Sunday, May 13, 2018

Open Forum 2018: Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs Summit in Silicon Valley

Hundreds of Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans converged on Santa Clara Convention Center in Silicon Valley on Saturday May 12, 2018 for Open Forum 2018.  The attendees included entrepreneurs, technologists, business executives, investors, lawyers, accountants and others.What was different this year was the presence of an unusually large number of attendees from Pakistan, including dozens of Fulbright scholars studying in the United States,  entrepreneurs from Pakistan, and Husain Dawood of Dawood Group of Companies, the second largest business group in terms of market cap of the companies listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange. Driverless vehicle tech and leading-edge brain research were among the new research and technology topics discussed at the Forum.

L to R: Imran Qureshi, Nazim Kareemi, Husain Dawood, Riaz Haq, Faruk Ahmad at Open Forum 2018

Husain Dawood Keynote:

The morning keynote by Husain Dawood of Dawood Group was in the form of an on-stage interview of the visitor by Imran Sayeed. Sayeed is part of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation faculty at the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

L to R: OPEN President Mobashar Yazdani, Imran Sayeed, Husain Dawood. Photo: Zain Jeewanji

Talking about ups and down of his business that reflect Pakistan's history, Husain Dawood said his father Seth Ahmad Dawood started in the textile business in undivided India and lost everything when he moved to Pakistan in 1947. He rebuilt the business from the scratch starting in 1947 but then suffered a major setback again in 1971 when the eastern wing of the county broke away. The family lost half its business in what became Bangladesh and the other half of its business was nationalized in what was left of Pakistan led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. They were forced to start all over again.

Husain Dawood took over the leadership of the group in 2002 when Ahmad Dawood passed away. Helped by President Musharraf's pro-business policies, Dawood diversified from textile into other businesses such as fertilizer, food, energy and communications.  The group took on a lot of debt to expand. Dawood invested nearly a billion dollars and built one of the world's largest fertilizer plants on government's commitment to supply gas to the plant. Then came the PPP government that went back on the commitment and plant ground to halt. The group was able to get it working again when Nawaz Sharif government took power in 2013 and restored gas supply to the plant. Dawood group also invested in the power sector upon Nawaz Sharif's urging to help deal with the energy crisis.

Karachi School of Business Leadership (KSBL):

After the keynote, I asked Husain Dawood why do the family owned business conglomerates and seth culture have such a strangle-hold in Pakistan. He said he's been working to change it to put professional managers in charge of the companies owned by his group. He cited his support for the setting up of Karachi School of Business Leadership (KSBL) a top private business school in Karachi.  KSBL was launched in collaboration with the UK's Cambridge University's Judge School of Business. KSBL faculty includes former professors at top US business schools like Wharton and Sloane.  Dawood said he is now working on creating a Business Leadership Institute at KSBL in collaboration with leading business schools and management consultancies.  McKinsey and Company is among the consultancies he's working with.

Dr. Maheen Adamson's Keynote. Photo Courtesy Ali Hasan Cemendtaur

Dr. Maheen Adamson Keynote:

The afternoon keynote speakers was Dr. Maheen Mausoof Adamson, a Pakistani-American professor at Stanford School of Medicine. She is engaged in leading-edge research and development for treating a variety of brain impairments such as Alzheimer's and brain injuries in sports and on the battlefields.

She spoke directly to the young women in the audience to inspire them to set and achieve ambitious goals as women, particular Muslim women of color with immigrant parents.

Dr. Adamson is working on translational neuroscience methodologies for diagnostic and therapeutic treatments (mainly repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) in mild and moderate Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), including structural and functional changes in the brain in both Veteran, active military and civilian population.

One particular kind of brain injury she described is "blast wave injury" that results from just being near a blast that generates fast moving high energy waves. These waves cause serious physical and structural damage to the brain.

She said her research is in early stages and a lot more work is required to fully understand and treat brain impairments and injuries.

Self-Driving Cars:

I was not able to attend the driverless car panel discussion at Open Forum but I spoke with its moderator Shoeib Yunus. Shoeib said there are many Pakistanis working on driverless car technology in the global auto industry.

In particular, Shoeib mentioned two names: Sajjad Khan and Zaki Fasihuddin.

Sajjad Khan is the head of Mercedes Digital Car Division.  As Vice President - Digital Vehicle and Mobility at Mercedes Benz Cars, he is based in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Sajjad has about 300 engineers working for him at Mercedes Research and Development Center in Silicon Valley, CA.  Prior to coming to Mercedes, Sajjad worked for BMW in Munich, Germany.

Zaki Fasihuddin is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships in the Volvo Cars Silicon Valley Technology Center, and CEO of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund focused on funding research in driverless cars.

