An Appeal to Generous Hearts – Let’s Help a Fellow Entrepreneur in Need

have a heart

Coming back from lunch last Monday, I was surprised to see someone who has been a frequent attendee at JGL events. Let’s call him Mark (not his real name).

When I began talking to him in our conference room, tears began to well up in his eyes as he narrated his story. This wasn’t going to be another startup brainstorming.

His mom’s kidneys were failing, and she needed to undergo dialysis to properly filter her blood and survive. This would be something permanent – she would need to undergo dialysis three times a week.

Mark and his brother had been scrambling the past few weeks to keep up with the payments. They had resorted to selling appliances and personal belongings.

But now they had nothing else to sell, no loans left to apply to.

Mark was at the end of his rope. He told me that he was supremely embarrassed to ask for help, but that he would do anything for his mom. He was asking me if it were possible to do a short-term loan.

Having gone through almost losing my own mother to meningitis some years ago, and having personally known what financial desperation feels like, I gave Mark some money.

It won’t nearly be enough. Since his mom is confined in a hospital, the dialysis rates are much higher (P5000 a pop) than some other places.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though. Sometime late July, Mark’s HMO coverage would reset, and he would be able to get some needed financial assistance. From now until then though, they would need to pay P15,000 a week. Mark would need around P45000-P60,000 to bridge that gap.

Mark needs our help. With his permission, I am posting this to appeal to your generosity.

There are two ways you can help Mark out.

A) Send Money

Do send it to my account:

BPI Account name: Peter Paul V. Cauton

BPI account no: 3300 2024 53

(do email me a photo of the deposit slip so I can account for the amount properly)

You can also drop it off at the STORM office, Unit 602, Centerpoint Building, Garnet cor Julia Vargas Streets, Ortigas Center. You can look for either me or Angeli.

Any amount helps.

B) You can give Mark some opportunities to earn money on the side

Mark currently works for a BPO firm doing graveyard. He has some time during the day to work with you on some other stuff. Mark is an EXCELLENT communicator and works well with people. He’s entrepreneurial. He’s obviously pretty motivated. If you have something for him, then please send me an email at

I’ve always marveled at how incredibly generous and giving this community is.

Let’s step up to the plate and help someone in his hour of desperate need.

Do share this if you can.

6 Crucial Lessons From The Rise Of THE Startup Nation, Part 3 of 3

(This is the third of a 3-part post which talks about the tremendous lessons we can apply from closely looking at how the preeminent Startup Nation – Israel – attained tremendous economic success through the deliberate development of startups. Previous posts: part 1, part 2)

5) We Need To Just Ship It, Ship It Good


In 2006, in the height of the Lebanon War, missiles began to rain down on northern Israel. Understandably, the world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffet, was worried. The first company he ever bought outside the US – Iscar – had its plant and R&D labs in the north of the country and was a primary target. Eitan Wertheimer, the chairman of Iscar, called his boss and explained:

“Our sole concern was for the welfare of our people, since wrecked machines and shattered windows can be replaced. But I am not sure you understand our mindset. We’re going to carry on with half the workforce, but we will ensure that all the customers get their orders on time or even better.”

Afterwards, Wertheimer further reasoned:

“It took us a brief time to adjust, but we didn’t miss a single shipment. For our customers around the world, there was no war.”

Now, I don’t know about you – but that is amazing!

Sure, for some it might be carrying it a bit too far, but this best illustrates Israel’s commitment and mindset towards keeping its promises – especially to its global clientele.

Buffet, the Dumbledore of investments, obviously calculated this risk when he bought 80% of Iscar just 2 months before the bombing started. He knew the facilities could get destroyed in such an event – but he also knew that the value of Iscar lay far beyond the physical. More than anything, he was investing in Iscar’s people – their ingenuity and ability to keep promises. He was investing in their ability to ship.

Even in times of war.

In local news, I remember feeling quite shocked and scandalized during the recent Habagat episode when there were some BPO’s who were asking their employees to go to work despite the rains.

