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.


Listening Is The New Reading


I rarely have time to read books anymore.

I used to accumulate sizeable bills on my Kindle doing a book a week, now I don’t even remember the last book I read in print form. My babies, both actual and startup, have been occupying a whole lot of my time. I’ve also re-committed to writing on a particular blog. My weekends I’ve mostly closed off to family.

I do have a LOT of wasted time in traffic.

Living in Antipolo, sometimes I spend a good 2-3 hours a day in the car. 4 on bad days. (Waze sometimes I feel guides me INTO traffic)

It didn’t take me long to put two and two together.

I might have stopped reading, but I haven’t stopped learning.

Now, a huge chunk of the data on my phone is reserved for audio books and downloaded podcasts. My Kindle budget has now been transformed into an Audible budget (the best!).

Here are some very useful tools/resources I’ve found:

1) Audible

This is now one my favorite mobile apps. Buy a book from audible and it instantly loads on your mobile device. It’s also cool that it’s synced across all your devices – you can listen from your phone, stop, and then listen later on your tablet at the exact time you left it on your phone. It’s amazing.

I’m on the $14.95 per month plan, where you can purchase an audio book – ANY BOOK per month. This is a great deal because the books are typically much more expensive than $15. I usually end up buying more credits per month because it’s cheaper.

Do buy any of Gary Vaynerchuk‘s books on audio form – even if you’ve already read the print form! He reads the book himself, adds SO much more material, and delivers his audio performance with such panache.

I’ll soon do a review of some of the great books I’ve “read” over the last 6 months. (aside from The Alliance)

2) Podcasts

Podcasts are so awesome because they are very current (some books miss trends which happen during the gap between the book is finished and when it is published) and a lot of them come in conversation form – which, if the interviewer is semi-decent, can be very compelling to listen to.

Some podcasts I recommend for the entrepreneur-at-heart.

A) This Week In Startups – Jason Calacanis

The first podcast I subscribed to. Jason talks weekly to both successful entrepreneurs/investors and those who are new. He has a very interesting “news panel” format also where a selected group of panelists talk about startup news. If you’re not listening to this, make the Chris Sacca interview you first listen.

B) The Tim Ferriss Show – Tim Ferriss

He of the “4-hour workweek” fame, and perhaps not too many know, is a very very active angel investor. Not all startups, but what Tim does here is he interviews very successful people in different fields and tries to deconstruct what made them successful. Tim also does a lot of  productivity tips as well.

C) Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders – Stanford eCorner

Look at that list of guests. It’s a who’s who of the absolute best entepreneurs/investors ever – Zuckerberg, Evan Williams, Ron Conway, Brad Feld, etc…

Cons: 1) is the guest list becoming less impressive? 2) the monologue format is a killer (not awesome, but more of “just kill me now”) for entrepreneurs who aren’t good speakers.

D) The James Altucher Show – James Altucher

My newest find. James is an entrepreneur/investor/author. His podcasts are just…different, as he has a different take on things and it shows in his questions. Guest list is awesome…Mark Cuban, Huffington, and this guy…

E) Seth Godin’s Startup School  – Seth Godin

I’m a huge Seth Godin fan (largely because of his hairstyle), so this was a no-brainer. The podcast is just 15 episodes recorded from his just-one-time weekend startup seminar. He offer a different take from the usual startup science (lean startup, MVP, etc…), which is a bit more marketing driven.

Enjoy! Do let us know if you have your own recommendations!

 (Subscribe now to Juan Great Leap! You’ll never miss a post and have access to insider info!) 



Introducing Thursdays Unplugged – And Why I’m Limiting It to 4 People

While I like organizing events like Startups Unplugged or Open Coffee, where I really get my kick is when I go on one-on-one coffee-talks.

In the bigger events or in some of the speaking events I’ve done, I may be able to impart knowledge and help out, but obviously, the learning cannot be customized to the individual. Sure, after the event there can be informal networking and getting to know people, but I don’t really get to KNOW people that much.

This is why I like doing one-on-one coffee-talks.

More than just the startup idea, I get to know the entrepreneur’s story. I get to know his motivations. I get to read body language. I don’t just shoot from the hip and comment on just the idea. I can comment and help out on the journey, which I think is far more valuable.  True enough, I’ve had a number of memorable one-on-ones with certain people.

The problem is, over the past few years, doing these random one-on-one meetings has gotten to be quite challenging, given my schedule and where I live (Antipolo).

So here’s my proposed solution.

I know 2 posts ago I set a 10-man meeting next thursday. It’s pretty evident that it won’t be as intimate as I would like it to be.

Hence, I am reducing it to 4 people (so total in the meeting of 5 including me). I’ll also endeavor to this weekly and make it part of my workweek.

photo (2)
Perfect for five!

