What Happened When We Killed Timekeeping and Attendance


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.


Had a late night, will work from home today


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 semi-flexible work schedule: people came in anytime between 8am to 10am and could leave 9 hours after. You were really only late if you came in after 1oam. Like most firms, we had punctuality and attendance rules: 3 lates merits a written reprimand, 5 lates merits a suspension…something like that.

I never considered anything more flexible. After all, we did have teams like Customer Service and Supply Chain which needed people present in very specific time slots.

How could we do anything more flexible?

As owners, Pao and I still pretty much enjoyed the freedom to go in and out at our discretion. Functional managers also had this level of freedom, but everyone else kept to the semi-flexible rules, with disciplinary actions for violations.


One fateful day though, I was asked to sign a Written Reprimand for someone whom I thought was performing reasonably well.

That disturbed me. The punctuality issues had little to do with the performance.

Why couldn’t we give all our people the same freedom we enjoyed?

And at the heart of it: can we trust our employees first?

True to our form as a company which decides fast and then measures outcomes, I met with Pao and our People Operations team that afternoon.  We created the following rules:

  • From 15 SL’s and 15 VL’s, we created a policy where an individual could use unlimited leaves. Actually, there would be no more “leaves.” We just didn’t count.
  • We totally separated salary and timekeeping. There is now no need to log-in and out of the office. Salary would be given wholly every 15th and 30th. Deductions per timekeeping are now extinct.
  • The 15  SL’s, which was converted to Flexible Benefit Points when unused, are automatically given as Flexible Benefit Points at the person’s daily rate. The person cannot convert this to cash and can only use it on her Benefits Marketplace. We believe in the power of benefits given in kind.
  • For those eligible for OT, the person will now file OT herself, no questions asked. If you think you deserve to be paid OT on a particular day, you just file it, and it will be given to you.
  • Teams with definitive service hours, like customer service and supply chain, were given the directive to create their own rules, to be managed and policed within the team.
  • Leaders were then asked to step up: the company will be monitoring metrics and individual performance much more closely – the leaders have to lead.

We did an impromptu general assembly and instituted the new rules. I told everyone we’ll be doing this for a month and see what happens.

Apparently, the market already had a name for this: ROWE (Results Only Work Environment), I didn’t like the name because I felt it ignored one very powerful factor our firm valued – culture. Alas, the name “Rowe” stuck internally.

Our people loved it. They began posting on social media how great they felt being trusted and being “treated like an adult.”

But of course, the proof would be in the pudding. We locked in on our metrics and let the weeks pass.

The first thing I noticed was how Fridays would be much leaner than every other day. As a lifelong HR practitioner, I felt this was a bad sign.

A month after, our numbers were in, and it confirmed my suspicions. Our metrics were evidently down from a month ago.

I talked worriedly with my management team – did this mean we recruited poorly? After all, shouldn’t the RIGHT people fare well in this sort of environment?

We did another assembly and I told everyone about our results.  I told everyone I was tempted to just pull the program – the results more than justified that move.

But I said we’ll give it another few weeks. I reminded them that things have to change drastically for ROWE to continue. Like most worthwhile things, they would have to fight for it. I told them I WANT the program to succeed, but it would be up to everyone.

Soon, a lot of people in the our Yammer group began sporting this profile picture.


Weeks went by, and I didn’t really see anything different. Fridays were still extra-lean, attendance-wise. People came in much later than 10am.

I was going to chalk this up to a “Well, we tried” and wreak personal havoc on our recruitment process.

As another month crept in, I asked for the metrics. I was shocked to see the results.

They were up.

At first I couldn’t believe it. But there they were.

Assembly again. I told everyone about the metrics. ROWE was on the resuscitator, but it was alive!

I told everyone I was extending the program to see if the figures were just a fluke.

A month after, the numbers held.

This brings us to today. We’re still very much studying the program. There weren’t a lot of things changed with the original rules we drafted. But before declaring the program as a permanent part of the company, I  still want to generate more data.

