Filipino Migrants, Give Back By Backing a Pinoy Startup!

Over the last 2 months, I have had an inordinate amount of conversations with friends who have migrated to other countries, very typically to get their MBA’s and then ending up working there.

The conversation invariably turns into “what’s the best way to help?”

In one of these talks, I was with my ex-boss and good friend, Elmer Velasquez. We managed to find time to grab breakfast during his weeklong visit here. Elmer finished his MBA in Columbia and now works in the executive search industry in the US. In his spare time, he runs Global Acumen, a social enterprise with the objective of doing knowledge transfer BACK to the Philippines.

He gave me a memorable line:

We have to stop looking at it as brain drain and start looking at it as the development of offshore resources. 

The people who go are some of our best guys, right? Of the most capable people in your high school or college batch, what percentage left the country to pursue degrees and careers elsewhere?

You know what? I think a number of these people DO want to help out. Living in another country actually might spur even more felt patriotism in some people. Absence DOES make the heart fonder after all.

How can you help, you say?

What about supporting homegrown startup initiatives?

Okay, I might be biased, but I think this is THE best way to give back. We already know we’ve got an english-speaking, innovative, and tech-savvy workforce. We’ve got some of the best programmers, the best designers in the world. That’s a potential startup goldmine.

Perhaps you can help us in making Great Startup Leaps for Juan.

You want to invest in a startup? Lend your skills and expertise as a board member? Give meaningful advice? Well, we’ve got startups which need your help. Email me at or simply hit reply! Let’s talk about it. Endless possibilities!

Also, don’t forget to SHARE this post to someone you know wants to help out. Let’s kill apathy!

(Subscribe to the Juan Great Leap newsletter and get invited to the super-engrossing private JGL-FB group!)

Get up and DESTROY those blinders!

My whole entrepreneur life has been a series of episodes where my eyes were opened to a greater reality.

I can still remember when STORM collected its first payment back in 2005. My partner Pao and I gave a gaming company 2-weeks of access to our new online survey software for P5000. (which was completely, idiotically underpriced!)

But I remember the feeling.

“Someone paid us money for a product we made! OMG!”

After years in corporate, and knowing the salary as the only means of getting cash, it was quite the eye-opener.

It was like the very moment we got to know how to swim. At first, were scared of the water, right? We needed to hang on to the edge. At one point though, we just trusted and we let go. Then came a startling realization – that the water isn’t the enemy, after all. And then afterwards, all we wanted to do was swim around and around, explore, and test our limits.

After getting our feet wet with P5000, we wanted to do so much more.

In 2006, I remember when I had to kick STORM out of my condo because I just got married, and well, it would have been awkward if the living room was still going to be full of computers and employees.

So Pao and I rented out a small place for STORM – no more than the size of a conference room – at San Antonio Village in Pasig. We then we got ourselves our first set of “real” office furniture. I remember when we were first putting the furniture in the office. Pao and I couldn’t get rid of the smiles on our faces, even if we were shelling out major moolah and now had to pay rent. We had an office! In our minds, a foundation had been built – STORM could stand on its own.

Another moment when some of my blinders came off was in 2007 when STORM landed a big account in competition with two large multinational player. It further opened my eyes that a startup can be much more than a mom and pop, if you choose to do so.

Whenever I would have blinder-dissolving moments like these, I would have trouble sleeping (my friends would know this) because my mind would be on overdrive. I would be imagining the endless possibilities in a new reality – one where previous horizons have been pushed back.

My big fulltime leap in 2008 scratched a huge blinder – that I needed to work in a corporation to survive. It was liberating, in all sense of the word.

I think I grew addicted to the process, so now I SEEK opportunities where I can disentangle myself from even more blinders. 2008 was when I started reading startup and entrepreneurial books like crazy. Actually, I find that a good book – fiction or otherwise – will always result in blinders crashing down. Same goes to meeting new people. Or new experiences. Even failure.

Then I started realizing something – that there are indeed, no limits. The only limits would come from the limits we impose on ourselves, either consciously or unconsciously.

Remove those blinders. You can be all you want to be.