Looking at it from this perspective has forced me to at least reconsider that feeling a bit.

If we cannot keep our contractual promises, then how can we be trusted as a global partner? We just need to find ways to get it done.

People, if you have a startup, or are planning to put one up -remember this mantra: just ship. I can’t tell you how important this is for a burgeoning startup.

No excuses.

Just ship.

6) We Need To Adapt A Migrant Mentality

innovationIsrael is a nation of migrants. Foreign-born citizens of Israel currently account for over one-third of the nation’s population (think about that for a bit). Israel is now called home by more than seventy different nationalities.

Now why is this significant?

Simply put, a community of immigrants is almost always a community of entrepreneurs. A great number of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs are first or second generation migrants, living in a foreign land.


Israeli venture capitalist Erel Margalit explains in the book:

“A lot of it has to do with immigrant societies. In France, if you are from a very established family, and you work in an established pharmaceutical company, for example, and you have a big office and perks and a secretary and all that, would you get up and leave and risk everything to create something new? You wouldn’t. You’re too comfortable. But if you’re an immigrant in a new place, and you’re poor,” Margalit continued, “or you were once rich and your family was stripped of its wealth – then you have drive. You don’t see what you’ve got to lose; you see what you could win. That’s the attitude we have here – across the entire population.”

Now, obviously, we cannot artificially create an environment where suddenly migrants would come to Philippine shores by the millions to ignite entrepreneurship.

But knowing what the fruits are of the migrant paradigm, I can’t help but think – perhaps we can re-channel and use our own local context into a the type of desperation which breeds innovation. Perhaps we can draw from something else.

Our underdog mentality – the one we Filipinos seem to love so much? Instead of automatically thinking ourselves as inferior (which I write a bit about here), perhaps we can re-channel this into a chip on the shoulder which can fuel our drive to create something great.

Perhaps we can use the poverty our people are experiencing as added motivation to do a startup which can make a difference.

We need to feel that wall against our backs. True, circumstances dictate this. But attitude is also a key ingredient. We can DECIDE to feel a sense of urgency.

Bonus: We Need To Work For One Startup

flagAnd that of course, is our country.

In working with HR departments, I’ve come across a behavioral phrase that has been used a bit extensively in performance feedback forms of managers:

“Prioritizes the welfare of the company versus the welfare of his team.”

This is one thing the Israelis have learned to do.

It is certainly difficult. As a startup, it is very easy to adopt the mindset of “me versus the world.”

But perhaps the effort to incorporate a slight tweak can work wonders.

It’s us versus the world.

(Kindly share to those you think will find this useful!)

6 Crucial Lessons From The Rise Of THE Startup Nation, Part 2 of 3

(This is the second of a two-part post regarding the tremendous lessons we can apply from closely looking at how the preeminent Startup Nation developed. Part 1 can be found here.)

4. We Need To Have More Filipino Argonauts


In Greek mythology, the Argonauts  were sailors and adventurers who travelled with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece.

In her book The New Argonauts, AnnaLee Saxenian writes, “The New Argonauts are foreign-born, technically skilled entrepreneurs who travel back and forth between Silicon Valley and their home countries.”

This “argonaut” concept of people coming back and forth from centers of global innovation, like Silicon Valley is a key component of Israel’s development. In Startup Nation, the authors describe several Israeli “argonauts” who would gain knowledge and status in their international companies, but have always intended to return. And when they do, they would become catalysts for Israel’s technological and entrepreneurial development. The book says Israel owes much of its success in this “argonaut” model, not only from diaspora in the Valley, but from quite a number of other countries as well.

I think Winston Damarillo is the clearest example of this here in our country. He resides in the US West Coast, but you’d regularly see him in the startup circuit here in the Philippines. In doing so, he transfers a ton of technology and insight back to the country. I think this is crucial. We need more Winstons.

I wrote a bit about our own diaspora in this post, and I’d like to make the same call again here.