Some notable observations and key realizations:

  • With absolute freedom comes…absolute transparency. If there’s one thing about this program, it’s that a person’s true colors will shine. A performer who really makes the firm her own will excel even more because of the flexibility, while people who have discipline and/or commitment issues will have their problems exacerbated.  We had to release a couple of employees whose lack of discipline really negatively impacted the teams they were in.
  • So…Fridays are STILL lean days. But with our metrics being met, I think this is more MY problem. As a lifelong HR practitioner, I think I still very much equated SEEING people with ACTUAL productivity. This is a paradigm shift I have had to swallow.
  • The employee satisfaction that comes from being able to take leaves whenever you want and being trusted for your work IS the biggie. We will trust you first. Will you be worthy of this trust? Most people we see will respond very well to this.
  • For this to work, a company’s metrics and numbers obviously have to be managed well. This is something we continuously work on.
  • Leaders HAVE to step up in this sort of framework. With less structure, more leadership and influence have to be exerted so people will consistently use the flexibility effectively and not abuse it.
  • I don’t believe in purely working from home though. I’m still old-fashioned when it comes to this. I think part of the fun being in a startup is that feeling of being in the trenches with a close group of people. Tough to do that if you aren’t in the same work area. I think our culture and our sense of fun as a company encourage everyone in the firm go to the office even if its strictly not a requirement – a welcome development for me.

The program for us has taken very interesting twists and turns. Promising though.

Let’s see what happens from hereon.


Big Picture? No, Look at the BIGGER Picture

big pictureThese 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 actual products they would share with me to get advice.

In a lot of these ideas, I could imagine a LARGER opportunity NOT being pursued.

For example, there was one app idea which targeted Churches. As it was being explained to me, I thought: hey, this might work for ANY type of community. 

I could see why he would think this way – he was an avid Church-goer who wanted to solve a specific problem.

That is awesome. Focus is good.

In doing this though, we might be missing a larger, still unserved market which would benefit from the same solution.

It is to our best interests then, to see what happens if we take a step back and try to see a larger opportunity we can capture.

This might be easier said than done. A number of us see the world with some filters which prevent us from seeing the possibilities.

Overcoming Our Narrow Filters

I realize that growing up in school and working in corporate taught me to have a very narrow paradigm.

Good grades will make great companies want you.

You have to go up the corporate ladder.

There is no shortcut. You have to pay your dues.

There is a salary scale.

Your expertise is limited to the Department you are in. (Finance guys know only Finance, HR guys know only HR, etc…)

It takes a special type of experience or exposure (an Ivy-leaguer, maybe someone who came from Apple or Google, someone extremely well-connected, etc…) to build a big firm.

I can never learn anything quickly enough to be an expert in it and compete. So might as well stick to what I’ve been exposed to.

These are all illusions.

Feel free to dream bigger. Once you get blinders like these off, you will begin to see how MUCH opportunity there is – to make a difference, to build something special, to help a larger number of people.


If there’s one person I know who exemplifies big-ger thinking, it’s Nix Nolledo.

I realize I’ve never talked about Nix in JGL (except when he was in Startups Unplugged). This is because I respected his approach to be low-key. But hey, I don’t think this is pretty low-key anymore:

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 11.40.41 PM


Nix invested in STORM in 2013 and has been instrumental in helping us scale and grow.

What I’ve learned from Nix is looking at not only the big picture, but seeing if there’s an even bigger one hiding behind it. After every conversation with him, I’m always inspired to widen my horizons.

Of course, it helps that he lives this out. He dreams big and just goes after it. (That Inquirer story does a good job of documenting his path)

That Xurpas IPO is a huge, ballsy move. For me, it’s not only because of all the money they raised. It’s also because now, they are expected to grow much more than what they raised. They’re taking this challenge head-on, in a very public arena.

So Don’t Sell Yourself Short

This applies to everyone in the entrepreneurial path. Widen your aperture.

Yes, you can resign from your job and build something special.

Yes, you can find GREAT people to build your startup with.

Yes, you can scale and go to other countries.

Yes, you can go after a larger market.

Yes, you can build an awesome, world-class product.

Yes, you can pursue your dream and be practical at the same time.

Yes, you can.

(Like this piece? Subscribe to Juan Great Leap and never miss a post!) 

Six Powerful Reasons Why Your Next Startup Must Be a B2B

To B2B or not to B2B? Ah. This is the question.

For me the answer is clear. With all things being equal, if you are a Philippine-based startup, you should try building a B2B first.

Let me get my obvious bias out of the way first – I am primarily a B2B guy. Most of startups I’ve been involved with – STORM, Strata, Stream Engine – have been B2B’s. (the notable exception is JGL)

Waitaminit! What do mean by B2B again?