Thoughts on the 4-Hour Workweek

I bought Tim Ferriss’s book years ago because the title reeled me in. (it was also a bestseller and I’m a sucker for bestsellers – amazingly, it’s still topping the charts up to now)

Really? 4 Hours of work? Sign me up now!

It’s a quick read which can be summarized in the acronym DEAL.

Basically, it says:

D – Definition (find out what you really want)

E – Elimination (applying the 80-20 Pareto principle on work hours, Tim concludes that you get 80% of the benefits through just 20% of what you actually do – so the solution? Find out what the useless 80% is comprised of and eliminate them)

A – Automation (building sustainable, automatic income using stuff like Google Adwords, automation, etc… and then using outsourced virtual assistants to free yourself from the day-to-day minutiae)

L – Liberation (the endgoal. this means you’ve freed yourself from the confines of set geography and time using E & A successfully)

Throughout the book, Tim talks about his fascinating travels and adventures (even becoming a kickboxing champ by thinking out of the box and bending rules). After reading the book, I remember feeling energized and telling myself, “I want to do that! I want to go around the world and just spend 4 hours on my job!”

After five years and one great entrepreneurial leap, I find myself saying, “No, I don’t want to do that anymore.”

I think the underlying assumption of the book is that you WANT to escape. That actual work is something demeaning – you have to escape it and minimize it as much as you can. Then you can go off and live out your adventure.

But what if I told you work CAN be your adventure? Would you still want to escape from it?

I remember reading in a Seth Godin book about this incident where he was in a resort on some island, and he got his laptop out and began to work on some stuff. He said some people were looking at him with faces saying, “Look at that poor guy, he can’t escape from his work.” Then Seth said something like, “You don’t understand, unlike you, I don’t have anything to escape from, I love what I’m doing!”

I think we ALL need something to work on, more specifically, something to BUILD. The problem isn’t work per se, but the type of work we are choosing (yes, choosing – no one’s forcing you to work on that zombie job) to do. Majority of us are just miscast. Find something you love. Find something you’d choose to do in a resort. (and yes, now, more than ever, working on a passion IS a practical choice)

Yes, it’s good to dream of going around the world, but let’s separate the desire to travel with the desire to escape.

Funny thing is, if you would look at Tim’s accomplishments now, you’d see he’s published multiple bestselling books, is an avid angel investor, and promotes his personal brand through different media.

I’d bet he’s having the time of his life working much, much more than 4 hours a week.

Scaling Your Caring: How You Can and Why You Need to

A few weeks ago, my wife posted “what’s a good ramen place?” on her Facebook account. We love ramen and wanted to find out if anything new was out there.

She was besieged with a score of answers. She got the usual suspects – like Ramen Bar and Ajisen Ramen.  Then we noticed an answer which was met with near-universal approval from her friends – Tamagoya Noodle House. Apparently, it was a small, obscure ramen place in Antipolo which gets crowded fast.

Best value-for-money ramen experience ever!

(How can we say no to that?! Resistance = futile)

And you know what? We went and just loved it. We’re now frequent customers.

More than ever, we have been consulting Google less and less and our friends on our social networks more and more. We are now doing social searches. Social media has transformed everything. Armed with networked mobile phones with high resolution cameras, experiences can be shared automatically and spread out like wildfire across multiple social networks. (this is a large reason why being an entrep now is so enticing – we do a good job and people spread it around)

I can attest to this in a very personal way. STORM has never had a marketing executive. How do we get leads? Word of mouth. These last two years have been record-breaking for STORM. Why? Social media-powered word of mouth.

On the other end of the spectrum, most brands are now on the social networks as well. Did you just have a sucky customer service experience? You can now post them on brand pages and broadcast it to the world. You can write an open letter to the President and post on Facebook. If it was an especially nasty experience, it WILL get spread and force a company to react.

The power has come back all the way to the consumer. Every person is now a powerful voice.

In this 2.0 era, there is now NO CHOICE but to treat every customer like royalty. We have no choice but to deliver truly authentic customer experiences. We cannot put parrots on our customer service teams anymore. We have to deliver on every promise and empower frontliners to truly HELP, not merely to placate. Just check this out for an example of how NOT to do things. How to properly do things? Check Zappos out. They are amazing.

I have a million customers! How can I help every single one?

