Dr. Sahin (SB 1963, PhD 1969) started Kenan Systems in 1982 with a $1,000 investment. The firm was merged into Lucent Technologies last year for $1.48 billion. Dr. Sahin, who donated $100 million to MIT in November 1999 for unrestricted use, is now group president of Lucent Technologies Software Products and vice president of software technology for Bell Labs.
His topic will be "Kenan Systems: Becoming a Billion Dollar Software Company and Managing its Future."
Dr. Sahin will be introduced by Howard Johnson, MIT president emeritus and former chair of the MIT Corporation, who once described Dr. Sahin this way: "I would say that he is the classic American success story. He was always interested in moving beyond what most people expected, even what most people imagined. His talents were matched by a kind of daring and tenacity that has led to remarkable success." Dr. Johnson served on Kenan Systems' board of directors.
Dr. Sahin will discuss the boom in entrepreneurship and reflect on the vision and mission of his own start-up. He will examine the stages through which an enterprise emerges and offer perspectives on issues confronted by business leaders. These include: how to develop a start-up; make it successful; build to the next growth step; and keep it going after the liquidity event by retaining knowledge and talent and shaping life, with due concern for continuity, growth and the strategic vision and mission.
He will share insights on handling contract negotiations with large customers and investors, and describe the skills required to manage the evolution from a family atmosphere where "everyone is doing everything" through growth transitions to specialization and departmentalization, while preserving the entrepreneurial character of the group. He will also discuss the lessons learned in the process of being acquired -- "what life is like afterward."
The live broadcast will be downlinked to forum chapters and MIT alumni/ae clubs across North America. The program will include an interactive discussion with attendees and satellite-downlinked participants. Admission is free for students, $15 for alumni/ae club members and $20 for non-members.
Previous speakers in the series have included Timothy Berners-Lee, John Landry, Robert Metcalfe, Michael Dertouzos, Edward Roberts, Dennis Costello, Robert Langer, Lita Nelsen, Alex d'Arbeloff, Ray Stata and Paul Brountas.
The MIT Enterprise Forum, a non-profit organization, has been helping entrepreneurs start and grow successful technology-based businesses for more than 20 years.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 4, 2000.