You can generally classify as startup as being a B2B (Business to Business), as opposed to a B2C (Business to Consumer). A B2B company sells to other companies (also called enterprise business), while a B2C sells its wares directly to consumers.

I think there is an underlying reason for my own preference as well – I just find it a bit easier to build a B2B.

Here are six huge reasons why.


1) More than Two Can Tango

For direct consumer businesses, you mostly either have to be NUMBER ONE or NUMBER TWO to be  successful in a certain market segment.

Think about it.

Why has it been so difficult for a third telco to get established? Why has it been forever Mcdo versus Jollibee? Apple vs. Samsung? Coke or Pepsi? Jobstreet vs. Jobsdb? Nike and Adidas? There are countless examples.

In fact, for a HUGE number of  B2C industries, there’s only space for one or two players.

But in B2B?

You can secure a certain segment of the market as long as you can service them well.

This time, think about how many ad agencies there are, or headhunting firms, or IT development firms.

There are a lot, right? And yes, they’re able to co-exist.

B2B might not be sexier (for some at least), but its a hell of a lot safer.


2) Experts Everywhere

I was DEEP in HR Management for ten whole years. I finished an advanced degree in basically HR Management. I know it well.

What’s the great thing about about knowing things well that from an entrepreneur’s lens?

I know a LOT of problems companies face when it comes to HR.

I can probably rattle off 20 different HR-related problems which companies are struggling with.

And of course, problems are where startups are born. That’s literally 20 startup ideas (which I mistakenly tried to pursue at the same a few years back – but that’s another story)

Guess what? Dive in Linkedin and there will be scores of people like me in a variety of different fields (sales, supply chain, finance, customer service, etc…) in a variety of different verticals (medicine, real estate, education, etc…). Heck, if you’re from corporate, over 30, and you’re reading this, chances are YOU are a subject matter expert who is knowledgable about big problems in specific areas.

Some of the best ideas for startups will come from these people. And there are a ton of them.


3) Funding Is Obtainable

While it may seem that funding headlines are always dominated by B2C’s (quite natural, because on the average, the addressable market for B2C’s would seem larger than B2B’s – and this return potential excites VC’s), you WILL get funding for a great B2B idea if you raise money for it.

Just last year, Kalibrr raised a ton of money. So did Payroll Hero. B2B firms.

I’ve had first-hand experience in raising fundraising last year as well, with both STORM and STRATA getting Series A funding.

You can also check out the portfolio pages of Kickstart and Ideaspace and see more B2B’s.

You got a sound B2B idea? There are a LOT of people who can help out with startup capital.

phil eco

4) Companies Are Flush

Over the course of the last 12 months, we’ve been hearing headlines like:

“The Philippines will be a top 50 economy by 2050!”


“Execs bullish on Philippine economy!”

Who’s feeling this sudden abundance?

Go have coffee with your friends who dabble in the stock market. They’re probably smiling. Most likely they have spanking new shoes.

Boatloads of companies are killing it in the stock market.

Businesses are flush. Companies who are flush tend to invest more – and tend to be just a tad more interested in improving things. Or even trying out new stuff, like you know, startups.

What does the first “B” in “B2B” stand for again?

Go where the money is.

Adding this one quickly: I remember when we first started Mobile Academy, we wanted it to be aB2C  – a place where anyone can learn about how to create a mobile app. We did “lean” methodology, developed some quick mobile courses and threw them out into the market, seeing who would bite.

We quickly realized  who the market was. Direct consumers waffled at our prices, with a good number saying they’d much rather learn on their own than pay up.

After a few weeks, some tech firms heard about our courses. Boom. Booked a whole class full, just like that. Then another.

I think experience can sum up this whole post.


5) Dinosaurs Create Opportunity

You know one thing I’ve seen in my years servicing and selling to corporations?

A number of them do things very, very, very inefficiently.

Some of them hire full-time encoders.

Some of them (actually, a LOT of them) use mammoth, outdated “legacy” systems.

Internet Explorer 5 (!) anyone?

Some of them don’t take advantage of mobile technology, even if there’s a big, obvious advantage in doing so.

A lot of them don’t understand tech and social media.

Opportunities abound.

(nope, couldn’t find any appropriate picture, so I ended up with the most obvious one – I love 80’s music anyway!)

6) Hard Habit To Break

So how does a B2C company lose a customer? He or she just stops purchasing if and when she feels like it.