To all our Filipino brothers and sisters around the world who have found success in their respective fields and are in positions of influence and knowledge – come back. I think its high time to seriously think about doing something for the country.

One very very common thread I felt while reading Startup Nation was the extreme sense of nationalism and giving back that these Israelis felt. Even while studying abroad, even while working in their foreign firms and achieving much success – they always knew they would come back and build something.  (not all of them of course, but a significant number)’

I think this sense of nationalistic pride is found in so many of our countrymen abroad. Perhaps you have been biding your time. Perhaps you have been waiting for the right time.

I think now is the right time.

For the first time in my life, I now see a surge of foreigners going here. (hello, Matt) They are in startup events. They are looking for employment. They are looking to build here, and some have already built great startups here. (including multi-awarded Payroll Hero). It’s easy to see why.

The tables have turned. Asia is now the global growth area. The Philippines itself is in a state of incredible growth. It’s not only the “nationalism” carrot I’m dangling here, but amazingly, even the “practical” carrot.

You want to take advantage of this?

Come back.

Build something. At least look into it.

PS: I’m writing this series  a tad longer than expected. I might need to extend this to a series of 3-4 posts, instead of the original 2-part plan.

PSS: A special request of mine? Please share this, especially to Filipino diaspora you know around the globe. What’s to lose?

6 Crucial Lessons From The Rise Of THE Startup Nation, Part 1 of 3

So who’s the real Startup Nation?

Nope, it’s not who you think.

The country we are talking about received more venture capital per capita than any nation in the world – 2x as much as the United States. They have more companies listed in the NASDAQ than Korea, Japan, Singapore, China, India and all of Europe combined. They’ve done this despite their small populace (just 7 million people), having relatively little natural resources, and being in a perpetual state of war (it is surrounded by its enemies).

israelflagIt is Israel.

In their amazing book, Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer tells the story of how Israel has recently achieved tremendous economic growth through the development of startups.

As someone whose passion lies in the development of Filipino startups precisely for economic growth and poverty alleviation, the book simply enthralled me and made my imagination run wild.

The book talks about innovation, about “battlefield entrepreneurs”, about the importance of survival mentality, nationalism through enterprise, about the critical role of diaspora, and naturally, about chutzpah.

The book talks about how a powerfully entrepreneurial culture made all the difference in their transformation into Startup Nation.

We HAVE to emulate their example.

Here are some the most compelling arguments and ideas which crossed my mind while reading the book:

1) We have to destroy hierarchical thinking

Precisely because they are surrounded by enemies from all sides, Israel requires all young men and women mandatory service in the IDF – the Israeli Defense Forces. Now, you might be thinking “joining an army?! this is the absolute LAST thing you want to do to challenge hierarchical thinking!

But this is where it gets interesting.

The IDF employs a curious bottom-up culture where hierarchy is thrown out the door. Subordinates are actually encouraged to challenge their superiors. In fact, subordinates can oust superior officers through vote (!).

miss israel
Miss Israel 2009, IDF soldier

Consequently, from a very young age, Israelis are trained to challenge the status quo and assert themselves – in extremely high-pressure environments.

Is there a better way to train would-be entrepreneurs?

With the combined experience of University AND a 2-3 year, one-of-a-kind stint in IDF (which the book explains through a greatly-named chapter, Battlefield Entrepreneurs), the Israeli 25-year old would-be entrepreneur has no global peer.

So…how can we start changing our culture here?

Our schools, by and large, teach our children to follow rules and singular ways to solve problems (multiple choice, fact-based learning, etc). Our companies, by and large, teach our workers to follow very defined job descriptions and kowtow to the boss.

This needs to change. We have to find a way to reward risk-taking and encourage doing things different, especially with our younger generations.

(Note – this school thing really worries me. My 5-year old was recently accepted in a big university, and when we were given the official introduction of what happens in school – I really second guessed this decision. I think our schools still produce graduates built for the industrial age – and the industrial age is dying fast. 

