Sangam Sangameswara, founder of several companies and event chair of the upcoming “Young Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Living The American Dream” event on January 30 was recently interviewed by VLAB blogger Michelle McIntyre. During their lively chat, they discussed his motivation for success, his time working with Intel Founder Andy Grove, the reasons why Mahatma Gandhi and Bill and Melinda Gates are his heroes, his motives for volunteering at VLAB, and the experience of co-chairing a VLAB event with Ms. Esha Prasad.
Q: How did you get involved with VLAB?
A: I was invited to attend the IoT Security event last year by VLABer Ravi Prasad. I enjoy attending local Meetups and had heard of VLAB. I really enjoyed the event. I also enjoyed the Sports Analytics and Nuclear Fusion events and the associated planning meetings. I was impressed by the energy and passion of the volunteers, as well as the approach for selecting topics for future events. I could not resist the opportunity to work with great set of volunteers.
Q: What’s your day job?
A: I’m a partner with Blackbox AI, a diverse group of acclaimed Ph.D. experts, tech founders, and former executives focused on artificial intelligence and the future of work. I am also founder and CEO of CTWorks, an enterprise IoT startup focusing on smart building applications. I was also part of the founding teams for companies that have been acquired by brand-name entities, for example, Time, Inc.
Q: What ultimately convinced you to step up to the superstar role of VLAB event chair?
A: Through my work, I have become a startup junky. After considering the awesome VLAB resources, I was convinced that the role would not be that hard.
Q: The January 30 VLAB event is about the impact of young immigrant entrepreneurs. Well-known ones like Sergey Brin, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Vinod Khosla have built some of the world’s most successful companies. If not for immigrants, Google, PayPal, Tesla, Evernote, Reddit, and many other companies would not exist. Sangam, do you have a favorite immigrant entrepreneur? If so, who is it and why?
A: My first job was at Intel, and I was lucky enough to be working in the same building as Andy Grove. I had couple of personal interactions with Andy, which showed me why he is such a great manager who introduced enduring concepts: constructive confrontation, high-output management, and self cannibalization. As you may know, Andy Grove is an immigrant who survived the Holocaust years. He went through some of the most horrific experiences and endured.
Q: Your co-chair is Ms. Esha Prasad, a high-performing Silicon Valley high school student who has chaired VLAB events previously. [Author’s note: She’s also the daughter of another VLAB volunteer, Ravi Prasad.] What’s it like working with a young person on this important panel, and how did you divide up your tasks? Furthermore, do you have any thoughts on the importance of women in STEM roles?
A: Esha having the experience of organizing events at VLAB made my job so much easier. She is fun and diligent. Esha volunteered for many tasks like organizing and follow-ups. She was helpful in organizing several discovery calls. It is great she has started this volunteering activity so early. I am sure this will be of immense help in her future endeavors.
Q: What’s the coolest technology or business idea that a local immigrant entrepreneur has come up with, in your opinion?
A: In terms of “coolest technology” how can you beat Elon Musk? Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop….
Q: I see you’ve secured former Googler Mohit Aron, the found of Cohesity as the moderator of the young entrepreneurs panel. Nice job! How did you convince him to join the panel?
A: I was considering a long-time friend of mine, BV Jagadeesh, who is well-known angel and founder of Exodus and Netscaler, two highly successful startups. BVJ had a scheduling conflict and suggested Mohit Aron would be an excellent choice. I had seen Mohit’s insightful presentations for Santa Clara University Business School. As you know, he has a great entrepreneurial background. With BVJ’s intro, convincing Mohit to moderate our event became rather easy.
Q: What is your business and/or life philosophy, and how has this helped you lead the January 30 young entrepreneurs panel?
A: I am a team player by nature. It is extra fun, when you get the chance to work with passionate and dedicated team such as VLAB’s. My life philosophy: “Don’t give a chance to small things to get to you.”
Q: Who is your hero and why?
A: Mahatma Gandhi is my hero. It is amazing what he could accomplish with non-violence. As Albert Einstein appropriately said on Gandhi’s 70th birthday, “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”
I am a big admirer of Bill and Melinda Gates, who with their tireless and single-minded dedication by providing vaccinations and improving nutrition to the world’s poorest children and their mothers and help them lead healthy and productive lives. It is particularly commendable that Bill Gates was able to transition and dedicate to such worthy causes after decades of cut-throat competition of the high-tech world.
You can buy tickets for the January 30, 2018, event here: https://www.vlab.org/events/young-immigrant-entrepreneurs/>
This story is by Michelle McIntyre, who is on the VLAB Marketing team. She was a 2017 VLAB Volunteer of the Year. @VLAB and @FromMichelle