To Dream is Human, After All

Most of us have two lives, the one we live and the unlived life within us. — Steven Pressfield I had the skeleton ready for a more technical post on startup growth. I was going to spend some time this weekend giving it more flesh. Then I saw La La Land late Saturday night. It’s THE perfect movie for dreamers, entrepreneurs, and heck, any professional. It’s a story about your fidelity to your calling, about how we need to nourish our dreams, and the fragility of it all. Yes, there is a romance between the lead characters, but I think the more important romance to consider in the movie is the romance between the lead characters and their own individual dreams. The movie struck … [Read more...]

The Unlikely Journey of Our Newly-Minted COO

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We’ve all been through those moments in life when everything seems to be falling apart. That was where Kellda was when I first met her two years ago. You wouldn’t know it through my interview process with her. A former Unilever achiever and fastfood startup founder, she was introduced by a mutual entrepreneur friend. She was in-between jobs. Kellda dazzled us in the recruitment process with her intelligence, strong will and demeanor. Even if she had no prior exposure to tech, she was obviously eager to learn more about our industry. I wanted to woo her into joining our company as one of our product heads. Soon, I gave her an offer. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. She had bigger brands … [Read more...]

From Startup to Scale in 3 Escalating Leaps

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Years ago when I graduated, I had no special commendations. My grades were slightly above-average. Flunked one or two, if I remember right. I have no MBA. No special connections. I was raised in a middle-income family, where I contributed a portion of my earnings as a breadwinner along with my brother. I never got the chance to work abroad. I started my professional career out as a high school English teacher, and then entered corporate life as an HR Officer. I remember slowly going up the corporate ladder. The frustration of it. The ups and downs. The multiple crises, quarter-life and otherwise. You know. I remember refusing to have my dreams slowly snuffed out by reality though. I … [Read more...]

What Happened When We Killed Timekeeping and Attendance

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One of the great perks of being an entrepreneur is having complete control over time. From the time we founded STORM, Pao and I have always worked with a completely flexible schedule. Actual sms messages: Dude, coffee shop muna ako this morning. or Had a late night, will work from home today or Won't be in the office this afternoon We never had to be worried that the other person is slacking off. We'll even tell one another if we need a break to slack off. This is because we trust one another. In the end, I know Pao cares about the firm and will work his tail off for its objectives. I know that goes both ways. This never became a rule for our employees though. We followed a … [Read more...]

The LEGO Theory of Job Fulfillment

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  Who doesn't love Lego? When I was a kid, Lego was my ultimate, favorite toy. After I would unbox a set, I would first try to build it as designed. But this wasn't the fun part yet! This is sort of the boring requirement. After some time, these new pieces would gradually fall into my BIG PAIL of Lego blocks. Playtime commenced when I would pour the pieces on the floor - one big mess. Then, I would just...create. Cars, knights on steeds, robots with several points of articulation, you name it, I built it. Fun! Decades after, Lego is bigger than ever. People buy the stuff in droves (even if it hurts the pocket) - fuelled especially by licensing everything cool. (Marvel … [Read more...]

What Is Your Fearlessness Quotient?

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At work, when we talk about hiring (which we talk about A LOT nowadays), I usually tell my co-managers that I am very interested in hiring "entrepreneurial-minded" people. Then I'd get often asked: What does that mean? That's a question I've been mulling about for ages. What exactly is it? How do you evaluate if someone has it? How do you know if someone has the potential to have it? There are so many theories on what entrepreneurship is. Here's one of mine. I think, when you distill it, when you boil entrepreneurship down to its basest levels, entrepreneurship is all about fearlessness. Entrepreneurs just conquer fear. Innovation, a word long synonymous with … [Read more...]

Big Picture? No, Look at the BIGGER Picture

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These past few months have been crazy in STORM. We started the 2014 with about 16 employees. We're ending the year with around 50 employees and 60 more job openings. After 5-6 years hovering at around 10-15 employees, we're now scaling at an unprecedented level. It's been all sorts of crazy, but its been fun. It's a riveting challenge to see just how far we can push this. This sudden shift in scale started when we realized two years ago that, "Hey, we can be more than a niche player in the industry - we could help EVERYONE out with flexible benefits." We widened the aperture. Stepping Back for a Wider View Every once in awhile I would talk to an entrepreneur about ideas or … [Read more...]

5 Reasons Why You Should Quit Your Job Now and Work for a Startup (With Traction)

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So, you want to put up a startup. You want to take the leap. But it's sooooo hard to let go of the cushy job you've spent numerous years cultivating... You worry about the sudden disruption of that bi-monthly cashflow you're now so accustomed to and built your life around. So what now? Here's a solution - work for a startup. But don't just work for ANY startup - work for a startup with traction. What's traction? I like Naval Ravikant's (Angelist founder) efficient definition of traction: "Quantitative evidence of market demand." A startup has traction when it has increasing numbers - revenue, users, profitability, engagement, traffic, etc... These are evident signs … [Read more...]

Thursdays Unplugged Postscript (July 31 Edition)

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  See that bottle of Pepsi in the picture? I started this Thursdays Unplugged session by accidentally dropping the closed bottle, and then proceeding to absent-mindedly open it. The result was an explosion of cola and pride, mostly on my shirt (which, incredibly, looks the same in the picture). It was all uphill from there though! With the third participant calling that he couldn't make it the last minute, this became a 3-person session. Of course, I loved the result, as Jode, Gerome, and I not only got into the technicalities of the their startup ideas, but more importantly, we got to talk about their journey, and the softer parts of the startup life. The thing I love … [Read more...]

Risk Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

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The older we get, the more permanent our decisions become. In high school, the biggest decision we made was probably what school to take (a lot of people I know didn't have a choice in this matter as well), or perhaps what course to take. We could then easily shift courses. A lot of people I know even shifted schools. We also choose who to hang out with. This can change easily as well. Then one day, we graduate from college. Then we have to face the next big decision in our lives - what job to take. Not quite happy with our first job, perhaps we transfer to another firm. It isn't as easy as changing courses, but this decision is still flexible enough that for a lot of us, … [Read more...]