Startup dreamers take note – the education system is just waiting to be disrupted – it is now starting in the US. Why not here?) 

2) We need to embrace and use technology, regardless of our “field”

I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs who say “technology isn’t for me,” and that’s that. I think a quick dismissal of using technology is huge mistake. Technology is precisely what has made this world flat. Technology is what leveled the playing field for any entrepreneur in any part of the world to compete on a global scale. Why not use it? It is precisely what can take us to the next level.

Technology can be applied to ANY field, with wondrous results.

A budding social entrepreneur can say “I just want to help the farmers, I don’t want to be involved with tech.” Guess what? Hi-tech in Israel started with agriculture. Without much land (and most of it infertile) and much water, Israel was able to turn itself into an agricultural force, increasing its agricultural yield a whopping 17 times!

How did they do this?


Are you a doctor who wants to build a startup? A musician? A publisher? An events organizer? A marine biologist?

Look hard at technology. Embrace it. It isn’t your enemy, and it can become your bestest friend.

How can technology allow you to do something different and new and innovative in my field?

(In Israel for example, you’ve got doctors working with engineers on a startup which aims to build a credit-card like device which aims on making the injection obsolete. The book lists so many of these “mashup” startups which combined expertise and technologies from different fields. Amazing.)

3) We Need More Venture Capital, Much More (and the government needs to get into the game)

The book is very very clear on the role of venture capital in Israel’s startup-powered economic transformation. They call it “Innovation Finance.”

I always try to encourage bootstrapping, and essentially, this was also how Israel started – with an awful lot of bootstrapped firms fighting for survival. But in order for us to scale our businesses on a global level? Venture capital is a crucial key.

fundingSeeing the strategic role venture capital had in its development, the Israeli government started a program called Yozma (Hebrew word for initiative) in the 1990’s. The government investment $100 million in forming ten venture capital funds. A key part of the strategy was to have each fund represented by 3 parties: a young Israeli venture capital company (in training), a foreign venture capital firm, and an Israeli investment company of bank. To attract foreign VC’s,  the Israeli government offered that its shares can be bought out cheaply after 5 years, if the fund was successful. This essentially meant that while the government shared the risk, it offered the investors all the reward – an unusually great deal.

The government did this not only to attract foreign capital, but to have the young Israeli VC;s learn about successfully managing venture capital from their successful foreign counterparts.

In a few years, this same fund has grown to around $3 Billion, all to support hundreds of Israeli startups and ventures. The Yozma program has resulted in copycat programs all over the world.

Is there any innovative Philippine politician, lawmaker, or national leader listening?

(and if you know anyone, please forward this to him or her)  

If there are, let me tell you personally, startups are the key. We Filipinos LOVE technology. We are naturally innovative. We speak great English, the startup language. We can build great, globally-relevant startups.

Over the past year, we’ve seen fund sources sprout up from the business sector, all aiming to help startups. This is great news and has to continue. We have also seen startup-related initiatives by DOST, and a few other government sectors, but you know what, I think we might just need MORE help.

Game-changing, Yozma-type help.

(Jump to Part 2 here!) 

PS: If you know anyone who would resonate with this post or to whom this post would be pretty useful for, do practice some yozma and share! Who knows what could happen if you do?

One Awesome, Blessed, and Unpredictable Year for Juan Great Leap!


When Pauline and I celebrate our wedding anniversary together, we usually find a fancy restaurant which satisfies one important criteria: it has to be conducive to talking.

Then we talk about the year that was. All the highlights. Good times and bad. What we thought God was saying to us. Afterwards,  satisfied with our summary, we talk about our hopes for the next year – and what we want to try to work on.

For this year, I was planning to have a big event to commemorate JGL’s first anniversary. However, due to circumstances (1-2 weeks being wiped out because of a nasty viral infection), I wasn’t able to plan it out properly.

I think it’s fitting though, that I get to celebrate JGL’s first year in a very simple fashion – through how it all started.