Social media plus hustling. Answer every inquiry like a human being. You know, when I think of it, when I call to complain about a service, I usually just want to be heard and have the assurance someone is actively helping me out. What I hate most? Scripts.

(Oh, and if you have a million customers you can afford to hire a good team to take care of customer service.)

If we make mistakes, we have to live with the fact that they will be public – but we can show the world we can rise to the challenge of getting better (and the world WILL love you for it – they can relate).

Guess what? This forces us to be better firms. Forces us to create better products and services. Forces us to step up.

Big Brother is there not merely for the Carabuenas of this world, but customer experiences as well.

But defending our brand is just the tip of the iceberg!

Stop for a second and imagine…you can talk directly to ALL your customers!

That is an amazing thought. Think of the dialogue you could create. Brand loyalty. Are you the CEO of a startup? Think of what your consumers would feel like if you made friends with some of them over social media. Think of the free market research you can do. Think of the cross product marketing you can achieve.

It’s a brave new world just dripping with opportunity.

Social Enterprise Updates, Startup Saturdays, and August 29 Keynote Clips

It’s been an awfully busy last few days for Juan Great Leap. I just want to loop you in with some important updates:

1. Cowboy Social Enterprise Planning

Last August 25, twelve Juan Great Leap readers took part in a “Cowboy” Social Enterprise Advocacy Planning held at the fourth floor of Amber Place in Pasig. The office was still being renovated, so the group went cowboy and just sat on the floor. Amazingly, almost everyone brought food to share with the group.

It was a very fruitful planning session. The group obviously shared the same passion as far as trying to make a positive difference for the country and its development. The prevalent theme was “starting small and thinking big.”

Ultimately, it was decided that an event be planned sometime November which will shed more light into social entrepreneurship and hopefully spur more people to explore founding one.

Do you want to help out? Please just email me at so I can invite you to the current online discussions being done.

2. Startup Saturdays Slots

I usually talk to 2-3 entrepreneurs / would be entrepreneurs every Saturday morning, at the Starbucks in SM Masinag in Antipolo around 10am. The next open slots are for Sept 8 (1 slot free) and Sept 22 (3 slots still free).  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the chance to meet and share ideas with so many good people. Suffice it to say, this is free. If you want to reserve a slot, just send me an email at

3. August 29 Keynote Clips

I spent the weekend editing the footage of the August 29 event. Found below is an abridged version of the keynote address divided into 5 videos. Apologies as the audio isn’t so clear. I’ll be sharing the keynote address, but I won’t be sharing footage from the great panel discussion we had – I do want to create a clear advantage for people who go directly to the events.

Here they are: (ADDENDUM: If you’re watching ONE video, choose the third one – Peter)

Opening Prayer, Starting Out, and the Birth of Juan Great Leap

Money and Meaning Do Not Have To Be Mutually Exclusive Anymore

The Practical and Philosophical Reasons Why You HAVE To Start With A Passion

The Modified Three Circles and How We Can Easily Build Rovios

If You Aren’t a Samurai, You’re A Rice-Picker

Juan Great Time on August 29!

Reminiscent of August 8, it was once again raining hard, traffic was bad, and some people were missing that crucial u-turn along commonwealth leading to the Technohub, but that did not stop around 200 people from turning the Ayala-sponsored Juan Great Leap Startup Event into a rousing success.

Thank you.

Thank you so much to the Ayala-TBI team and Globe for sponsoring the event. Michi, Tina, Carl, and Rhea were amazing to work with on the ground. Special thanks to Carl for making the 200+ nametags by hand. 

Thank you to the amazing, amazing panelists. Howard Go, Denton Chua, and Glenn Santos were everything you wanted in a panel: differing opinions, thought-provoking answers, and excellent delivery. Special thanks to Denton (and his wife Anne) for celebrating his birthday with us, Juan Great Leap – style!

Thank you to all 200 people – and now I feel I know most of you  – for gracing the event.

As to what happened, let me post here recent blogposts from people who attended:

Ryan Salvanera’s blog 

Rachel Davis’s blog

Also Twitter reactions here.

