SAN JOSE, Calif. — Kamran Elahian is on a mission. The entrepreneur who founded a string of successful semiconductor companies wants to spread Silicon Valley's DNA to his native Iran.
Elahian is organizing a one-day conference for entrepreneurs from the US and Iran, riding the coattails of a recent decision to allow educational exchanges between the two countries. He hopes his Bridge 2014 event in Berkeley leads to face-to-face exchanges among startups and investors.
We talked to Elahian about the genesis and goals of the event and his views on the health of the Silicon Valley startup community.
EE Times: How did this event get started?
Kamran Elahian: About a year ago, I met an entrepreneur from Iran at a conference, and he told me about the momentum in Iran's high-tech sector. I had not been to Iran in 40 years, since 1975. He said you should see, there is a lot of change and a lot of good is happening.
I wondered how many other people like me knew nothing of what was going on in Iran and what potential there was for creating a knowledge economy that benefits the world. I have a belief that by moving to knowledge-based economies and away from oil, gas, and minerals -- extractive economies -- you can change society for the better. I really believe that technology, education, and empowering women are ways to make social and world change.
We met a number of professors involved in teaching entrepreneurship. We talked to the State Department about the conference, and they helped us expedite visas for some visitors we are bringing from Iran.
EET: What do you hope to achieve?
Elahian: We hope to have 700 people attend the conference in Berkeley and 5,000 view it on the web. We want to let Americans learn about Iran and let Iranians learn how Silicon Valley works. At some point when sanctions are reduced or removed, the two can work together and reduce the friction and animosity that has existed for the last 30 years.
Hopefully, sometime next year we can have a conference with American VCs and angel investors traveling as a delegation to Iran.
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