If you’re a B2B, it’s MUCH more difficult for a client to drop you. For starters, deals are usually governed by contracts. These typically span 1-2 years.

They also KNOW you, so they’re going to have to tell you to your face that they’re not renewing your service. That’s MUCH more difficult

One other thing? They’re not using their own money to make the purchase!

So you know, unless you completely BOMB and make them look bad, you are MUCH MORE LIKELY to keep a business client.  Companies are creatures of habit. Once they get to get used to being serviced by your firm, you become a hard habit to break.

(Of course, what we missing in this discussion is a very key ingredient – what you are passionate for. But again, all things being equal – if you had one solid B2C idea and one solid B2B idea with roughly the same economic potential? For me, it’s a no-brainer.)

(While this post explains WHY you have consider building a B2B, you can find some crucial suggestions on HOW to build B2B’s in this post.)

STOP CHRISTMAS SHOPPING! (and other different ideas to help Typhoon Yolanda victims)


Coming from a weekend retreat, I only recently saw footage of the utter devastation wrought by Yolanda. For a good hour, my wife Pauline and I were just silently watching, with a hand on our mouths. I’ve never seen this kind of footage from Ondoy, Habagat, or even the recent 7.2 Bohol earthquake.

It was heartbreaking.

I have some friends with families in the regions affected who still cannot call to confirm whether or not their loved ones are alive or not.

It was also particularly shocking to see our countrymen resort to looting. I think this is the very first time I’ve heard of this happening, even if we seem to be hit by a disaster every quarter. This is one proof for me why Yolanda is unprecedented.

(this morning’s Inquirer headline confirmed this: The Worst Disaster To Hit PH)

I don’t think we’ve ever been hit this way. Not like this.

So you know what?

Let’s respond with something unprecedented. 

Let’s respond radically. Let’s give till it hurts. (because a massive amount of people are hurting at an unimaginable, exponentially higher rate)

Here are some ideas:



Instead, give them cards that tell them you’ve donated in their name. Better yet, give those “I donated ______ to Typhoon Yolanda in your name” cards NOW as an early Christmas gift. Then, very importantly, encourage them to do the same.

The gifts you DO get during Christmas? Donate them. Better yet, tell your family and friends now NOT to give you a gift and donate the proceeds instead.

Perhaps we can all spend Christmas in a humbler, more austere way. (you know, like Jesus did)

tell your boss


Is your company doing enough to help out? If not, stop being a silent mouse and tell your boss. He should listen earnestly and at least hear you out. If not, then this is your big sign that YOU SHOULD RESIGN. You can suggest ideas like calling work of for a day to volunteer, or asking employees to donate a day’s wage.



Think like an entrepreneur and play according to your strengths. If you have a lot of money, then by all means, give until it hurts. But one can give so much more than just cash. Are you a gifted writer? Then write and stoke the hearts of hundreds to give even more. Can you cook well? Then cook simple food with flair (say, fancier-than-usual lugaw) and organize a charity dinner at P2000 a plate at your house. Do you have a great social media network? Then help your friends the writer and the cook. You can be creative with your giving.



I’ve never seen an efficient house which optimally everything it contains. Go around your house and do a quick audit. All the clothes you’re not using (and yes, when you do lose those 20 pounds, just reward yourself and buy new clothes), all the kitchenware you’re not using, all the toys who are Toy-Story-Dreaming to be played with – don’t give yourself time to think: just pack them in a box and donate them.

(photo from www.philstar.com)
(photo from http://www.philstar.com)


There is one sick set of people who actually might find this carnage good news – the ones who would want us distracted from the recent whisteblowing going on in the government, especially concerning the recent Napoles hearing. This has EVERYTHING to do with our disasters.

Time and time and time and time again, we something like “the disaster could have been minimized if we had better infrastructure.” Unfortunately, as long as Rolexes and Porsche’s are being bought instead of bridges and buildings, we cannot hope to maximize our level of preparedness. Do not forget. Exhaust all means necessary to prevent corrupt people from taking office. Exercise your right to vote.


If you typically pray mostly for your own problems, then it’s a very good time to start praying for others. Pray for those who passed. Pray for those who survived them. Pray for those who have no one to pray for them. Pray often. Pray like you’ve never prayed before.


(Be a blessing! If you found this post and the ideas it contains to be helpful and you think they will be helpful to others as well, then SHARE unprecedentedly!)

