26th annual The Indus Entrepreneurs conference (TiE Inflect) focusses on Artificial Intelligence

The 26th annual The Indus Entrepreneurs conference, TiE Inflect 2018, held from May 4 and May 5, and attended thousands of business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors at the Santa Clara Convention Center focused on artificial intelligence and featured 15 tracks all centered on the human impact of artificial intelligence.

TiE Silicon Valley board member Manish Gupta explained the change of name at the onset of the event, and the conference discussed on Artificial Intelligence: Executives from companies like Oracle, eBay, Capital One, Google, Cisco and more spoke about Artificial Intelligence and its impact on our daily lives; Internet of Things: VPs and managers from Trimble, Intel, Microsoft, Nvidia and more spoke about Internet of Things and connect IoT with cars, daily living, and food. Yes, food!; TiE Women: One of the best tracks of TiE Inflect as it featured women executives from marketing and tech companies; and, TiE Youth: The TiE Youth track featured many young entrepreneurs with successful startups. The track will be hosted by Miss San Jose and there is a shift as we will see more female speakers in this track. Budding student entrepreneurs from Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, Calif., spoke in this track.

The two-day-long event, co-convened by Ravinder Paul Singh and Sandeep Vij and hosted by TiE Silicon Valley with a cohort of more than 350 volunteers, featured 275 speakers including several grand keynotes provided to the more than 5,000 event-goers, including many from the Indian American community. “The need for what TiE can do has changed, and the need to change the name is working towards the new entrepreneur to help inflect,” Gupta said.

Some of the prominent speakers included, Splunk chief executive Doug Merritt, former Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka and SymphonyAI Group and Wadhwani Foundation founder Romesh Wadhwani. In citing his young life of moving 11 times by the time he was 13 years old, Merritt said he learned change is constant and led him to wonder how he could control the change. “The ability to imagine, conceive … is the core foundation why I got into tech,” Merritt added.

In advising the entrepreneurs in the crowd, the Splunk CEO said there is a need to adopt a growth mindset. “You’re either growing or you’re dying,” he said. “Data is the foundation of the future of economy, and it’s still in its infancy.”

Sikka, the former head of Infosys, focused on how AI, while it has grown leaps and bounds over the years, is still very far from being at a point where robots are superior to humans. Sikka said there needs to be more balanced research, better policy-making and regulatory work, better education, easier to use tools, and lots more applications. “We are either people that wait for people to tell us what to do, or we are people who use their imagination and see what isn’t there,” Sikka said. “(Our imagination) is the destiny that can keep us going in the long run.”

Like Merritt, other speakers gave advice on how entrepreneurs should be ever watchful over market changes. Delivering the grand keynote on the second day of the conference, Jay Chaudhry, founder and chairman of Zscaler, told the audience not to solely rely on feedback from their customers but to read the market and make decisions.

Wadhwani took the time to talk some sense into individuals who feel that AI and robots will take away jobs from humans. “At the end of previous revolutions (highlighting the industrial revolution and others) the economy was better and society was much better,” he said. “The claims of doom and gloom … I’m not a believer. It’s just the normal evolution of time.”

“My strong believe is that the next 10 years will be the golden age in AI,” Wadhwani said, stressing the importance to be bold and shoot for scalable companies rather than settling for creating a small company with intentions to be bought out. “I believe AI can be much more beneficial to helping underprivileged people across the world – more so than helping businesses.”

Three women – Madhura Konkar Belani, Shanthi Iyer and Julia Castro Abrams – in the “Road to Innovation Success: Journey, Advice and Collaboration Stories” session, discussed their careers to success. They offered insights to the more than 100 women in the crowd into their path to success and recommendations on how to move up the chain in any given company.

“Make sure not to just have a mentor, but have an advocate,” Iyer said to the crowd, citing a story about an advocate who pushed her to stick with her current position. “I think that changes the game. If everyone did it for one or two people, imagine the impact we can have.”

Building on the 25-year legacy of TiEcon, TiE Inflect 2018 was designed to focus on the business and human impact of AI, said Jay Visvanathan, executive director of TiE Silicon Valley, in his introductory remarks. A broad range of business-related topics was discussed at the event that drew about 5,000 people, including over 250 speakers.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Suhas Patil, who co-founded TiE 25 years ago and is currently emeritus board member of TiE Global, observed that over the years TiE has given “startup guys” to make connections and keep pace with changing technologies. It also lets them know that “you don’t need a rich uncle to help you build a company.”

 They came all spruced up, looking cool and “lit,”as they would say, to the TiE Youth Track on the second day of The Indus Entrepreneurs convention here, to show that despite their youth, they had a head start in the world of entrepreneurial leadership.

Nearly a dozen teenagers with titles adults traditionally have to earn through years of hard work — chief executive officer and president among them — strutted their business acumen and entrepreneurial achievements with aplomb. Many came dressed like pros. Nearly all of them had a philanthropic streak.

 “We had decided to focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning at the conference this year, which is increasingly gaining currency in both tech-talks and laymen conversations these days and has become critical component of almost all industries. The importance that we attached to AI and machine learning or blockchain is evident from the title of the theme of this year’s conference: ‘Imagination AI,’ “said Ram Reddy, founder, chairman and CEO of Global Industry Analysts, Inc and president of TiE Silicon Valley.

“There needs to be more education on artificial intelligence as there are fewer than 250,000 people at present who could use machine learning tools,” he said. Earlier this year, Sikka exuded optimism about the future of AI saying, he is “personally extremely excited about doing something in AI, something that fundamentally improves the world.” That optimism reflected in his keynote at the conference.

The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) was founded in 1992 in Silicon Valley, seeking to create a bridge between budding entrepreneurs needing guidance for their ventures, and those who could offer that. While TiE continues to essentially pursue that mission of giving back to the community, 26 years later that goal has to some extent been adjusted keeping in consideration the needs of the present-day, young generation entrepreneurs. “So, our whole model has shifted to becoming mostly relevant to what is really happening out there, tailormade to the needs of people in our times,” Reddy said.

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