Here are some of the rules:


1) Venue and time

The venue will always be at the STORM Offices (Ortigas Center), at 5:30 pm. I would schedule it later to accommodate those coming from work, but I do want to go home in time for dinner. It would end approximately 6:30-645. There’s ample parking beside our building.

2) Unplugged

No powerpoint decks or demos. Let’s keep it simple and just talk.

3) Send me material

Do email me the idea or the problem at least 3 days before the meeting takes place. Be as concrete and concise as possible. If you have a deck or a website, this is where you should send it.

4) Transparency and Non-disclosure

You will be sharing your idea/situation both with me and the three other people in the room. (Honestly, this should be okay with you. Stealth doesn’t work) However, this doesn’t mean you should go around spreading what the other guy just shared with you – so we will agree that whatever was mentioned in the room, stays in the room.

5) 5 and 10

We have an hour. Let’s do approximately 15 minutes per person. In the first 5 minutes, do tell us about your idea or your problem, and also your journey. Then let’s spend the next 10-15 minutes discussing.

6) Reserving a slot

Let’s do this very simply. Just email me at peter@juangreatleap.com to reserve a slot for a specific Thursday. First-come, first served.

7) Yep, it’s free

Nope, there’s no need for any sort payment. I just really want to help out in my own way (it’s not even sure if I will be able to be relevant and helpful to you). That said, if you feel obliged to bring some snacks for a group of 5, no one’s stopping you 🙂 (coffee will be on me, though). Just tell me what you’re bringing so there won’t be any duplication.

First one is on July 24. This is already fully-booked.

Next one will be on July 31. Two slots left.

Not yet sure if I can arrange one on August 7. I’ll confirm here in the blog.

Excited for the 24th! Will tell you how it goes!




The ONE book you need to read this year

the alliance

I’m a big fan of Reid Hoffman, Linkedin Founder and Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist.

When he released Startup of You, a few years ago, I gobbled it up and came away quite impressed.

He recently released The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age. Naturally, I grabbed a copy. As an HR guy who’s also an entrepreneur, the subtitle piqued my attention even more.

I chose to finish it off yesterday, during my Glenda-imposed house arrest when this tree blocked the only road going out AND took out the electric wires. (yes!)


Now, I’ve read a lot of good books over the last few months. I’ve read a few page-turners (Hatching Twitter can only be described as Game of Thrones for Startups), but I don’t think I’ve read a book this year where I’ve had to pause SO MANY TIMES to imagine how some concepts and ideas could be applied to the companies I’m involved in.

If you manage people, in ANY firm, startup or 100-year institution, this is THE BOOK to read.

The book’s main thesis is that the model of “lifetime employment” so many managers still cling and hope for from their key people has now ben rendered irrelevant and obsolete. Think about your best people – don’t a lot of us manage them by trying to keep them (and hoping they stay) FOREVER in our firm?

The book also argues that the typical people processes we employ – like annual performance reviews – have now been rendered obsolete.

Instead, the authors offer an alternative paradigm – forging alliances with employees. The book urges leaders to tell employees – “help make the company more valuable and we’ll make you more valuable,” and doesn’t force the paradigm that the company’s vision should be only vision she breathes.

What the book does is that they go BEYOND the theoretical, and give very concrete ways The Alliance could be implemented. These guys make an awful lot of sense.

I remember all the key people I’ve lost – in my own startups and in the organisations I ran HR in. I do think this sort of paradigm could have helped a lot. It changes the whole way I look at HR – and coming from someone who has been living and breathing HR for quite awhile now, this is pretty substantial.

If you’re a startup owner or an organisational leader who worries a lot about key employee turnover, managing millennials, and creating great company culture, then grab the book now and start implementing its concepts.


Nine Book Reviews for the First Half of 2013

Haven’t done a book review in awhile!

I have plowed through more than a couple of good books (and some meh ones) over the course of the last few months.

Here’s are some quick recommendations:

1. The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin

As a big Seth Godin fan, this was the book I was drooling about in 2012. So much so that one of the first activities I did in 2013 was to read it. (it was released January 1)

I have to say – I was a bit disappointed (something I never would have imagined I would say for an SG book). The book is mainly about not being afraid to pursue your dreams. If I read it in a vacuum, I probably would have enjoyed and gotten more out of it. But coming from reading ALL of SG’s books, I found this one mostly retreads ideas from his other books. Moreover, his other books (namely, Tribes and Linchpin) were more focused than this one.

Recommendation: If you’re a Seth Godin fanatic, then I know you’re going to read this anyway. I think you’ll feel the same way I did. If you’re new to Godin and want to try one of his books out, I’d pass on this and pick up Linchpin, Tribes, or even We Are All Weird.  

