can listen to the song here - the phrase is at ~ 3:45 mark in the song). The loosely translated meaning of this phrase is - "Don't chase fads. Do your own thing". There are lots of huge, purposeful problems that need to be solved:

  • Bring basic payments, banking to 100s of millions of people
  • Kidney dialysis is being done by ghastly means. Surely, in this modern age there are betters ways to do this
At the conclusion of Vishal's talk, Robert Guest, Business Editor at the Economist had a conversation with him. He asked Vishal about his experiences while growing up in India and a few other "soft ball" questions that he had prepared before hand - not necessarily from the talk that Vishal had just delivered.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Conferences are all about Networking

In my role as co-chair of the TiEConnect program in TiEcon 2012, I posted a guest column on GigaOm. Since there were restrictions on the number of words, etc. I could not include everything that I wanted to say. I am posting a longer version of the blog here. Hope to see many of you in TiEcon next week at Santa Clara Convention Center.

If you were at the Santa Clara Convention Center for TiEcon2011 on May 13th and 14th, 2011, you could not have missed a familiar figure in the registration area for almost the entire duration - talking incessantly to a panoply of people. When I asked Rohit Chandra about his motives, he said, "I registered for the conference to meet people, pitch my idea, find talent, hear other ideas, identify interesting start ups, pick up on the state of the art, etc. I may not get 30 minutes here for a full pitch with Investors. If I can pique their interest to garner a follow up meeting, it was worth it." When I asked him if it was working, he pointed me to a pile of business cards that he had collected.

While Rohit’s case may be an super-charged example of networking at a conference, it goes to show the immense value of meeting a diverse group of people at a single location. TiEcon provides for both structured and unstructured means to connect with leaders who would, otherwise, be unavailable or inaccessible. MentorConnect provides all TiEcon attendees
 provides an opportunity to meet with an industry stalwart in a scheduled session during lunch. Attendees looking to validate their idea, or want to know how to move their ventures forward can avail this program and meet with folks who have been there and done thatInvestorConnect provides access to VCs and Angels on a 1:1 basis to get feedback on your business plan. This program is available to anyone that registers for a TiE Expo booth. This is an unparalleled opportunity to present your business plan to get feedback and/or seek investments. Finally, TiEcon is also offering AttendeeConnect this year to allow for AdHoc interactions at the conference.

Unlike other conferences that cost in excess of $1500, TiEcon costs less than $500. We are able to keep TiEcon prices affordable since it is run entirely by volunteers (yours truly being one of them) in a not-for-profit organization. While the focus of this posting is Networking at TiEcon, there are other benefits to attending this year's conference on May 18th and 19th at Santa Clara Convention Center - outlined in this blog post by Jai Rawat, Convenor, TiEcon 2012. Register now to avoid missing out! You can use the discount code "TIEFOV" to get $75 off the conference price.