Personally, I had such a blast! I actually had trouble sleeping last night because of the resulting adrenaline rush. It’s such a thrill for me to meet and hear the stories of different people. Thank you for trusting me with your stories. It was great seeing people from the first Juan Great Meet and how some of them have progressed with their startups (let’s go Katipunan Craft Beer!) It was also a thrill seeing some people I’ve met in Startup Saturdays in the room.

I was overwhelmed with the response, and I’m even more inspired to reach out and help more people.

Thank you for this honor and privilege.

Now, let’s strive to take even more leaps for Juan! Seeya in the next event!

August 29 Juan Great Leap Startup Event Is Just Around The Corner

Just a quick reminder! The August 29 event, Ayala Foundation Presents: Juan Great Leap, Transforming Your Idea Into Startup Success is definitely pushing through next Wednesday, August 29, 630 pm at the Ayala TBI Offices at the UP-Ayala Technohub in Diliman, QC.

Again, two quick reminders for those who are got reservations! Nametags (by tonight) and taking that tricky service road as you u-turn along near Iglesia ni Kristo/Tandang Sora. Do try to leave your offices as soon as you can so we can start on the designated time.

Super excited to meet all of you on Wednesday!

Can We Call Them “Finish-Ups” Instead?

At this time last year, I was looking around our Southeast Asian neighbors with startup-scene envy. Why wasn’t our startup scene as vibrant?

What a difference a year makes.

In just one year, we’ve seen a couple of Startup Weekends, the rise of Twitmusic, the launch of Kickstart and Ideaspace, a booming economy, Streetfood Tycoon, co-lab amenities – all of which were made more all the more prominent by a rabid social media environment fueled by internet-savvy Pinoys.

I think everyone will agree though – this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I am excited at the thought. Giddy, even. We have so much potential as a people, and I really, really think startups will ultimately be how we can lift this nation up.

Hence kindly allow me this sobering reminder, then:

Startups require an incredible amount effort and perseverance to pull off.    

With the increased number of people trying to start up, I also see a number of people taking this for granted, acting as if it can be done with minimal effort, minimum quality, and very often, minimal research.

Perhaps the term “startup” has something to do with it.

After all, it’s relatively easy just to start a “startup.” As the cliché goes, though: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s how you finish which will be crucial, where the wheat is separated from the chaff.

You know, we have a chance to do some amazing things. If there is any time in the history of the world, we have got to go for it now.

But like everything in life, there is a price, right? We KNOW that already. For us to mean it when we say stuff like “let’s put the Philippines on the map,” we need to bleed for it.

You want to fulfill your dreams? Startups are ANYTHING but a shortcut.

You want to take a leap and start? There’ll be an awful amount of bumps and bruises along the way.

Over 92% of startups fail. (very interesting link) If you don’t do the hustling necessary to finish, 8% becomes zero. You’d have NO chance. None. Zip.

So…c’mon everyone!

Let’s own up to the challenge. Let’s pay the price. Let’s refuse to build pwede na firms, but rather invest in the effort necessary to build great firms. Let’s put the Philippines on the map by giving her our all.

She deserves it, after all.

BizKitchen Launches Its Newest Startup: Mobile Academy!

BizKitchen is proud to launch its newest firm: Mobile Academy!

Founders Macky Cruz, Howard Go, myself, and my STORM co-conspirator Paolo dela Fuente built Mobile Academy with one thing in mind: to give creative-minded and ambitious people tools in building the next great mobile app.

We see no absolutely no reason why the next Angry Birds or Instagram couldn’t come from the Philippines!

I want to take you a bit through how this company was made, in the hope of somehow providing some insight.

The need: We saw a pretty clear need in the market: there was a dearth of good mobile developers, in particular iOS developers. Not surprisingly, there was also a dearth of iOS training providers.

Idea Development: The need was clear, but we wanted to be something much more than a run-of-the-mill training provider. First, we decided we wanted to get the absolute best faculty we could have. The best of the best. Ultimately, this was going to be the difference maker, so we needed to roll our sleeves and recruit like the Pied Piper. Second, we noted a number of modern learning theories we wanted to incorporate in the curriculum. In particular, we wanted to incorporate theories centering on learning by doing and learning through community. Third, we wanted to help not only the programmer, but the non-programmer as well.

