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Insights and Trends as Seen at TiEcon 2020

Oct 1, 2020

TiEcon 2020, this year’s iteration of the annual conference of The Indus Entrepreneur’s (TiE) Silicon Valley Chapter, was a virtual event due to the ongoing pandemic and gathered a record attendance of more than 7,000 attendees from around the globe. This year’s events focused on the hottest areas of innovation including AI/machine learning, security, blockchain, and digital health and centered around the theme, “Converge. Create. Elevate.”

EisnerAmper Director, Michael Morris moderated an entrepreneurship panel about selling and marketing deals in a remote environment that featured insights from Kunal Agarwal, CEO of Unraveldata; R. Paul Singh, CEO of Startup Strategies; Ravi Ramachandran, VP of Sales for Okera; and, Vineeth Rajagopal, CTO/CRO of Digital OnUs. The speakers have all continued to make large deals happen in their startups, and acknowledged that selling products and services in a virtual environment can be a challenge. To combat this challenge, entrepreneurs must be on the offense. By shifting marketing budgets to digital media and focusing on existing clients, it is possible to extend the lifetime value of current clients. When an entrepreneur is ready to expand their client base, their existing clients can provide customer reviews. Since it is difficult for potential customers to physically handle the product before making the purchase, it is extremely important to leverage testimonials, and peer-to-peer reviews.

The panel discussion on AI/machine learning brought to light some fascinating insights on how AI algorithms built by companies like Facebook and Google track our behavior on social media accounts and search engines and are helping corporations make more informed branding and advertising decisions. AI is also helping companies automate business processes to take the "robot" out of "humans." However, understanding of AI/machine learning among corporate CXOs and alignment to business goals was highlighted as one of the biggest challenges facing the widespread adoption of this technology. Customer self-service software to improve customer experience and introducing conversational interfaces like "chatbots" for employees in companies to help boost their productivity and provide them with instant answers and tools were highlighted as some of the avenues where AI has great potential for adoption going forward.

The panel discussion on blockchain and the fintech industry brought to light the major challenges facing this industry which included limited regulation, limited knowledge of blockchain, lack of safe custody rules for digital assets, data privacy, better payment infrastructure to reduce settlement costs and better financial strength of the payment solution companies. 

Aside from discussions on existing and emerging technologies, this year’s TiEcon had a special focus on helping entrepreneurs create a healthy diversity and inclusion culture in their organizations. The expert panel encouraged entrepreneurs to formulate practices of transparency and continuous communication with all their stakeholders as a sense of inclusion will be fostered once stakeholders are aware of current and future business plans and the thoughts of the company’s leadership. Companies were also encouraged to set up minority employee representation forums. Employing people with physical disability and leveraging technology to help such employees work and grow within the organization was also seen as a key area of focus.

Keynote Highlights:

Indra Nooyi, Ex-CEO of PepsiCo, was keynote speaker on Day 1. Some key takeaways from her speech included:

  • The COVID-19 Lesson: Entrepreneurs should focus more on "self-worth" rather than "net-worth" and use technology to work towards a “purpose” such as contributing to education and reducing cost of health care, rather than pursue the next $100 million.
  • Advice to Entrepreneurs: Learning only starts when one becomes a CEO. Greatest qualities to have for entrepreneurs are curiosity, courage, confidence and communication.
  • Women Representation: Need more mentors for women entrepreneurs in the venture capital industry; however, there is no substitute for competence.

Eric Yuan, CEO and Co-Founder of Zoom was the keynote speaker on Day 2 and shared interesting insights on the key drivers of growth of his company. Some key takeaways from his speech included:

  • Key Differentiator: Listening to and solving pain points of customers differentiated Zoom from its big competitors.
  • Business Model: Before building a business, think about what we can do to give back to the society.
  • Company Culture: Happiness and delivering happiness! Customers cannot be happy until employees are happy.
  • Advice to Entrepreneurs: Aim to become a better version of yourself each day and be patient, success doesn't come overnight!

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