This years conference engaged and informed a large gathering of over 375 attendees, representing the crème de la crème of the Pakistani-American community with an outstanding lineup of speakers, including President Pervez Musharraf, MySQL CEO Marten Mickos, Redpoint Ventures Founder Tom Dyal, former State Bank Governer Dr Ishrat Hussain, and last but not least the acclaimed venture capitalists (VC) and founder of ePlanet Ventures Asad Jamal, who was recently portrayed by the Red Herring Business and Technology digest as “The Worlds Hottest VC”.
There were seven workshops and panel sessions, offering top-notch practical information on the latest business and technology trends in the Silicon Valley, and investment opportunities in Pakistan.
The conference was brought into session by the OPEN Silicon Valley President Umair Khan, whom with incredible dynamism and zeal presented a short introduction and overview of OPEN. “Now more than ever, the Pakistani-American and Pakisani community needs OPEN,” he said. The event emcee Aaref Hillaly following him expressed similar sentiments before introducing the keynotes and speakers.
In his live two-way video conference address, the first-time a sitting president has directly spoken to the west-coast of the United Statses, President Musharraf pitched Pakistan as a land of immense opportunity. He said Pakistan’s international credit rating has shown significant improvements, and since he assumed power the per capita income has risen to US$ 835. “We have created an investment-friendly climate in Pakistan….and have the cheapest labor in the world. It is cheaper than China and India,” he informed the gathering.
Musharraf concluded his speech on a patriotic note, moving everyone in the audience “Be proud of Pakistan. Be an optimist”.
Immediately following the presidents address conference attendees participated in an interactive and informative workshop that presented a sampling of business and investment opportunities in Pakistan. The workshop had panelists who successfully engaged the participants on topics ranging from energy and infrastructure investment to social entrepreneurship and to off-shore outsourcing.
The final keynote of the day was by Asad Jamal, an exuberant personality indeed. He captivated the audience, discussing his initial beginnings as a Venture Capitalist, how he started from a small office with less than US$ 100,000 in hand. While the high-tech bubble burst in the Silicon Valley, his firm, ePlanet Ventures capitalized on an international business investment strategy, raising over US$ 600M for Asian based ventures such as Baidu, Skype, and Kongzong, with a return on investment (ROI) of 7.033%, 4.500%, and 3.300% respectively. He shared that his strategy is “If it does not make sense, we will not invest.” ePlanet is a shinning example of the VC model, and has recently opened an office in Karachi.
The rest of the conference followed a similar format, with networking opportunities interspersed between the workshops, panels’ and keynotes, not to mention a delectable Pakistani lunch buffet and high-tea were part of the many highlights of the conference. Further details and conference proceedings are available online at www.opensiliconvalley.com.
The author is a technology professional in the Silicon Valley, a free lance writer, and OPEN SV fellow/operating committee team lead.
This article was published in August 2006 in Newsline's print issue, www.newsline.com.pk