With a post.

So, like my annual commemoration with Pauline, let me just talk about the year that was, as well as my hopes for the future.

Matt was asking me the other day what made me write this blog in the first place. To me, it’s very clear.

I felt my whole entrepreneurial career was the result of intervention from God. I cannot and will not talk about my entrepreneurial career separately from the faith-process I underwent. There were more than a couple of very hairy moments, but by 2011, I just felt so freaking happy with my career! I was calculating that I would’ve made more money staying in corporate, but I just didn’t care. I was totally in love with being an entrepreneur and with what went with it. With this energy came two things: a) a humongous sense of thankfulness, and b) an unsatiable need to give something back.

At first, I wanted to write a book. That was taking a bit of time. So I said, “what the hey” and began this blog.

JGL started on November 29, 2011, with this post. I actually wrote that post early November, but I was afraid of posting it. Finally mustering the courage, I said to myself “what the hey,” and hit PUBLISH.

Then I just poured my heart out with post after post, hoping that at least I’d get to help even just a handful of people.

Then, something unexpected happened. I was expecting a few dozen hits in the first few days. Instead, there were a couple of hundred already. There were also a more than a few people I didn’t know who were reaching out directly asking for questions and advice. My heart was warmed. It turns out more than a handful of people were interested in JGL’s message. This strengthened my resolve to write more. To write better.

In three months, there was already a small community of folks interacting with me through the blog and through email. I figured, I NEEDED to meet them. I booked a small room in Astoria and opened up 40 slots. They were booked pretty fast. We held a pretty amazing event in Astoria, there was such energy in the room! I actually had to kick people out because it was getting late, so naturally, the conversations just continued along the corridors, and ultimately, into a very active Facebook Group.

This was also around the time that a reader, Glen, invited me to talk about startups over coffee. I was pretty busy, and my consulting background shrieked “you have charge for this,” but it was just out of the question. I met Glen, and we had a blast. Soon, I was meeting other people for coffee. This was the genesis of Startup Saturdays.

The energy of the event and these face-to-face meetings made me realize a lot of things. I had originally just planned to manage and write a blog – that was it. JGL was snowballing into something else though. I hadn’t bargained on giving up this much of my time and resources, and I had a ton of other stuff to do. But I realized this was something bigger than me.

I just had to give more.

By late August, we had our second event and attracted 200 people at the Ayala Technohub in QC.  Smaller events – geared more towards sharing and collaboration, were also being held (and wow, what energy is created when you bring in entrepreneurs into a room). I was also getting to meet a number of entrepreneurs, want-to-preneurs, and venture guys during startup Saturdays. There were startups being spawned by activity from the Facebook Group.

To scale, JGL needed to be managed more like a startup. I could no longer do everything on my own.

Naturally, I suddenly get this crazy email from someone from California who said he wanted to work for JGL so much that he was willing to take a big continental leap, face uncertainty, and swallow a paycut. It sounded familiar. I was crazy enough to give him a shot. This brings us to now.

I find it truly amazing that all this activity was the result of a reluctant post I published just 12 months ago.

thank you

Thank you so much for reading. It is any writer’s satisfaction to be read. Thank you for the time you take in reading these posts. Thank you for sharing them to more people.

Thank you for going to the events and participating. I know there are a million other places you could have gone during those times. You have blessed me with your presence.

Thank you so much for letting me hear about not only about your startups, but also your stories. Thank you for trusting me with them. It is a deep privilege for me to be able to listen.

For those in the Facebook Group, thank you for all the contributions and the activity! I keep telling everyone what a blessing that Group is. It’s become a startup founder’s resource and a quick market research tool. Fun people, too 🙂

For the JGL “core team” – Sherwin, Ryan, Orvin, Nicole, and Eric. Thank you so much for believing in the cause and your profound gift of working for free.  This is deeply, deeply appreciated. I hope to work more with you more this coming year!

