OPEN Forum 2013 at Santa Clara Convention Center
OPEN Forum lunch
Women Forum 2013 Keynote
The Nov. OPEN-SV Mentorship Breakfast event was hosted by Awais Nemat, Co-Founder & CEO of PLUMgrid.
Awais Nemat, President and CEO of PLUMgrid, invited OPEN-SV members for a Mentor Breakfast event at his office in Santa Clara. He treated us with his favorite latte and espresso with breakfast.
He fielded a wide array of questions related to advancement at tech companies, the Silicon Valley culture, entrepreneurship, seeking founding partners, adding value to your start-up, patents, motivating team, hiring talent and getting results from new team members.
Awais praised the culture of Silicon Valley where talent, capabilities and accomplishments are meritoriously valued over other biases. Therefore, entrepreneurs need to be self-analyzing when not able to get funding and need to review the idea, team and proposition. It's often difficult to find, but important to have an experienced mentor who can provide reality-check and honest feedback. Meeting people over lunch to seek feedback and discussing over issues is very useful.
Awais told investors fund talented teams going for large markets, not just ideas. Idea is just a vehicle to get funded. Investors look for convincing story and clarity about the idea, the team that can accomplish objectives and produce results, and the timeframe of return on their investment. There is no hard rules about relatives or spouses as founders - Cisco, Marvell and Linksys were two examples mentioned. Awais thought it is best to have complementary background and expertise among founders. A strong team conveys that several smart people have bought into founders' idea and leadership. When hiring top talent, he said Start-ups should evaluate what improvement in valuation and access to customers those stars bring. If multiple people are not able to generate desired results in sales or business development, founders need introspection.
About patents, Awais told patents are a factor in developing company equity and may enhance valuation. A patent prevents others from copying your invention. A start-up should file as many patents as they can afford. It should be weighed what value those patents (cost is $5K-$15K/patent) bring to the company. To save cost, he suggested filing provisional patents.
Regarding advancement in corporate culture, Awais said besides just hard work, develop relationships with cross-functional team and customers, seek feedback from peers to identify strengths and weaknesses, network outside work, and build a group of young talent to do the work levels below yours. Awais hinted working for a start-up makes you employable in the valley, and opens doors at other start-ups. It's rare to make it big if you are not among founders or first few hired. A person working at large company can work part-time on personal ideas. However, ensure your work doesn't build upon or infringe upon the employer's IP.
Awais stayed with the attendees to answer other questions. We thanked Awais for his time and advice and wished him best of luck with PLUMgrid.