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OPEN Silicon Valley Launched
Ras H. Siddiqui Fremont, USA

Dec. 07, 2001   The Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America (OPEN) has launched its Silicon Valley Chapter (see http://www.open-us.org./ for details). It also held its first networking and social event amidst considerable local participation on Tuesday, November 13, 2001 at the Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel in the posh San Francisco Bay Area City of Palo Alto (known throughout the world for its Stanford University Campus).
  OPEN, established in Boston in 1998 is dedicated to the promotion of entrepreneurship within the Pakistani community and has now launched its third chapter (New York being the second) in Silicon Valley, often referred to as one of the world’s centers of innovation and future technology. This is one place where the brains from around the globe have successfully teamed with the Venture Capital (VC) financing from local and Wall Street institutions to give birth to a large number of startup companies headed by South-Asians. And on a number of occasions this marriage of sorts has not only fueled the engine of Hi-Technology for America and the world, but in the process has created a number of very wealthy individuals from countries like Pakistan.
  But to get there is not easy unless you know how to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk”. That is where OPEN comes in. These are certain experiences that are learned and need to be are shared at such gatherings. Having a great idea is not enough. Unless one can market that idea and get it to the potential customer/consumer/end user in a speedy manner, it will not mean much. And unless one is already extremely wealthy, the amount of money that it takes to develop and make the product ready for the market makes such a venture beyond one’s reach. That is where the Venture Capitalist comes in.
The person with the idea (usually a technical sort) has to convince the VC that this is where he/she should invest money. And to convince them one has to come up with what is called a Business Plan.  Not going too much into the stories of the old, but one cannot resist the “OPEN Sesame” (Khul Ja Sum Sum) analogy. The gates of Venture Capital are easier to open for the person with the ideas if he/she knows what to say in their Business Plan. And OPEN is an organization that provides the platform where those new to this game can benefit from accumulated wisdom of people what have already been there.
    After the recent burst of the Dotcom market bubble, VC’s are not very generous with their investment money. So the topic of discussion and the focus at this event in Palo Alto  so very eloquently opened and closed by current OPEN President Asim Abdullah (former CEO of Veo Systems), was “Entrepreneurship in the Post Dotcom Era”.  Moderated by Arif Janjua (CEO iDrive), the presentation by a panel of experts, Ammar Hannafi (VP of Business Development at Cisco), Asad Jamal (Managing Director DFJ ePlanet Ventures), Faysal Sohail (EVP, Numerical Technologies) and young Zia Chisti (CEO of Align Technologies who has made quite an impact with his ventures both here and in Pakistan) proved to be very enlightening. Add to that interaction of close to 200 (standing room only) of some of the brightest minds from the Pakistan-American community in the Bay area, this gathering was certainly worth the 3-hour drive from Sacramento. 

   The panel and the audience participation (questions & Answers) spoke for almost 2 hours. It was refreshing to witness the professionalism exhibited throughout this event as Arif, Ammar, Faysal, Asad & Zia held our close attention while they shared their personal experiences from the vantage points of both the Entrepreneur and VC with us. And some very good suggestions also came from the listeners who added their views on how to set up American funded businesses in Pakistan, using educated Pakistani talent in the hi-tech work force over there.   A point that this reporter made at this meeting was that OPEN should utilize the existing Pakistani-American media to communicate in the business arena. I mentioned that www.pakistanlink.com and www.chowk.com could provide the platform for much needed intra-Pakistani community business dialogue. Add to that the Pakistan News Service (PNS) and any other website or paper publication which the Pakistani-American community subscribes to and reads, and we just might develop our own channels of doing business while investing in the development/improvement of these existing publications in the process.   OPEN currently has two levels of membership. A list of 18 individuals who are Charter Members has been widely distributed and is accessible via the OPEN website. Regular membership is also available to people of Pakistani heritage living in North America.
People interested in membership can contact http://www.open-us.org./chapters_opensilicon.htm for more membership details.

 In conclusion, it was great to see engineering and business professionals from the Pakistan-American Community interact at this first OPEN event in Silicon Valley.
It would be an understatement to mention here that this is the direction that Pakistani-Americans should be taking to help both themselves and people in Pakistan. And judging from what this reporter witnessed at this event, both the quality and quantity of participation already exists. The only challenge left now is to continue this momentum.

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