TiECon 2006: Day 1

Attended TiECon 2006 (Day 1). It was packed. In fact, you realize right at the parking lot!

Here is a brief summary of the happenings based on sessions I attended.

Shashi Tharoor, Arnie and John Doerr were the big draws of the day.

Shashi Tharoor came across as a charming, British-accented, intelligent, sensible speaker. His fine speech blended UN issues such as terrorism, poverty, hunger, etc with the TiECon themes of entrepreneurship, disruption and convergence. Here are a few interesting quotes from the speech.

  • “The Internet revolution has a lot of liberty, some fraternity and absolutely no equality”.
  • “You can have Coca Cola without being Coca Colonized”
  • “We are like Egyptian Mummies, pressed for time”
  • “What you understand is very often based on our assumptions. So we should question our assumptions”
  • When asked about the relevance of UN he narrated a story about Adam & Eve. Apparently, Eve was out of sorts and kind of ignoring Adam. In response Adam asked Eve, “Is there someone else?” In other words, if not the UN who else?
  • An American agriculture expert once went to Punjab on a special mission to help Indian farmers. He asked the India farmer where his farm ends and the man pointed to him and showed him that the farm ended at the far away fence. In response the American said he had to drive for a couple of hours in his tractor to the south end of his farm, then another 3-4 hours to the other end etc. etc. In response, the Indian farmer said, “I know exactly what you mean, I too had a tractor like that once!”.

John Doerr: The chat between John Doerr and Michael Malone (Virtual Corp fame) was informative.

  • John Doerr said that KP is no longer a white boys club has a global face. He showed a picture of the KP’s team with a couple of India and Chinese faces.
  • According to him Energy, Clean tech and Green Tech are hot area for investment.
  • He also talked about social entrepreneurship. The importance of support people like Muhammed Yunus (Of Grameen Bank) and someone who runs performs Eye operations in India (Sankara Eye Foundation??) (He couldn’t remember the name).
  • John is big on the threat of Global warming. He showed pictures of the ice melting in Iceland. What the world would look like if more of that melting continued etc.

Arnold Schwazanegger: Arnie walked into great applause and launched into a standard campaign speech riding on his recent budget surplus wave. Nothing new, just the usual pitch but I thought he did a fine job of the delivery with no notes whatsoever. He didn’t fumble unlike Bush does so often. I think he is going to be really hard to beat for the Demos come Nov given their lack of star power.

After his speech each of the TiE past President (Suhas, Kanwal, Raj, Sridhar, Kailash) asked a question each. Arnie didn’t produce any great answers but did a fair job but stayed on message at all times. Kanwal (true to his style) asked him a pointed question. “When do you plan to visit Bangalore?” Without being direct or committal, Arnie launched into a long pitch about how India and US relations are important etc . etc.

A couple of Arnie’s humorous quips.

  • “I am finally at a place where I am not the only one with an accent”
  • Looking at all the TiE Presidents he said, “No women here?”

Web 2.0 Panel: I attended the session on Web 2.0 moderated by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch fame. The panel featured a couple of VCs and founders of “digg“, “Kaboodle” and “Sphere“. The gentleman from Sphere was extremely articulate and his comments were by far the best of the lot. I was disappointed about the lack of concrete discussion on business models. Why are VCs investing? What d they look for? What excited them in this space? It appeared as though there was none. From what I could gather, Web 2.0 has a lot of cool things happening, but is quite speculative at this point from a purely business perspective.

The Complex Sale, Inc.: Rick Page, author and founder of this firm spoke about Sales, Sales strategy etc. The slides were very good but I wasn’t necessarily bowled over by the pitch. Maybe I am just too jaded from all the sales stuff I have heard over the years (hunter, farmer and the works..).

Personally, I think the Internet has changed sales dramatically, especially, when selling a commoditized low cost product, where the Internet is the primary medium for lead generation. In such scenarios, for a large part, the actual sale itself happens via the internet. You make the sales very often without ever meeting the customer. The customer signs up for free asks a few questions (support) during use and then signs up. There is no warm body making the actual sale and coming home with a p.o.

This is very different from conventional sales. I don’t think the sales person who can accomplish this fits into the conventional sales categories. In fact, it is a combination of marketing savvy and sales. There was little or no discussion on this topic at this talk.

I think this market is ripe for growth of consultants! (Seth Godin comes to mind). How do you sell on the net? What’s an effective sales strategy? What does a good sales person who can make this happen look like?

Author: Pran Kurup

Pran Kurup is founder and CEO of Vitalect, Inc.

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