On Scaling, the Recent SOFTCON, and the Wonder of Technology

Recently, I took a picture of the weekly FLEXIBLE BENEFIT products we received in our office and now had to deliver to our clients:


There were hundreds of items ordered in a span of a few days.

It was the very first time I’ve seen this many orders made in our system. We had to find a room to keep all the items secure.

The problems we’re facing in STORM now are very different from what we’ve faced over the last few years. Before, we would just be consumed mostly by sales and developing the technology further.

(and you know, startup stuff like “where the hell do we get the money for next month’s payroll?!”)

Now, while the above-mentioned things are still supremely important, we find ourselves worrying about corporatey stuff, like inventory, supply chain, financial ratios, and high-grade efficiency.

I realize these are good problems.

STORM is scaling.

By the end of this year, we would have something like 12,000 corporate users. We’re aiming for much larger things in 2014.

I then reminisce about how STORM started some years ago, and I find myself feeling quite blessed to have ended up choosing a TECH idea.

Soft Spot

Yep, Juan Great Leap is all about GENERAL entrepreneurship. It’s all about taking the leap and the process of being captain of your own ship – regardless of the type of ship.

As a tech entrepreneur though, I guess I’ll always have a soft spot for tech startups.

It is after all, what I think is the great equalizer. 

In almost any industry, you would need to spend a fortune to build an industry leader. Want to get into retail? You need to invest millions in machinery, R&D, and the right supply chain infrastructure. Want to do a resto? Yep, it would require a ton of capital as well. Want to build a benefits firm? Without tech, you’d be looking at creating a new HMO, or a new insurance firm. Again, millions.

Technology changes everything though. It disrupts.

Technology has allowed a nobody like me to START FROM SCRATCH, and build what is now the largest local flexible benefits provider.

You got a laptop? Internet access? Some programming skills (you or a partner)? Then guess what? Armed with the RIGHT business model, you too can create a scaleable startup right out of your living room. Like we did.


A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of being invited to the very first SOFTCON.PH (software conference), which was being organized by the Philippine Software Industry Association or the PSIA.

I was invited to moderate the startup panel (which was, as I found in the photo op after, a group of really tall people).

I looked at the agenda. More startup stuff! There was another panel “From Startup to Exit.”

I thought to myself, “Hmmmm…for a software conference, man, they sure talk a lot about startups.”

(I was thinking they’d be more talks like “Data Warehousing in 2013 and Beyond” or something)

Then it hit me.

Most of the member groups – and almost all of the most active players – of the PSIA are LOCAL Filipino software firms. Gurango Software. Pointwest Technologies. Seer. Stratpoint. Blastasia.

Startups. Some time ago, these guys were also building their businesses in someone’s living room.

Yep, the PSIA member lists reads like a who’s who of Philippine tech entrepreneurs.

You can tell.

Because this group is breeding even MORE startups.

In the room adjacent to the main conference room, they had an exhibit of 20 or so startups that PSIA was helping develop in some way, shape, or form.

Main Startup Exhibit Area

I found this to be a joy, an inspiration, and really logical, all at the same time.

A joy – because I just LOVE seeing people go for it.

An inspiration – because I found some of the ideas (and more importantly, the execution) to be brilliant.

Logical – because the one thing that you can’t stop true entrepreneurs from doing is to be themselves. Some of our most successful entrepreneurs are STILL going after new ideas.


host action shot
Moderator Action Shot!

Moderating the startup panel was a great privilege for me, because it was a who’s who of some of the biggest names in the Philippine startup ecosystem.

It was also quite literally the biggest panel I’ve ever seen. So it was a challenge for my moderator-powers.

The panel discussed the state of the Filipino Software Startup.

tall man panel
Startup Panel from Softcon.ph (the tall man panel) (from L-R) So that’s towering Ron Hose (author of the Phil. Startup Report), me, Rio Ilao (founder of Perxclub), Sulit founder RJ David, Kickstart’s Christian Besler, Ideaspace (and Meralco CIO) Marthyn Cuan, Payroll Hero’s Stephen Jagger, Plug and Play’s (based in Silicon Valley) Jojo Flores, Mon Ibrahim (DOST-ICTO Deputy Executive Director), TechTalk’s Tina Amper, and PSIA’s Spring.ph Co-founder (and Seer CEO) Joben Ilagan

We talked about a lot of interesting stuff, but the main takeaway I want to share with you?

