by Contributors from OPEN Chapters

Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America “OPEN” is now in its twelfth year of existence.  At its core it is a philanthropic organization of like minded innovative and entrepreneurial people who contribute their time and efforts for the greater good of the society that they live in. Its top driven loosely coupled model of chapters has enabled it to grow to all corners of the US, extending its impact even outside these borders. Each chapter has evolved based on the inherent local business strengths as well as the level of support from the community.  In celebration of OPEN’s tenth anniversary in 2008 all the chapters got together at the organization’s  birthplace in Boston. During this event the leaders from different chapters presented their vision for the future. The purpose of this blog is to capture some of what has transpired since then.

Silicon Valley Chapter

OPEN Silicon valley is having the largest OPEN event called OPEN Forum on June 5th.. OPEN Silicon Valley has been proud of many firsts on behalf of OPEN. One of them was the start of the Annual conference in 2003. The conference has grown from a couple hundred people at the SAP Campus to up to 500 people now held at the Tech Museum in San Jose. There have been some renowned Keynote speakers and attendees including Imran Khan, President Pervez Musharraf, Governor Jerry Brown and various CEOs and Venture Capitalists from the Silicon Valley and beyond. Members and Charter Members from all other chapters attend annually and make it the most successful Pakistani American gathering in the US.

nikon_025.JPG-1.jpgWith regards to the forum, the Silicon Valley chapter has added some new things this year; one of which is the youth track (to appeal to generation y, young people and teach them how to organize their life and start their careers). A second new aspect of the conference is the birds of a feather session, the goal of which is to let the community come up with a topic that interests them and have their own small conference around the topic.

nikon_054.JPG-1.jpgBy and large OPEN SV is trying to broaden its appeal and reach out to the greater community beyond engineers and professionals. Two main target groups are women and young people.

In keeping with this goal, OPEN SV added the women’s leadership conference 2 years ago and it has had great success. The second part of broadening outreach is creating programs that people are interested in. To do this OPEN SV has introduced weekly sessions on Wednesdays where people can attend and pitch their ideas and in essence do what they want with OPEN’s facilitation. Lastly, OPN SV hosts mentor-ship breakfasts where small groups of people meet during breakfast with senior members of the organization to bounce ideas off one another and to gain insight from one anothers experience.

To sum up, OPEN SV is reaching out to more diverse groups of people and those who are currently underrepresented by the organization. OPEN SV is also moving towards being an organization that allows its members to personalize their participation. Allowing people to do and discuss what is important to them but with the help of the organization.

Chicago Chapter

chicagoWomenForumSince its launch in January 2009, OPEN Chicago, the latest of the OPEN Chapters has hosted a number of events both individually and in partnership with other local organizations. The launch event featured both the professional and entrepreneur tracks and was attended by over 200 people including Executive Committee and Charter Members and of other OPEN chapters. Dr. Sergio Robello of Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University was the keynote speaker.  OPEN Chicago hosted a summer networking event in July 2009 in partnership with the Pakistan Students Association at DePaul University. In November 2009, it held its first Women in Leadership Forum‘’ featuring Nazneen Razi, EVP of Jones Lang Lasalle as a Keynote speaker.

Other speakers spoke about following their ambitions and founding personal and professional success were:

  • Faheen Allibhoy -- Investment Officer, International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group)
  • Ela Booty -- Supervising Editor, National Geographic School Publishing
  • Dr. Rabia Bhatti -- Breast and General Surgeon, Resurrection Medical Center
  • Ayesha Akhtar -- Founder, Mosaic Soap Bakery
  • Chareen Goodman -- President, Consulting By Goodman, Inc.
  • Alia Faiz -- President and CEO, Medfolio Inc.

The event was a huge success in the community especially the women leaders and the Executive Committee received countless requests to make such an event an annual feature.

OPEN Chicago started 2010 with a bang by hosting an MBA- To Pursue or Not to Pursue workshop in March. The purpose of this workshop was to discuss the merits and de-merits of an MBA and to provide the audience with a dialogue helping them with the complex question of ‘Should I pursue or should I not pursue an MBA?’.  The topic of next event scheduled for July 2010 is ‘The Entrepreneur within us – From Vision to Reality’ focusing on startups, business acquisition, financing and social entrepreneurship. One of the featured speakers of the event is Mas Khan, President and CEO of Subco Foods.

