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Entrepreneurial Soul: Executive and Successful Entrepreneur Executes His Dreams


Hatim Tyabji, 2005 Cozad speaker.A new and refreshing definition of the word entrepreneurship was provided by entrepreneur Hatim Tyabji in the 2005 V. Dale Cozad Lecture on Entrepreneurship in October.

Speaking passionately about his definition of entrepreneurship, Tyabji said that to “truly be an entrepreneur you have to have the courage to dream. And you have to have the courage to execute those dreams.”

Tyabji is the executive chairman of Bytemobile, a communications infrastructure company based in California. He is also the chairman of DataCard Group and ambassador-at-large for Benchmark Capital, a firm that funds technology companies. Tyabji’s long list of academic and industry honors includes being named as Distinguished Executive of the Year for excellence in strategic leadership in 2000 by the Academy of Management and the Silicon India lifetime achievement award for excellence in business and technology in 2000. He holds a BS and MS in electrical engineering and has an MBA in international business.

To introduce his topic to the faculty, students, and community members in attendance at the eighth Cozad Lecture, Tyabji offered the “essence of entrepreneurship.” For this visionary executive, the three tenets of work include freedom and self-direction, purpose and contribution, and recreation.

“Entrepreneurs are talented and highly energetic people,” said Tyabji explaining that they seek a practical answer to a fundamental question: How can I create work that I am passionate about and makes a contribution to society and, at the same time, create economic value? In other words, what defines the soul of an entrepreneur?

Tyabji provided that definition by citing Tracy Kidder's 1981 classic “The Soul of a New Machine,” which chronicled the development of a new microchip by a team of engineers. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book focused on the team members and their interactions and their interest in creating something new and different, something that was beneficial. “These people truly defined what it is to be an entrepreneur,” explained Tyabji.

“Then in the late 90s, I believe we lost our soul,” he said, discussing the period when investors had on “ethical blinders” that let them focus on profit rather than the needs of customers. “People were not interested in creating value or serving the customer. They were only interested in making money.” The capital markets were out of control.

The way to regain our soul, he said, requires asking ourselves if our work going to make a contribution that we are proud of and if our work leaves us with a sense purpose and meaning that goes beyond financial gain. We need to strive, he believes, for “unadulterated excellence.”

“To be a true entrepreneur, you have to believe you can change the perception of those around you,” he said. Having a sufficient impact for change requires getting involved and taking corrective action. “Sitting on the sidelines is not acceptable.”

2005 Cozad speaker.Tyabji listed the personal characteristics that he believes are found in leaders. They lead by example, take on the toughest problems themselves, have a driving sense of urgency, learn to accept failure, recognize limits, set priorities, and are tough but fair. Leadership, he said, is necessary for success and is an element of entreprenurship.

“Most of us underestimate ourselves. You have to prepare to take a risk,” he said. “You learn from failure and bounce back.”

The executive cited two sources of personal inspiration, people who had the courage to dream, to envision the impossible, and to put action into motion. The first was Martin Luther King Jr., who in the 1960s dreamed of societal changes that were, said Tyabji, “beyond imaging” at the time. The second was Cervantes' fictional character Don Quixote, who dreamed an impossible dream and whose personal conviction lead to action.

“In fact, to be a true entrepreneur, you have to believe,” Tyabji said. “You have to be an instrument of positive change. Because at the end of the day, life is not an spectator sport.”

The V. Dale Cozad Lecture in Entrepreneurship was established by the College of Business through the efforts of Peter and Kim Fox and endowed through the support of the family and friends of V. Dale Cozad. The lecture honors the memory of Dale Cozad and the hard work, dedication, and entrepreneurial spirit that led to his success.


--Maria Zamudio
October 2005

UIUC College of Business