2) The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman

The best book I’ve read for 2013 so far.

I have actually seen this in bestseller lists, but I’ve avoided it because of the title (not another “pocket MBA”). An entrepreneur highly recommended it to me though, and I gave it a shot.

I’m really glad I did.

The whole riveting first chapter about why NOT to go get an MBA is alone worth the price of  admission.

What the book does is it breaks business down into very simple parts and explains why you don’t need to look at business in a needlessly complex way. It’s an awesome, refreshing way to teach business.

Recommendation: if you are into business, no matter where you are in the spectrum (new, old, want, still in corporate) this is a MUST read. Buy NOW. 

3) Make Your Idea Matter, Bernadette Jiwa

This isn’t so much as a chaper-for-chapter book as it is some kind of guide / resource book. There are different topics – all on how to make your brand and your story better – arranged in self-contained 1-3 pagers (for example, “20 Ways To Tell a Better Brand Story”). I absolutely love formats like this, where you can just open the book anywhere and pick something up. When I finished the book (not a long read), I found myself yearning for more – a sign of great content.

Recommendation: Don’t let the title mislead you  – it’s not really an entrepreneurial-make your-idea-into-reality book. It is a good read / resource book, though, especially if you are in marketing/sales. 

4) The Lean Entrepreneur, Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits

Just finished this a few days ago. I think it’s the best of the recent “Lean” books I’ve read (being Eric Ries’s Lean Startup and Ash Maurya’s Running Lean). To be fair though, this new book builds on the precepts established in the earlier books, so rather than saying its better than the previous books, perhaps its better to say they expand the knowledge base the other two books established.

What I think the book does a good job of is explaining the concepts well with real-life examples and analogies – which was a must considering “lean startup” could get to be pretty technical.

Recommendation: A must read especially if you are putting up a tech startup (although still very relevant for non-tech) Might be too technical to be a “first book” for a new entrepreneur. 

5) Warren Buffet’s Management Secrets, Mary Buffet and David Clark

I didn’t really know a lot about the “World’s Greatest Investor” so one day in a bookstore I thought I could remedy that by buying a random Warren Buffet book. Did I pick the wrong one. While the book has some fascinating anecdotes about Buffet, I think the book’s main points are quite unremarkable (pick passions, hire good people, don’t live beyond your means, etc…).

Plus, I still don’t know much about Warren Buffet.

Recommendation: Waste of time, if you’ve read ANY other general business book. Pass.

6) Start: Punching Fear in the Face escape average and do work that matter, Jon Acuff

Having enjoyed his previous book, Quitter. I went to Audible and bought his latest work, Start. (I love audiobooks which are read by the authors themselves).

It was an enjoyable “read” – the author writes with a lot of humor and I found myself laughing out loud a couple of times while I listened to the audio during my morning walks.

What did I learn from it? Unfortunately, nothing much when I think about it. The content becomes familiar if you’ve read Godin or Steven Pressfield (the author of the wondrous War of Art and Do The Work), and I think these alternatives do a better job in presenting the same ideas.

Recommendation: There are inspiring moments and the humor is great, but it isn’t a MUST read. If you’ve spare change, go for it. 

7) Contagious, Jonah Berger

Tipping Point 2.0!

The author builds upon Gladwell’s ideas and goes into fascinating detail as to WHY things go viral (6 factors) and how you can design your own campaigns with a much-increased chances of going viral. Tons of relatable examples and researched evidence. Even if you aren’t in web marketing, there’s a lot of stuff you will find useful and immediately applicable: from pricing, to crafting your marketing headlines, to making videos which will get shared. Well worth the time to read.

Recommendation: A must-read for any entrepreneur in today’s ultra-connected environment. 

8) Book Yourself Solid, Michael Port

I don’t like books which read like an informercial. This is one of them.

“If you use my Book Yourself Solid System you will find yourself having more clients than you can possibly handle.”

I think the author references this “system” in every other sentence.

I’m not so sure there’s a readership who likes reading something like this, but its not for me.

Recommendation: I bought this book because a number of freelancers come to me for advice and I thought I could get some insights on helping them get “booked solid.” There are a number of good insights and tips available, but nothing original. Plus, the infomercial quality was just too much for my preferred reading style. (I already bought your book – there’s no need to sell anymore!)  By the third chapter, I was rueing my purchase, but I forced myself to read in the hopes of gaining…something. By the 7th chapter, I just quit. Avoid this book.