Idea Refinement: Our recruitment efforts were rewarded. We ended up with 6 great, great iOS faculty members with varied backgrounds: startup owners of successful mobile development firms, a couple of CTO’s of larger companies, successful indie app creators. Most importantly, these guys can teach. We were calling them “iOS Avengers” at one point. What a blessing.

Working closely with the iOS Avengers, we developed the curriculum carefully. Designed with lesser lectures and much more exercises, the curriculum slowly took form. We incorporated a “demo day” at the end of the course, where participants would get to present their “app-thesis.” We incorporated a mentorship program. It took awhile with very passionate founders and faculty, but soon, we had a rough curriculum – our minimum viable product.

Idea Testing: Would the curriculum work? Woud the non-programmers mix well with the programmers? How many days would it REALLY take to deliver the material? One way to find out. We released our MVP to a limited number of people. We spread the word with some of our friends in the mobile development industry – we were going to do a pilot! In just a couple of days, we filled the 12 slots with participants. Our Batch Zero. Starting July, we held classes every Saturday in STORM’s conference room. We were very conscious of surveying the each participant at the end of every session.

Funding: At first, we went around trying to raise money from different sources. If you could imagine, fixing up a nice-looking Apple training facility would require a significant sum. However, investors wanted a grand portion of the equity, and as entrepreneurs, we just couldn’t agree to the terms being handed out. So we did some creative financial planning and got the number down to a more palatable amount. Then the founders just plopped the sum.  Mobile Academy is a totally bootstrapped startup.

Iteration: We tweaked and iterated the curriculum after gathering data from every session. We are still tweaking and iterating the curriculum. We will always tweak and iterate for the better. It has come to a point though where we feel quite comfortable with what we have for a soft launch.

Like all startups, Mobile Academy will need a lot of care, time, and feedback. I’d appreciate any help and/or feedback regarding this new baby. Just email me at if you got some. Also, if you like the concept and think its a good idea, please do give us your support by liking MA on Facebook  and following us on Twitter.

Thank you so much.

So…Are you interested in making the next great mobile app? Whether you are an experienced programmer or a total newbie, Mobile Academy is the game-changer for your career! Apply now!  Classes will start on September!

You HAVE To Get On The Internets

Jump in!

I’ve always worked in the technology sector. My first startup was a technology startup.

Ironically though, it was only last November that I started blogging on WordPress. It was only a few months ago that I got into Twitter. It was only this year that I became pretty active in Facebook. I’m now dabbling with MailChimp, thinking about Path, and waiting for the iPhone 5 to get into Instagram and Pinterest, as my Blackberry camera just sucks.

I’ve always read at how powerful social media was. I’ve always agreed. But I never truly understood. Til now.

If you are on the fence on going all out with social media. I hope this post pushes you to one side: dive in!

The only regret I’ve had with going all out in social media is not diving sooner.

What dawned on me was how it wasn’t about the technology. It was really, always, always about connecting with people. After a few months of hammering out posts, I was amazed by some of the people whom I ended up connecting with: people all over the world, long lost friends whose work was aligned with mine, executives of big firms, startup founders of all ages and backgrounds.

Social media has democratized networking, and it is amazing!

The other great thing I found out? Despite all the Carabuenas and Sottos which occupy the headlines, the world is filled with GOOD people. People who want to help. People who go an extra mile to thank me for a post. Sincere people. Brilliant people. Some of whom I work with now on some truly exciting projects.

Best thing about it? It’s all freaking free! (well, a couple of dollars for my WordPress account)

Got a startup? Get into social media immediately and craft a strategy. This is one thing that STORM has GOT to improve on (but Stream Engine has done pretty well) Whatever the problem is: recruitment, customer service, product development, seeing how people think about an idea, marketing, sales – social media ALWAYS can be used to great effect.

Corporate lifer? Get into social media immediately. Think about it. What’s the first thing people do when they get your resume? They Google you. They look at ALL your social media accounts. If for example, you were in sales and you have a blog where you passionately talk about your craft. You also use social media in your selling. All things being equal, wouldn’t these factors give you a leg up over the competition? Your resume is found not only in Linkedin: nowadays your entire social media presence IS your resume. 

So let your voice be heard and dive in.

Besides, check this article out.