Houston Chapter

The Houston chapter covers all of Texas and held a variety of events ranging from those focused on developing young leaders, fireside chat with Bapsi Sidhwa, engagement with community and an event focused on Opportunities in the Green Tech Space.  Houston is considered as the energy capitol of the world; with more than 3000 energy related companies in all facets of the industry. As the world yearns for fossil fuel price relief and ways to achieve lower greenhouse gas emissions, over the next 10 years the Green Tech revolution is estimated to grow into a trillion-dollar annual economy.

HealthConferenceHoustonHouston is also famous for the nations’ largest medical center. The chapter appropriately chose the topic: “Future of Healthcare & Energy Sectors and their Impact on Houston’s Economic Security.”

Opening topic in the main hall was “Invention to Innovation” by Sammy Haroon, Managing Director of the RBR Group and Sammy Bashir.  He said our lives have become digitized and because of that our distances have lessened. However to be successful in any enterprise, one needs to be innovative and innovation comes from solving issues of the day in timely fashion. “Just making money does not make someone a successful entrepreneur. Actually it is touching in a positive manner maximum number of lives by solving problems that makes someone more successful in the 21st century. There is need to have harmony in the tracheotomy in today’s wired world: Tracheotomy is Socio-Cultural, Intellectual, and Economical,” stressed Mr. Haroon.

After the workshops on Energy and Healthcare,  the keynote speaker Stephen Klineberg, Director of Urban Research Center of Houston at Rice University, gave an eye opening presentation on “The Changing Face of Houston: Tracking the Economic and Demographic Transformations Through 29 Years of Houston Surveys.” He explained how due to the efforts of immigrants, the Houston region recovered from the collapse of the oil-boom in the 1980s to find itself squarely in the midst of a restructured economy and a demographic revolution. He reviews the history of US, how at so many times in the history American policies were anti-immigrants and racists, but how then the same policies helped educated immigrants from Asia and Africa to come to USA in large numbers after 1965 to transform this country to a state, where pretty soon Non-Anglo will be majority in this country. He gave remarkable insights and the need to consider implications for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Houstonians.

The Energy Track Panelists were

  • M&A OUTLOOK,  Waqar Syed, MD , Macquarie Capital
  • ENERGY AND TECHNOLOGY,  Dr Tauseef Salma, Chief Engineer Baker Hughes
  • OUTLOOK FOR THE ENERGY SECTOR IN PAKISTAN,  Jamal Akbar Ansari, CEO, Akbar Associates
  • FINANCING IN THE BRAVE NEW WORLD, Shauvik Kundargrami, RBC Capital Markets
  • CAREERS IN THE 21ST CENTURY,  Doug Leyandecker, Leyandecker & Associates

The HealthCare Panelists were

  • LAB TO MARKET, Arthur Sands, CEO Lexicon Genetics
  • HEALTHCARE IN 21ST CENTURY  Dr Faisal Masud, Asst Prof, Health Science Center in Houston
  • IT AND HEALTHCARE, Zubair A Faiz, Executive Director IT Group -- HCSC
  • CAREERS IN THE 21ST CENTURY, Amy Adams, Partner Healthcare Practice, Richard Wayne & Roberts

New England Chapter

The Boston area being an educational and a high tech hub, the New England Chapter added OPEN Web Seminars to the mix of its activities. The idea here is to leverage the local high quality talent and capture what it has to offer in a more persistent manner on the web. These webinars have been recorded and once a critical mass has been acquired, they will be made available to OPEN members of all chapters.  The list of OPEN seminars held to date are:

New England chapter also held an Open Career Fair focused on assisting professionals in educating them how to find the right jobs in a challenging economic climate. An event titled

“Monetizing the Innovation Economy…via Pakistan!” focused on showcasing some of the innovative new companies out of Pakistan.

New York Chapter

The New York area, in addition to being the center of Finance, has emerged as the hub of the “Converging” Media, Telecommunications and Technology Industries. The OPEN NY Membership is as diverse as the community, representing several industries such as Finance (Banking, Private Equity, VC and Hedge Funds), Consumer Products, Life Sciences, Health-care, Media, Telecoms and Technology.  They offer mentoring dinners and networking meetups. Over the years, OPEN NY has organized events focused on a diverse range of industries and  topics, including Hedge Funds, Private Equity, Women in Leadership, Pakistani-American Film-makers, Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship, Media and Telecoms, Career Management, etc.  Keynote speakers at OPEN NY events have included: Faran Tahir (leading Hollywood Actor), Prakash Melwani (one of the top Private Equity professionals), the late Ismail Merchant (luminary Filmmaker), Mark Coblitz (Head of Strategy for Comcast), Shirin Tahir-Kheli (Senior Advisor for Women’s Empowerment to the United States Secretary of State), among other successful entrepreneurs and professionals.

