In one of his blogposts, Peter, refers to the concept of the Argonaut from the book, Start-up Nation.
What are your personal opinions on the contribution of the Argonaut to a Philippine Startup Nation?
Joey: I think the Philippine Startup scene is about 10 years away from being labeled as mature. A lot of my colleagues, maybe including Peter, might say that we’re on the cusp, about four years away from being a mature startup scene, I don’t think so. I actually don’t agree with some of the assumptions [Peter] is making on the Philippines as a Startup Nation and the impact that you can make on it.
For me, it’s almost like saying that the Philippines is a mature democracy, but how far are we from a being a mature democracy? Well, to fix the problem it’s not just a matter of a constitutional amendment or having honest government officials or organizationally trying to change things, I think it goes far beyond all that stuff. It gets down to the common tao, the man on the street. Same thing, when thinking about ourselves as part of a mature Startup Nation. The common man on the street does not think about business. He thinks,
How do I get mine?
Now, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but there are too many people in this country that aren’t able to fulfill what would be considered the basic luxuries of life. There aren’t too many people who are at a level, in which they can comfortably say,
I’m enjoying my life, and I have time to think about things other than trying to just make ends meet from one paycheck to the next.
As long as you have a society, in which majority of the people are trying to make ends meets, you won’t have the mentality to think about starting a business. Now, when I say business, I don’t mean a business, in which the guy is doing pasaloads or running a sari-sari store. I’m talking about a real business which will attract employees and grow into something substantial. But when was the last time you saw a locally made television show that featured this happening?
In comparison to the typical US sitcom, how often do you see the TV characters start a business? Just the other week I was watching The Office and one of the characters in The Office was going to join a startup. It’s a common thing there [in the U.S.], but I don’t see that in the mainstream media here [in the Philippines]. If anything, you see some big business man who is corrupt, greedy and oppressive to his employees doing anything to make a profit. I believe that’s the common man’s perception of a successful businessman. We have to change that first. It’s going to take a while…many years…
In your opinion, what is the key to development in the Philippines?
Joey: Changing people’s perception about entrepreneurship. In all the things we’re doing, what Peter’s doing, what I am going to do as part of our advocacy with the Software Industry Association, and TechnoNegosyo. All of these efforts when you get down to it is geared towards changing people’s perception. We want to show people that pursuing a career in entrepreneurship is viable.
Right now, what the masses understand are celebrities. The most popular figures in the country are celebrities or politicians.
But you talk to the common man about who the most popular business man is and they’ll probably say MVP or the Ayalas. If you ask them about a regular businessman, not part of a conglomerate or oligarchy, who started a business… you ask them who started Jolibee… they wouldn’t know. This is the type of rags to riches story that our culture doesn’t promote.
Will changing the perceptions of individuals change our country?
Yes, and it starts with your generation. It starts with the people who are in their 20s. It will take a whole bunch of successes and more people learning about what theses successes do to make this movement happen.