From: Rohit Khare (email@example.com)
Date: Wed Jan 19 2000 - 02:32:21 PST
January 14, 2000
The Curry Network
Indian nationals found enormous success in Silicon Valley. So they
got together and formed a group. Now more Indians meet, greet and get
By Alex Salkever
For a good Indian curry, call the Marriott in Santa Clara,
Calif. As odd as it may sound, the hotel's chefs have mastered
delicacies like palakh paneer, dosas and roti out of pleasant
necessity. Every other month, the Indus Entrepreneurs (aka TiE) holds
its meeting at the hotel. A networking and entrepreneurship nonprofit
loosely grouped around connections to India and South Asia, TiE turns
these events into serious eating affairs. Members tackle the buffet
with a vengeance. "It's really good food. We have trained the kitchen
well," beams Bakul Joshi, executive director of TiE.
The buffet is only an appetizer, however. The main course is deals,
deals, deals. A laundry list of explosive Web companies - Exodus
Communications (EXDS) , HotMail and Junglee, to name a few - have
hatched from alliances or struck angel funding deals at TiE meetings.
The organization has emerged as a premier deal generator in Silicon
Valley. "Pretty much the first week I was in the business, I learned
about TiE," says Robert Coneybeer, a partner at venture capital
powerhouse New Enterprise Associates. "Almost every one of the
companies in our portfolio has some sort of TiE connection. And about
half of the CEOs are active in TiE."
For a small organization with only 1,200 members worldwide, TiE packs
an oversize punch. Since its inception in 1994, the group's annual
conference has drawn big-name sponsors like Kleiner Perkins Caufield
& Byers, New Enterprise Associates and Goldman Sachs, and has
featured speakers like Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Tim Koogle and Benchmark
Capital partner Bill Gurley.
TiE represents only a fraction of what some Silicon Valley executives
call the Indian Mafia, a gang that voraciously seeks IPO
opportunities. A veritable international hydra, the group's tentacles
reach from California to Boston to Bombay to London, always in search
of new ideas and serendipitous connections.
The organization has its own mouthpieces: a 60,000-circulation
magazine and the Siliconindia.com Web site, which is part news site,
part town crier. The Indus community - Indians who work for U.S. tech
companies - is growing, spawning TiE-like organizations and filling
some top tech jobs. The new Indian CEOs is a Washington area
networking group that's de rigueur for the Silicon Beltway set. In
Silicon Valley, ground zero for the Indian tech crowd, four of the
five original founders of the Round Zero networking group - which
later birthed Epinions.com - are from India. And the list goes on,
from partners at Kleiner Perkins to professors at Stanford's Graduate
School of Business. Indians are a significant force on the Internet
But TiE diverges from the nachos-and-wine-fueled networking meat
markets of Silicon Valley and San Francisco in crucial ways. Rather
than back-slapping meetings of wannabe moguls, TiE lets the novices
mingle with the chiefs. "I thought it was incredible. You read about
these people like Kanwal [Rekhi, founder of ExceLan, the first
venture-funded startup headed by an Indian] and Desh [Gururaj "Desh"
Deshpande, founder of Sycamore Networks], but you're actually meeting
them in person and getting them to talk about what were then very
preliminary ideas," says Srini Anumolu, who cofounded Elance.com in
January 1998 with indispensible help from TiE.
Indians trained in high-tech have been coming to the U.S. to work for
decades, following the establishment of the Indian Institute of
Technology schools by Prime Minister Jahawaral Nehru after World War
II. Most arrive nearly broke. "The standard story of landing here
with $108 in your pocket - the most the government would let you
exchange - is not uncommon," says explains Raj Mashruwala, a charter
member of TiE and VP of Tibco Software. "That was my story, too."
Many Indians entered the geek ranks of companies like Xerox (XRX) ,
IBM (IBM) and Motorola (MOT) . But upper management seldom promoted
them to senior roles. "Earlier, Indians were always thought of as
good workers. They were not considered [people] who could be managers
or could be true entrepreneurs," says K.B. Chandrasekhar, Exodus'
cofounder and CEO.
The breakthrough came in the person of Vinod Khosla, a Stanford MBA
and Indian Institute of Technology graduate who in 1982 cofounded Sun
(SUNW) Microsystems; Sun notched the first wildly successful
high-tech startup with an Indian founder. Khosla later went on to
snag a partnership at Kleiner Perkins and became a charter member of
Next came Rekhi, the current TiE president and another IIT graduate.