It’s early. The Philippine startup ecosystem is in its veritable INFANCY.

TRANSLATION: Take the leap NOW people!

Opportunity Everywhere

Last week, I pitched an idea I had to a well-known Filipino entrepreneur (free, courtesy of a cross-country Skype session – technology is amazing if you think about it!) to get some input.

He gave a lot of very useful advice.

Then, I finally asked him to summarize: wait, do you think it would work?

His answer: “I think it’s a good idea. Though now there are good ideas everywhere if you just apply technology to an old concept. The key really is how your execution will be.” 

TRANSLATION: Take the leap NOW people! Sniff out those good ideas, because he’s right – they are EVERYWHERE if you know where to look and train your eye

My quick advice: think long and hard about doing a TECH startup. If you have a non-tech idea, think – how can I I apply technology to it?

Ah! Open Coffee! (October Edition Postscript)

October open coffee

I have to admit, I was worried about the 2-month absence of Open Coffee.

Would we lose momentum? 

Would people still go? 

Will the pitches be just as good? 

It turns out, my fears were unfounded.

I thought October Open Coffee was super!

For starters, after the 2 months, it was great to see the holdovers / familiar faces (around 20 or so, you know who you are) who keep on coming back. You practically feel like family.

Next, I thought, we just had the MOST DIVERSE SET OF PITCHES we’ve ever had. And if you’ve been to Open Coffee before and heard the pitches, you’d know this is saying a lot.

Let’s see….

We had an OFW-children’s support group, a fashion data aggregator, kite-camera artwork (my pick for pitch of the night!), a pitch for Trade School Manila, a government headhunting firm, an observation-based research firm, an inventor pitching wearable air filters, an artwork preservation concept, and many, many more.

The ideas – and the awesome, awesome group feedback that was generated to help them out – are SO much better than how the words above describe them.

You HAVE to have been there. The energy was uncontainable.

Then of course, in something that we should have done from the very first open coffee, around 20 or so of us had awesome lunch after at J-Jay’s Inasal. It was a blast, and we stayed chatting until mid-afternoon.

Lunch was F-U-N!
Lunch was F-U-N!

More pics below! You have to join us next time!

cam basa

I should have been in this picture!
I should have been in this picture!
jovitt trinidad holding court
Our coffee sponsor: audacious pinoy retail startup MASKAPE! (pretty good coffee)
Our coffee sponsor: audacious pinoy retail startup MASKAPE! (pretty good coffee) Thanks NATHANIEL GO and MASKAPE for the LOADS of coffee we got!
Fun after the formal pitches!
Fun after the formal pitches!
Group pic! SMILE!
Group pic! SMILE!

Why Startups ARE For Everyone, part 2

(Part one of this series can be found here)


In part 1, I talk about how the combination of how EVERYONE having something special to offer and the current technology infrastructure now enable ANYONE to build her own startup.

So the question is: why isn’t everyone rushing to do so?

Here are 3 factors why:


1) The Information Gap

The first reason is simply ignorance.

We live in a society where our school systems still (by and large) marshall us and train us for the corporate and factory environment.

For a typical college graduate, her primary (and chances are, only) professional concern after graduation is “to get a job.”

The thought of pursuing her own thing and standing on her own two feet does not merit any immediate consideration, if at all. Doing her own thing is a pipe dream.

Even if so many people say in interviews that they want to “someday own a business,” so precious few actually do so. Even the response sounds like a pipe dream: “someday….”

This is what this blog actually wants to address. You CAN do it and here’s how…

For me, entrepreneurship HAS to be part of any university’s CORE curriculum. Think about it. ANY and ALL college courses can be the subject matter for a future startup or freelance career.

If I’m an artist, I might want to someday be a freelancer.  If I’m a programmer, I might one day decide to set up a software development firm. If I’m an engineer, I might someday want to set up a consulting firm. 

So why not equip ALL graduates with the rudiments of entrepreneurship?

fear2) Fear


Good old-fashioned fear. (VERY related post here)

The fear can come in many forms: fear of failure, fear of what people will say, fear of not being enough, fear of losing luxuries…

Real or imagined (and I’d say most are imagined) – it’s enough to dissuade the would-be-startup founder.

Stop him dead in his tracks.