For those who’ve started something as a result of some of the activity above, thank you for taking that leap. This means more to me than you will know. It’s ultimately what JGL is all about. And please, if you need any help, just holler.

Thank you, to the Maker of all things for making all this possible.


For next year, there is so much planned. More events. More events with investors. Going out into the countryside. Talks on specific topics. Podcasts. I could go on and on. But you know what?

If this past year is any indication, we’ll probably end up doing something really very different – and much better – than anything I’ve planned or thought of.

I might have started all this with a post, but it’s really YOU who has taken it to levels I never would have thought of. It’s you who have shaped it into more than just a collection of blogposts.

JGL isn’t mine, after all. It’s yours. Happy anniversary 🙂

So what do you think? Where should we take it? What is it for you? What have you appreciated? What else do you need? Hit the comments and share, knowing there’s a huge chance for us to incorporate whatever good idea you may have! 

World, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!

It’s been close to a year now that I wrote this post.

In it, I lamented at how poor the startup support was in our country. I compared our startup scene to that of our neighboring countries and complained.

Then, almost on cue, all the activity started.

The first Startup Weekend was launched and was followed by another in a few months. Major startup incubators sprouted: Ideaspace, Kickstart, and Wireless Wings. Startup meetups were being organized here and there. Social media became the megaphone fledgling startups used to broadcast their stories. Various startup-centric web magazines have been founded, just in the last couple of months.

Almost overnight, the amount of support available to startups and its owners increased exponentially.

There was NONE of this when I started. This is wonderful! We’re still a long way from where we want to be, but it’s a fantastic start. The energy is palpable! I’m SEEING more and more startups being formed as we speak.

After just 10 months, I’ve gone from complaining to commending. Go Pinoy startups!

Look out world, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!

PS: though I STILL think our schools could do a better job supporting potential entrepreneurs 

An Entrepreneur’s Thank-You List

I’m writing this as the final minutes of my birthday tick away. I’m trying to assess how I feel. On most birthdays, I feel sentimental, nostalgic, and often existential. Tonight though, I feel blessed that more than anything else, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I just feel compelled now to pump out this list of people I need to thank on my 37th year of existence. My own little public shout-out for the people who’ve meant so much to me. Hope its not too care-bear sappy! Here we go:

  • Mama, papa, thank you for your unconditional love and support. In having kids of my own, I’m now beginning to understand what sort of love and dedication you showered upon me. Thank you the struggles you went through in raising us siblings and in making ends meet. Thank you for raising me the way you did. Being entrepreneurs yourselves, I think it’s where I got the gene. You also gave me male pattern baldness. This helps in branding, somehow. Also helps me get remembered by village guards when I enter villages without the right stickers.
  • My brother Gian, thank you for your friendship and unwavering dedication to the family. You are one person I know I can count on unconditionally. Too bad our legendary NBA 2K battles are looking like a thing of the past – I know it’s there where you like learning about humility.
  • One very familiar topic you will find in this blog is on finding the right co-founders. What a huge favor from God that the timing was just right when Paolo said yes 7 years ago in forming STORM with me. Pao, thank you believing all these years. It’s amazing to think about what we’ve shared – crazy-bad hires, “dude, we need to put money in the bank again” moments, part-time/full-time dynamic, finding our faith, finding our wives, the thrill of landing massive deals (and losing them), body-weight fluctuations, and now five office movements! 7 years seems like a long time, but you know what? I really feel we’re just getting warmed up!
  • To the naysayers – thank you for helping motivate me (no really). It’s crazy that I remember all the lines in verbatim:

Why would he pick to do that if he has a stable job?

I wouldn’t invest in that idea. 

Companies would never decide to go for flexible benefits. 