Rekhi later sold ExceLan for $200 million to Novell (NOVL) and
entered the first wave of the Silicon Valley super-rich back in the
And all of a sudden, Indians were a driving force in the formation of
Silicon Valley companies. But they weren't reaching out to fellow
Indians. "We were not known for helping each other back then," admits
In 1992, the TiE group arose from a chance meeting of 15 Indian
entrepreneurs and businesspeople all waiting at the airport to greet
an Indian dignitary whose flight had been delayed. "We were all
standing there talking and then we realized that we didn't know each
other," TiE's Joshi remembers. "The Indus community usually focused
on the social network rather than the business and professional
network. So we decided to meet because there was no such platform of
business networking among the Indus community."
They named their group the Indus Entrepreneurs to symbolize their
dual cultural identities and their interest in nurturing
entrepreneurship. TiE grew rapidly from the initial 25 members to
more than 400 within three years. A business nexus finally began to
coalesce around TiE, and some of the decision-makers started to
Chandrasekhar, for one, had been shopping his fledgling data farm
(before it became Exodus) to every fund in town and got nothing but
slammed doors. On the verge of missing payroll and closing shop over
the Christmas holidays in 1995, a frantic Chandrasekhar went to a TiE
meeting in desperation. He left with more than $1 million from TiE
members and a mentor in Rekhi.
The four Exodus investors have so far realized a 400-fold return. And
that was only TiE's first act. The network has since spun out dozens
of other deals thanks to the group's investors.
TiE has established chapters in Boston; Los Angeles; the Midwest; New
York; and Vancouver, British Columbia, among other locales. A major
world expansion is planned throughout India, Europe and Asia,
according to Joshi. But TiE's roots remain in the strongly
family-oriented South Asian culture. For example, TiE's membership
form asks whether an applicant's spouse prefers vegetarian food. But
unlike some other well-known networking or alumni groups, the
membership requirements are flexible. Many members of TiE are not
Indians but Bangladeshis and Pakistanis (Rekhi is Pakistani); the
only requirement to join is to have an interest in the Indus
Many of the group's larger events open their doors to all kinds.
Christine Comaford, managing director of Artemis Ventures, estimates
that at the 1999 TiE Conference only 65 percent of the audience was
"It's an organization that transcends religion, caste, language and
cultural differences. It focuses on the very elementary thing in life
called money," says Vijay Vashee, a charter member of TiE and a
general manager at Microsoft (MSFT) . "But around that money evolved
community. While money has to be a driving force, it's the community
strength that tends to make it happen."
Through the community flows a Jedi-esque force that somehow
short-circuits greed but ends up making people rich. Those who have
made it are expected to help those who have not, with no expectation
of recompense. This seems to encourage the free-flow of ideas
unchecked by the inaccessibility that surrounds many venture
"I found that the more I gave, the more I received. And I gave
without expectation. The funny thing is that if you help people, the
rewards come to you anyway," says Vashee, who invested $1 million in
four startups that came out of TiE contacts.
Members say the group is where ideas become reality. Take the case of
Elance.com. With encouragement from Junglee founder and TiE member
Venky Harinarayan, Anumolu decided to abandon his lucrative job as a
portfolio manager handling $10 billion for New York Life in order to
build "the eBay (EBAY) of services" - a global clearinghouse that
joins service buyers with vendors. Through TiE, Anumolu managed to
get premier face time for what had been a half-baked idea.
After TiE investors nursed him through various business plan
iterations, Anumolu and his partner secured $1.2 million in funding
from TiE members. But more than money, says Anumolu, the advice and
inspiration made the big difference. "You learn a lot. We knew a lot
about complex financial stuff. But for the legal issues and the other
parts of running a business we needed advice," says Anumolu. "We got
that through TiE. And it's now helping us in recruitment."
Meanwhile, Silicon Valley's attitude toward South Asians has done an
about-face. "I cannot gush more about the Indian entrepreneurs I have
dealt with," says Comaford. "They work very, very hard. They are not
prima donnas. They are very good at explaining their vision and
getting people excited. They are very charismatic. They have used
their differences to their advantage, which is brilliant. They have
banded together to leverage their rolodexes. As a result, they have
gotten a lot done." Comaford estimates that 70 percent of her
portfolio has senior Indian management and several have direct or
indirect connections to TiE.
So, for good Indian executives, try the Santa Clara Marriott. You may
get more than curry.
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