Social Entrepreneurship Panel: 

It was an all-women panel with two of the three panelists coming from Pakistan to participate in the conference. It was moderated by Shahab Riazi. The companies represented at this company were: Komal Ahmad of Copia, Shameela Ismael of Ghar Par and Maryam Arshad of Impact. They head for-profit startups with the motto: Do good and do well.

Komal Ahmad of Copia described how her company is helping solve hunger by reducing waste of millions of tons of perfectly good, healthy and edible surplus food. Her company's smartphone app matches those with excess food with those in need of food. The idea was born when  Komal saw University of California at Berkeley's cafeteria regularly throwing away un-eaten food. It took her a couple of hours to persuade the cafeteria director to donate the food instead of throwing it away. His main concern was liability if someone ate the food and got sick and sued the university. Komal explained to him that a good samaritan law protects donors from liability in such cases. That was the key to getting him to agree to begin donating surplus food to charity.

Komal's business helps donors, recipients and Copia as the match-maker. Donors get tax deduction for the in-kind donation, the hungry get fed and Copia receives a commission for their work.  Cpoia is a Y Combinator company. It received its seed funding from Pakistani-American Amar Hanafi, a charter member of OPEN, Organization of Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs.

Lahore-based Ghar Par has a similar business model for matching beauticians with customers. It provides employment for women looking for work and generates fees for Ghar Par as a match-maker.


Organization of Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs (OPEN) held its annual forum in Silicon Valley on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Santa Clara Convention Center. It drew hundreds of attendees including entrepreneurs, technologists, business executives, investors, lawyers, accountants and others. There were a large number of attendees from Pakistan, including dozens of Fulbright scholars studying in the United States, entrepreneurs from Pakistan and Husain Dawood of Dawood Group of Companies, the second largest business group in terms of market cap of the companies listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange. Driverless vehicle tech and leading-edge brain research were among the new research and technologies discussed at the Forum.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistani-American Sells Tech Company For $7.5 Billion

Pakistani-American NED Alum Raises $50 Million Round

OPEN Silicon Valley Forum 2017: Pakistani Entrepreneurs Conference

Pakistani-American's Tech Unicorn Files For IPO at $1.6 Billion Valuation

Pakistani-American Cofounders Sell Startup to Cisco for $610 million

Pakistani Brothers Spawned $20 Billion Security Software Industry

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

Pakistani-American Pioneered 3D Technology in Orthodontics

Pakistani-Americans Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan Richest South Asian in America

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 


Ahmad F. said...

Great summary. Is this the professor you mentioned? She seems to be in the school of medicine.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "s this the professor you mentioned? She seems to be in the school of medicine."


Her maiden name is Maheen Mausoof.

She was born in Karachi and raised in California.

I know her brother Saqib Mausoof who's an author and a film-maker.

He's made a film about Indus Valley Civilization.

And written "The Warehouse", a novel set in Karachi and FATA.

Mohsin H. said...

Riaz, sorry I missed this but would have loved to meet up with Husain Dawood. I knew some members of the family in Pak at one time.

Shoeib Yunus said...

Riaz Bhai,

It was good to see yesterday. Enjoyed our brief conversation. Thanks for the mention in your blog on self-driving cars.

Please see my recent conversations/blogs below. I have started a thought-leadership series on this topic on Medium.




Any questions, please let me know.

Z Basha Jr said...

Glad to see so many accomplished people coming together for the benefit of Pakistan..

Riaz Haq said...

Textile industry in Pakistan an open example of resistance economy

The textile industry in Pakistan is the largest manufacturing industry in the country and no doubt it is an explicit example of resistance economy.

For years, the textile sector has been the country’s backbone as it provides employment and export revenues.

The textile sector in Pakistan contributes 57% to the country’s exports. The textile industry is the second largest employment sector in Pakistan.

Pakistan is the 8th largest exporter of textile commodities in Asia and textile sector contributes 8.5% to the GDP of Pakistan.

It is pertinent to mention that the exports of textile products posted a growth of 12.8 per cent year-on-year to $4.4 billion in 2017-18.

The total textile sector exports reached $7.72bn value-wise in July-January 2018 versus $7.2bn in the corresponding period of last year, reflecting an increase of 7.18 pc

In the 1950s, textile manufacturing emerged as a central part of Pakistan's industrialization, shortly following independence from the British rule in South Asia. In 1974, the Pakistan government established the Cotton Export Corporation of Pakistan (CEC).

Between 1947 and 2000, the number of textile mills in Pakistan increased from 3 to 600. In the same time spindles increased from 177,000 to 805 million.

Cotton spinning is perhaps the most important segment in the Pakistan textile industry with 521 units installed and operational, says a report by IRNA news agency.

Synthetic fibers prepared with nylon, polyester, acrylic, and polyolefin dominate the market.

Three types of filament yarn are also produced in Pakistan. These are acetate rayon yarn, polyester filament yarn, and nylon filament yarn.

Textile products manufactured from wool are also famous across the country and they include woolen yarn, acrylic yarn, fabrics, shawls, blankets, and carpets.