  • To all the people who work with me in the companies I’m engaged in – it’s an honor to work for you and with you. Dino, Suzy, Yana, Gino, Paulo, Patrick, Eljane, Aimon, Bien, Lincong, John, Jhe, Kris – you have no idea how much I appreciate all the hard work and effort. Let’s kick some serious behind, eh?
  • To all people I’m incubating ideas and startups with – thank you for your passion, ideas, and creativity! More than anything, thank you for believing and trusting me.
  • To my Living Hope community – my friends, thank you for being family. Thank you for always inspiring me and being my safe place. Thank you for constantly guiding me towards the right perspective. You are my spiritual compass and support. Thank you for keeping me sane.
  • To my three children. One day soon you will be old enough to read this. Thank you for letting me feel a new, profound sense of joy I’ve never felt before. You hold my hopes and dreams.  I love you and will always be there for you.
  • To my wife Pauline – thank you for being my rock. Thank you for always standing by me, for being patient with me, and for bringing me closer to God. Thank you for holding my hand, crying with me, singing with me, watching our kids with me, and being with me. You are my best friend and my idol (except for physical activities, grocery shopping, and restaurant ordering),  my wife and my life. Thank you.
  • To my Almighty Father – I am unapologetically Yours. You have given me everything: all I can do, all I have, all I love. I can never thank you enough. Thank you for loving me so completely. May all I do be always in accordance to Your will.

An Open Letter to Philippine University Deans and Leaders

(My friend, please read through this. If you agree with its content and find it important, stop being passive – don’t hesitate and SPREAD where you feel is necessary. Post it on your Facebook account, Tweet it, comment on it – agreeing or disagreeing, email it to directly to University Leaders in your network, or print it out and send it to their office, then perhaps tell them what you think about it. Let’s not wait for other people to do it, nor think that “this isn’t my problem,” because in some way, it is  –  peter)

Dear University Deans, Leaders, and Administrators,

If a young, impressionable Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg were studying in your institution right now, would he be in an environment that would allow him to fulfill his potentials?

Leaders, there is an urgent need for you to help in spurring startup activity in the country

Let me explain.

Fueled by the internet economy and inspired by the likes of startups Google and Facebook, there has been a global upsurge in the formation and development of startups.

In fact, startup incubators have sprouted left and right. Incubators such as Techstars, Startup Weekend, and Y-combinator have created successful company after successful company. Young people, fresh grads – the best of the best – now see startups as a real, exciting alternative to the corporate grind. Startups are being formed at a rate unseen in human history. It’s already cliché to say “now is the best time to be an entrepreneur versus any other time in the history of the world.”

And it isn’t just happening in the US.

Google “India Startups” or “Indonesia Startups” or “Singapore Startups.” Exciting isn’t it? Lots of activity. Lots of firms.

Now, Google “Philippine Startups.”

As a country, we are missing out. Badly.

For the last 7 years I’ve been busy recruiting hundreds of young people, both as employees and/or partners to some of the startups I’ve been associated with.

I thought it would be easy for me to convince them to take a leap by offering good pay, equity, the chance to be the captain of their ships, and the chance to work on something meaningful.

It hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. Automatically, most young people would explain to me their perceived  singular path to success: a few years climbing the corporate ladder, then an MBA, hopefully abroad, then back to that ladder again.

And they toil away in corporations, working for just their paychecks, a good number devoid of any passion for what they do. Worse, they think it’s as good as it gets. They end up wasting talent – Filipino talent being highly lauded as some of the best in the world – doing cookie cutter work that is beneath them. There are a lot of these people.

This is a perception tragedy of the highest magnitude.

The world has become flat. There is no reason anymore why a few bright kids in your school can’t create the next Google, or Facebook, or (a huge global Indian startup).

There are a number of valiant entrepreneurs out there who are making a difference, like ProudCloud’s Jay Fajardo or Brain Gain’s Paco Sandejas, but they are few and far in-between. There needs to be a grassroots-level effort in spurring interest in startup development.

Leaders, this HAS to begin in our schools.