3) The Dip

My hairstyle idol Seth Godin has many vaunted books: Tribes, Linchpin,and so on. But I think one of his most useful books for the entrepreneur is a book called The Dip.

It’s been a long time since I read it, but what I’ve always taken from the book – at different parts of my entrepreneurial life – is that the pursuit of the most worthwhile things almost always involve some sort of “dip” – right before things get better. Here’s a graphical representation (click to get a better resolution):

the dip
(Picture from http://www.bennadel.com)

I know a lot of people who quit when they find themselves at the Dip.

At first, its exciting right? Its idea creation time! Or the time to assemble your entrepreneurial avengers! These are fun, fun things.

Then you start.

Then the problems crop up.

Money running out. Founder not carrying his weight. Sales have flattened. Your biggest client drops you. Customers fry you on social media. You have 20-30 problems which need solving, You get punched in the mouth. 

For those who do manage to conquer ignorance and fear, FAILURE could be the one which does them in.

I think this is one thing experienced entrepreneurs understand pretty well. They know its darkest right before the sunrise – so they persevere. (or pivot, but that’s another story)

As you can see, there is nothing in this list that you CANNOT manage.

The barriers aren’t physical, monetary, even concrete.

The only barriers exist right between our ears.

Juan, its time to break through.

(Good way to start? Attend JGL’s monthly OPEN COFFEE and meet like-minded people talk and solve problems!) 

My New Faburrito


Every Tuesday night, my prayer group would choose a restaurant around the Eastwood/Ortigas area to eat in. Last week, we chose this Mexican place called Faburrito, located at the Robinson’s Supermarket area in Eastwood.

Ever the entrepreneur, the first thing I thought was, “bad location, little traffic.” This particular branch (I understand there’s another one at the Columns, Makati), was at the edge of a corridor, with very little natural traffic.

My friend Howard, who already finished his meal, began raving like a madman as soon as I arrived:

Peterit’ssogoodanddifferenthere, theiringredientsareallnatural, theiceteaislightrefillableandyoucanchangeflavors! I atesomuchbutIdon’tfeelbloatednomsgnogrease! theownerisachristianwhogives10%ofallproceedstocharityandplayschristianmusicallday! youcanhavesomeofthesedeliciouschipstostartyouoff!

I was intrigued. Howard was quite excited.

Ordering was easy, complete with simple instructions:

1. Pick your dish

2. Choose your meat

3. Add Salsa

4. Add Fillings

5. Finish with Dressing


The Iced Tea

Famished, I got a large steak burrito with mango salsa and a lemongrass-flavored iced tea.

Apart from Howard’s rave reviews, sipping the iced tea was the first inkling I had that this was going to be a different experience.

Upon first sip, my reaction was – tabang! But then I found myself wanting to sip some more. It was refreshing! Best of all, it was bottomless AND you can choose different flavors upon each refill. (oh, wait what’s best of all is that its sugar-free!)

Just Awesome Service

Then, my burrito came. It was good! It wasn’t as – powerful (or greasy) – as some of the other burritos in other places, but it was good stuff.

Then, I noticed something. I noticed the my “large” order wasn’t that much bigger than my friends’ “regular” order. So I mention it nonchalantly to the nearby waiter.

The waiter said something like mine had much more meat inside and stuff.

I told the waiter it wasn’t a problem and proceeded to munch down on my burrito (it WAS a large order – I had trouble finishing it)

Then after a few minutes, the restaurant gave me a genuine pleasant surprise.

They gave me another burrito. 

My half-eaten steak burrito on the left, and the new, complimentary burrito on the right

I was thanking the waiter profusely and said they didn’t have to do that, that I wasn’t really complaining earlier on.

The waiter just smiled and told me it was complimentary. (with a smiling, “large po talaga yon”)

Now THAT was dang good service. It was obvious that the crew was empowered to do what they did. And you know what, that was the type of thing where I TELL ALL MY FRIENDS about it. And you know how word-of-mouth is so powerful for restaurants.

Not only that, but Howard was right – even if I ate SO MUCH that night, I somehow still felt light after eating. (not like, say, how I felt last Saturday night after my family’s dimsum-fest) That’s not a small thing.

Daring to Differ

I love what the owner (Earl Chua, according to a quick Google search) is trying to do here. He’s not trying to please everyone. He’s pieced together a grand vision and he isn’t afraid to let the world know about it.