Artificial silk is also produced in Pakistan. This fiber resembles silk but costs less to produce. There are about 90,000 looms in the country.

There are many famous clothing brands in Pakistan who use locally produced fabrics due to its high quality.

According to consumers the fabric produced in Pakistan is high in quality as compared to fabric produced in other countries.

In recent years, Pakistan has faced competition from regional players including Bangladesh, India and Vietnam.

Pakistan is currently facing a large-scale energy crisis. The government manages the deficit through daily power cuts (or blackouts). These power cuts have significantly impacted manufacturing industries in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

156 #Pakistani #Fulbright scholars heading to #America. #Pakistan’s Fulbright program is one of the largest in the world. #Pakistani participants will attend 70 U.S. universities to study & conduct research in engineering, social sciences, energy, etc.

Islamabad, July 12, 2018 –American Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Hoover and Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce spoke to 156 Pakistani Fulbright Scholarship recipients preparing to leave for the U.S., where they will pursue advanced studies and research.

The Fulbright Program is the American government’s flagship academic exchange program, and, thanks to contributions by both the American and Pakistani governments, Pakistan’s program is one of the largest in the world. The Pakistani participants will attend 70 U.S. universities to study and conduct research in a wide variety of academic disciplines, including engineering, social sciences and energy management.

The Chargé d’Affaires congratulated the students on being selected for the prestigious program but told them to begin thinking about how they can help Pakistan when they return.

“What you do next is what truly matters,” he said. “How you take the knowledge you’ll gain in America—whether from textbook, your professors or the everyday challenges of life—and use it to benefit all of society will determine where life takes you.”

Noting that “the President has said that we must empower women as pillars of our society and of our success,” Royce emphasized that 46 percent of this year’s students are women. She also singled out the work of Fulbright alumna Dr. Najma Najam, who founded Fatima Jinnah Women’s University and helped create “the next generation of the country’s women leaders.”

Since 1946, the Fulbright Program—which is administered by the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP)—has provided more than 370,000 participants from around the world the opportunity to conduct research, implement skills and ideas, teach, and contribute to society. To learn more about the Fulbright Program and about U.S. education initiatives in Pakistan, visit and

Riaz Haq said...

Karachi-born Sajjad Khan leads Mercedes-Benz's entry into electric vehicle.

Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a key interior component of its upcoming electric luxury sedan: a large, curved screen that sweeps across almost the entire width of the car instead of a conventional dashboard.

The MBUX Hyperscreen option available on the EQS sedan uses artificial intelligence to learn what functions the driver uses most, such as navigation and hands-free phone calls. Ola Kallenius, CEO of parent company Daimler AG, said Thursday in a recorded video presented online that the screen “only shows what is needed: no scrolling, no browsing.”

For instance, if the driver often uses the hot-stone massage function during the winter, the user experience system will suggest the comfort function during cold weather. Or, if the driver calls someone regularly on the way home, the system will suggest a call at the usual time.

“With the 3D driver display with real depth effect, the large head-up display with augmented reality content such as animated turn arrows and biometric authentication, MBUX has now taken another big step towards digitization and artificial intelligence. And, if you will, you could say that with the MBUX hyperscreen even the giant TV has now found its way into the car.,” mercedes said in a blog post.

Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler Group, and Sajjad Khan, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz AG and CTO, on the new MBUX generation, were asked what they saw as the highlights.


Vice President - Digital Vehicle & Mobility at Daimler AG (Mercedes Benz Cars)

Sajjad is VP Digital Vehicle & Mobility at Daimler AG. He was pulled in by Mercedes from BMW and is generating end to end user experience as MDUX system. He is partnering with entrepreneurs around the world including in Silicon Valley where Mercedes has over 300 people in Sunnyvale. Come and learn on the details of what is needed in the auto eco system and where the opportunities are in this area.

Khan, Sajjad
2nd degree connection2nd
Khan, has a premium accountClick to upgrade to Premium
Executive Vice President - Member of the Board Mercedes Benz Cars
Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany 500+ connections Contact info

Degree NameMSc.Field Of StudyElectronics and Information Tech


However, Khan is keen to point out that much of the technology produced for MBUX was sourced and produced from within the company. “Not only from the concept perspective, even from the software-programming perspective and the framework perspective, we did in-house,” he says.

“Cloud intelligence, speech… we use the base systems from key partners, but the majority of the work is done in-house.”

Think of MBUX as a powerful computer sitting behind your dashboard, and you’re on the right track. Its ability to learn and adapt to its new owner is already well known, but Khan says there’s a lot more potential already built into the system, and it won’t be limited by chipsets and screens.

“The game-changing thing is how you connect everything together, so that from the customer perspective, it’s seamless; they don’t have a feeling of ‘am I autonomous or am I in the connectivity domain at the moment, or am I driving electric?’” he says, leaning forward.