This past Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, I sat down with Peter to experience Startup Saturdays first-hand. Initially, my initial vision for the interview was to ask as many thought-provoking questions as I could to get the insider’s scoop on the person behind Juan Great Leap. I sought to reveal a different side of Peter that showcased him as not just the inspiring founder behind Juan Great Leap, but also as an ordinary fellow.
However, as I was playing back the interview and transcribing his words something really clicked (it sometimes takes me a while to process things), I realized that Peter isn’t ordinary, and that we already know him. He’s already poured out his heart and soul to those that follow Juan Great Leap, and it shows in his honest and compelling answers.
Peter is many things: an entrepreneur, boss, teacher, mentor, husband, father, friend. This interview didn’t reveal any “different” side to Peter. It was simply inspiring. This is the Founder of Juan Great Leap, Peter Paul Cauton.
Juan Great Leap is known for the coffee talks you have with entrepreneurs on Startup Saturdays. What are the most interesting observations from your talks with entrepreneurs?
Peter: Well, there are several things. First, no two entrepreneurs are alike. Each entrepreneur has a compelling a story, with an emphasis on the word compelling. It’s not just that each person has a story, but every entrepreneur’s journey is a compelling one because there’s always a leap that’s involved.
When I get to talk to people, I always make it a point to ask them,
“How did you end up doing this?”
And there’s always a very real story behind it.
Secondly, and this is related to the first, I’ve experienced people really opening up about their stories, and you see how personal it becomes. It’s not just a job. There’s something of themselves that they pour into their venture. It’s a reflection of who they are as a real person and what they’re going through in life. For example, I met with someone who came to me about a problem he’s been having with his dad about inheriting the family business. It was a problem that’s always hung over his head and has been bogging him down in doing things.
Or a person who’s completely torn between his passions and what’s practical – which might sound pretty common. But this time, I get to hear what his wife is like, and see a picture of his son. I get to hear what his startup idea is. I get to feel his passion directly. Suddenly, his story is completely personal, unique, and I daresay, beautiful.
What is your opinion on taking the leap based on passion?
Peter: When you’re passionate about something everything else follows much easier. For example, if you have a hobby…let’s say you love following the NBA, you spend time on it, research about it, you know the players…it’s not work for you. You actually create competence from the sheer time and devotion you pour into it. In a sense, you get to learn the business side of it- the intricacies and details- because you spend more time on it…because you love it and it’s not work for you. If you’re passionate about the business and you’re pouring your heart into it, everything flows much faster.
Passion begets time, which begets competence. Without passion, it’s drudgery.
A few months back you met with a group about social enterprise. What interests you most about social enterprise?
Peter: A few weeks ago we were driving along Katipunan we saw a poor family literally living on the island in the middle of the road. Joaquin, my five-year old son, said,
“Dada, they’re having a picnic!”
When you’re exposed to seeing that and you really feel the gap between what you have and what they don’t, you can’t help but feel like something has to be done.
I see a very clear role between entrepreneurship and nation building and poverty alleviation.
When I talk to entrepreneurs, like earlier with Rex, even if it’s a more technical talk, I see a very clear link between entrepreneurship and the development of the country. Social or not, I think all entrepreneurs are crucial to building this country. If we can get more of our people – our very gifted people – to take those leaps and build great startups, we could dramatically improve the economy and make a positive impact on lives.
What are some of your favorite things about JGL?
Peter: Definitely the diversity. I get to meet and hear the stories of people I wouldn’t otherwise have bumped into working in my other startups. In the community, you have people like Raquel who is doing a startup focused on teaching. You have people who want to do tech and you who have those who are setting up service-based startups like a yaya academy.
How do you see Juan Great Leap as a Filipino Startup Movement?
Peter: There is a ton of value in letting people know about the tools and resources about doing a great startup. More than that though, I’d like to think that in JGL, there are heavy doses of passion and a certain spirituality mixed in. I’d like to think you can feel this a bit going through some of the posts in the blog. I want to help people find their mojo and place, and usually, finding one means finding the other. The usual result is that you get create something beautiful. Something that’s yours, too.
So it’s not only the technical part, the tools, but also the spirit of starting something that you love and the journey to make a living out of it.
What are you most excited about for 2013?
Peter: Lahat. Meeting more people. Getting to hear more ideas. Helping people out. Doing bigger and more events that touch more people. Setting up some sort of a school because I love teaching. Trying to bridge and connect people.
I love it when I see startups get the right mix of people with the right idea. It’s extremely fulfilling.
What are your top 5 books?
Peter: Very tough question.
1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling- this book got me into reading. Prior to reading Harry Potter, I didn’t read many books. Instead of appreciating books in school, the system of teaching made me hate reading. Rowling started my love affair with reading.
2. Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki- the first “business” book I bought. The book is very irreverent, unlike the business books I read in the past, which were pretty dry and scientific.
3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries -
4. Tribes by Seth Godin - Actually, any Godin book post All Marketers Are Liars. I’m a fanboy, and it’s not just the hair style.
5. Bible- It’s a cliché, but I read this book the most, this is the book I often go back to.
If you had the choice to live in the life of any NBA player, who would it be and why?
Steve Nash because I like the assist. He scores, too, but helps other people on and off the court. This is different from my current favorite player, Kobe.
What inspires you to take the leap everyday?
My own leap was such a profound experience for me. It changed me. I learned not to rely on myself too much. I’ve learned that the best way to make decisions is to truly discern – asking God what He wants for you.
I’m 100% sure that if it were just based on my own desire, I would still be in corporate. I allowed God to lead me to the decisions that have brought me to this place in my life and really, there is no place else I’d rather be.