They spiced up last year with 2010 Go Global Fashion Event which focused on fashion designers and their innovative work from Pakistan.

Washington DC Chapter

Their first event of the year was “ Meet three CEO’s of MIT  -- OPEN awardees who won the OPEN – MIT BAP (Business Acceleration Program) 2009 competition.

Being in Washington DC, OPEN DC has the benefit of having close access to federal programs and policy. They also have access to a wide variety of personalities visiting the capitol from all over the world.  The chapter made use of this proximity by organizing fireside chats, which ranged from

  • Entrepreneurial Success and Social Change”  Keynote speakers Ms. Seema Aziz of CARE Pakistan.  Ms. Seema Aziz   has diligently built her social organization (CARE Foundation) which educates over 135,000 children through 190 schools in Pakistan. And Dr. Asher Hasan  of Naya Jeevan.   Dr. Asher Hasan is founder and CEO of Naya Jeevan, a non-profit that focuses on Micro Insurance for the urban poor.
  • Pakistan 2030: what will it look like? Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy.
  • Islamic Investing: A Viable Alternative? Monem Salam.
  • Unleashing the Potential of People and Making Positive Change Happen. Todd Shea.
  • Prospects of and Opportunities for Expanding Trade Relations between Pakistan and the rest of the World. Ambassador Abdullah Haroon, Permanent Rep of Pakistan to the UN.
  • Round table conference with executives from BMA (an asset management company from Pakistan)

OPEN Global

Open National organization’s name was formally changed to OPEN Global to reflect it’s widening scope.  Its main role is to establish new chapters and to organize events that transcend the boundaries of individual chapters. The organization has been sponsoring Business Acceleration Plan competition over the last three years in Karachi, Pakistan. They have done this with collaboration with MIT Entrepreneurship Center. The winners of the plan get two months of mentoring in Pakistan and another two months in the USA. Some of the increases in the valuation of the winners of 2007 are:

  • Sofizar US $ 800 K  -- US 15 M
  • Aclchemy US$ 200K – US 1.2 M
  • Tohfay     US $ 100K – US 1.M

President Obama and his administration have made entrepreneurship and innovation a top priority both in keeping America competitive on the global stage and as a key to economic recovery. The US government will be implementing a new Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship within the Department of Commerce, “will be geared toward the first step in the business cycle: moving an idea from someone’s imagination, or from a research lab, into a business plan.”

Separately, a study reported in Nature Biotechnology illustrated that 31% of US patents filed for global coverage in biotechnology had foreign born inventors. A testimony to the fact that immigrants to the United States power the innovation and knowledge economy.  Consider the fact that roughly 11% of the US population and 22% of college educated work force are immigrants.

The success of the US economy depends on large part on a highly educated, vibrant immigrant community.  Fear dominated politics represents a great threat to America’s recovery as xenophobia often drives current anti-immigrant policies.  The culture of fear, exemplified by short sighted policies has the ability to drive the global talent pool away from the United States.

Voice of America’s urdu service made a news report on OPEN that can be seen below.

As a commitment to the US economic success, OPEN Global must consider its role as a vibrant and dynamic diaspora in affirmatively contributing to the current Administration’s innovation agenda.  The business and entrepreneurial success of Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans in the United States has been remarkable, yet it remains understated. As an ethnicity, our economic contribution across all sectors in the economy, particularly the knowledge economy remains strong-- moving forward, we aspire to also be recognized for this contribution.

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One Response to “OPEN@2010”

  1. Dr Arshad ALi NUST Pakistan on June 4th, 2010 7:36 am

    Dear Imran,

    This is excellent as well as inspiring summary of OPEN activities. A small step taken a decade ago has now prospered into a very dynamic forum benefiting many different as well as diverse professionals. Pl feel free to let us know if we could be of any help.

    The first youtube video in the blog is not functioning you may need to look at this.

    Best regards