We have to ingrain in our students that creating startups is not only possible, but it is the highest form of work, because it involves creating a company around what they are passionate about. We all know what happens when we work on our passions – GREAT WORK happens. GREAT IDEAS ARE ENFLESHED and become real. Startup work is hard, yes, but it is also extremely fulfilling, liberating, and a big part of nation building. Startups spur economies.

It is already too late to target people when they graduate. Observe what your graduates do upon getting their diploma. They create cookie-cutter resumes and send them en masse, hoping to get calls from whoever firm  finds their resumes attractive. A good number of your graduates even go for the “first company to call,” blatantly ignoring their natural God-given inclinations and talent.

They only would need to look around a bit to see that some of the best startups in the world were founded by young, inexperienced people. In fact, these startups work precisely because they were founded by young, inexperienced people.

Why not young, inexperienced Filipino professionals? There is no reason. None. In fact, with the sheer talent and ingenuity of Filipinos, we should be natural startup founders. Sadly, most young people do not realize this. Most of them have never even heard of Filipino startups.

This is a serious problem you can do something about.

Leaders, you have to do your part in making them fall in love with this idea. It is in your hands. Convince them that they CAN go after what they love to do. They do not have to compromise. We have to target them on the undergraduate level because this where dreams are created. This is where they fall in love.

I do have some humble practical suggestions, which I hope you can consider:

1) Emphasize Technology Startups

This is where the world is headed. This is how our country can be recognized – if we create a great tech startup. Or two. Or three. This is where costs have fallen so dramatically that geography is almost negligible. We can compete.

When I talk annually to management graduates who go through business simulations, I always get disappointed because 99% of the ideas pursued would be retail. It is SO hard to get noticed in retail. So hard to go against P&G, URC, or Unilever. It also costs a ton of money to produce inventory. Huge risk. On the other hand, the original code used for Google and Facebook were essentially created with no cost of goods sold – by students. There is now even a science emerging behind creating web startups which you can include in your curriculum: The Lean Startup Methodology.

Next suggestion is related.

2) Multidisciplinary Projects

This is how I basically build startups: I get a business domain guy, a programmer, and sometimes a design guy together and sell all of them on an idea. Then I let them work.

Actually, this is how most startups are built – complementary pieces. During the last Startup Weekend in Fort, people were grouped exactly this way.

Why can’t we do this in the University? Get a computer science student, a management student, a psychology student, and a design student together – then ask them to build something. These people all end up working for corporations anyway – so it doesn’t make sense that only business students are required to participate in simulations.

Can you imagine a business simulation activity where your best tech people are coupled with your best business people and your best design people?  Isn’t this exciting? Wouldn’t they produce great ideas and great work?

Under this lens, it’s a bit easier to envision to imagine lasting startups coming from your incubator programs.

3) Hire entrepreneurs

At some point, there needs to be a limit as to getting corporate people to teach business classes. Get people whom you would normally NOT get: the misfits, the square pegs, the heretics. These are the best entrepreneurs. Give the misfit, the square-peg, and heretic students in your school a hero they can learn from and relate to. They will be the best entrepreneurs. Under no circumstances can you allow your part-time teachers from corporations brainwash them into thinking that the only way is the corporate way.

And, since these entrepreneurs are few and far in between, you may have to go after them, instead of waiting for them to come to you.

4) Give startups a chance in your job fairs

If you think about it, the whole system is stacked for the big corporations, who are the biggest advertisers, and therefore are treated like superstars during the whole senior recruitment process. You can do something about this. Hold a “startup day.” Invite Philippine startups to recruitment events and don’t charge them large fees. At the very least, you can level the playing field. The big corporations may complain, but you can chalk it up to “supporting the national movement for entrepreneurship.”

These are but some ways you can spur your student population to fall in love with startups and entrepreneurship. I am sure you have even better ideas which are brewing right now.

Bottom-line is, something needs to change. The status quo isn’t cutting it. We are being left behind.

Leaders, I have faith in your ability to really listen, make the needed changes, and commit. We need you to. The country needs you to.

That great potential entrepreneur studying in your school right now needs you to.