This statement signage says it all:


Healthy, Christian, Mexican food.

THAT’S how to go after a niche. I love it. He just plunges in, implements his vision vigorously, and puts it on a sign for everyone to see.

What’s the effect?

You FEEL the difference when you visit Faburrito. The iced tea differs. The service differs. The blaring Christian music differs. The lack of grease differs.

If you ARE a part of the targeted audience, then the reaction will be like Howard. You will feel “it gets you” and you tell all your friends (excitedly) about it.

If you AREN’T part of the targeted market? I have a feeling you STILL will feel the differentiation and remember it enough to tell your friends whom you think belong to the audience targeted.


Just Touch the Water


It still amazes me how so many of the largest companies in world started out as some crazy idea in someone’s head.

Then, these individuals began talking about it with another person. Perhaps Larry invited Sergey over for a coffee chat, perhaps Steve started an argument with Woz, Hewlett started brainstorming with Packard, Procter meets with Gamble for the first time, and so on.

As the idea is shared, it separates itself from one individual and takes on a life of its own.

Now, two or more people get excited about it.

More talks are scheduled. More energy is generated. Perhaps more people involved.

Then things get actually tried out.

Soon, papers get signed and boom, a company is borne!

This is a very, very familiar process for me…an idea surfaces between 2 or 3 people, excitement is generated, more meetings are arranged, research is done, things get moving, and soon, papers are signed.

Most startups are borne out of momentum. (sustaining it is an entirely different art)

But that first step is something I know is a barrier for some people.

You have to release your idea into the wild.

I know for a lot of people this is a very natural thing, but I also know that for a lot of people, this can be a very unnatural thing, like the shy kid getting ready to be called for orals.

It’s your idea after all, and to share it is to open yourself up to all sorts of imagined criticism and scorn.

If you have an idea though, an idea which you feel very strongly about, (the one which keeps you up at night) you CANNOT just let it remain stagnant in your head. You’re not doing anyone any favors, certainly not yourself.

You have to overcome.

TALK to people about it. What do your friends think? What do experts think? Heck, what do strangers think?

Go to startup events and talk about it. Talk to entrepreneurs in your field about it (entreps are mostly a helpful bunch)

I’d like to suggest JGL’s monthly open coffee 🙂

If you want to make any sort of ripple, you can’t be afraid of touching the water.

Sometimes, Interest Can Trump Passion


It’s probably THE MOST overused cliche in the entrepreneur world, right?

Find something you are passionate with!

You will never work a day again!

This is true of course. (which is why its a cliche)

I do think though that for some people, this gets in the way because people try to look for their passion in the SUBJECT of the idea, when sometimes, DEVELOPING A STARTUP itself is the passion.

There are a number of entrepreneurs now I talk to who I think face this dilemma.

“Peter, there are these ideas I have which are interesting and I think can make money, but I’m not really sure I’m SUPER passionate about. What I am REALLY passionate about are comic books and food, but I can’t really find an idea in those areas which I think can work yet.”

Look, finding a subject matter which you are really really passionate which CAN be transformed into a profitable venture is a tremendous blessing. It can also prove to be a time-consuming, frustrating endeavor, since a lot of times, the things we are passionate with just cannot be monetized.

But what if the very thing we are passionate with is entrepreneurship itself? Being the guy who calls the shots? Building something and working with people in building it?

If this is the case, then we can find something we are not necessarily passionate about yet, but are interested in. Something we can GROW to be passionate about.

In my case, when I started STORM, I wasn’t like, super passionate about flexible benefits. I didn’t have flexible benefit posters, think about flexible benefits when I woke up in the morning, or named any of my kids Flexter Cauton.

But I WAS interested in it enough that I could talk about it for long periods of time, or read a book about it, or go on the internet and research about it for long periods.

What I REALLY was passionate about is entrepreneurship, building teams, and leading them. These were the things which scratched my primordial existential itches.

So you know what? It worked. Many years after, work still doesn’t feel like work.

So yes, by all means, go search for a passion play. If you don’t find it, don’t fret. There’s a significant chance that you’re passionate about the general elements entrepreneurship itself. In this case, try an interest, something that you know you can GROW to be passionate about. INTEREST is still quite important, no matter how passionate I am about entrepreneurship, I doubt if I’d have enough interest to invest time and energy on say, construction, or fishing.

What’s the most important word in all these?