9) How To Deliver a Ted Talk, Jeremey Donovan

I love books which are both quick reads AND where you feel you’re a better person than before you read it. This book is one of those. The book talks a bit about the TED format and gives you tips on selecting a great “TED” topic. I’m not really sure these will be useful for me (unless I go on to give one), but what I did find very very useful were the public speaking tips – all very relevant for ANY public speaking endeavor.

Recommendation: If you ever do ANY form of public speaking, this is well worth it, especially considering the not so big investment in time and price.  


July 2013 Open Coffee Postscript

JGL's July Open Coffee
JGL’s July Open Coffee

There was a moment during the actual pitching proper last Saturday’s Open Coffee event that I looked at Matt and AR of JGL and said, “I love this…I love it!”

It was one of the many times when someone in the audience had the the RIGHT contact or the RIGHT information and then just generously offers it to the pitcher who needs it.

This encapsulates the whole point of Juan Great Leap: collaboration and learning. The JGL Open Coffee format pushes this to another level: there is no “sage on the stage” or a central source of information. It’s just entrepreneurs and entrepreneur-minded people helping one another out.

As usual, last Saturday was very, very different from every other Open Coffee event we’ve had. The pitches were very varied.

Mano Abello got the “first pitch” honors and started the ball rolling.

mano abello

Animator/entrepreneur Dennis Sebastian shows off his awesome animation short and asks for collaboration on marketing original Filipino content:

dennis Sebastian

In a very peculiar sequence of events, we then get three people pitch different travel-related ideas back-to-back-to-back.

Tim’s second Open Coffee pitch
gerard cruz
17-year old Gerard Cruz making his travel app pitch
matt lapid
JGL’s very own Matt Lapid pitching his tourist video idea

Then, we get our very first 4-people pitch when the folks at Minda-Now! make their pitch and collect feedback for their awesome idea/advocacy.

Wasn’t sure here at first if we would give them 2 minutes as a group or two minutes each. Ended up doing one minute each.

Next we had dessert entrepreneur Christian elicit a lot of feedback from fellow-restauranteurs in the audience.

note to future food entreps: bring samples 🙂

In another back-to-back, Florence and Barney close the pitching proper by pitching their social enterprises

Florence of Route 63, a travel-related social enterprise
Florence of Route 63, a travel-related social enterprise
Barney pitches his learning-based social enterprise, TEAM
Barney pitches his learning-based social enterprise, TEAM

Finally, we had Zar Castro of talk about the awesome 47 East site.



Here’s one interesting observation from last Saturday: It’s becoming a family affair!

Take a look at this pic.

family affair

That’s THREE father and son pairs in Open Coffee. I think this is very interesting and stems from two factors. One, I think there’s a felt need for entrepreneurial parents to expose their children to entrepreneurship and startups. A big number of entrepreneurs I know feel that our traditional learning institutions don’t exactly give the right “real world” exposure to entrepreneurship and startups. So parents feel that they need to strongly “supplement” their children’s learning.

The other factor is that there are more and more young people getting interested in startups. The three teenagers here weren’t dragged in kicking and screaming. They WANTED to go. (In fact, one of them pitched) In fact, maybe a fifth of the people who went to this one were students. That’s awesome.

I’m ALREADY excited for the next one.

Why TURBO is (surprisingly) the most entrepreneurial movie you’ll see in years

The most entrepreneurial animated film you’ll ever see!

I watched TURBO last night with my family. The wifey liked it. The kids LOVED it. 

Unbeknownst to them, I was loving it a little more than I probably should. Why?

Turbo is easily the greatest entrepreneurial animated movie I have ever seen!!! 

(now that’s a sentence I’d never, ever thought about writing in this blog)

At the risk of spoiling the movie by detailing how exactly it achieved this, let me just enumerate several entrepreneurial themes that I managed to observe in the movie.

There were SO many. 

To wit (when you do watch the movie, do see if you can tick some of these off – most are pretty obvious):

A “crazy” one dreaming of a big thing

The desire to leave the corporate assembly line

Unsupportive family/friends

Failing many times before succeeding

Raising money

Pitching to investors

How traction makes raising money easier

Virality and how mobile enables it

The value of PR

The value of key partners and alliances

Being the underdog

Racing with the big boys

Leveraging on agility when racing with the big boys

Not giving up

How “good enough” isn’t good enough

The rewards of entrepreneurship

The movie was fun and enjoyable enough by itself. Viewed through entrepreneurial lens, it becomes something much more.

See it soon and tell me what you think!

5 Must-ask Questions for Your Co-Founder Interviews

partnersIf you’ve been reading this blog for awhile now, you already know how much emphasis I put at the process of finding the right partner. Actually, wrong partner selection is THE single reason I’ve failed in multiple previous  startups. Do NOT take this delicate process haphazardly.

To help you with this process, I’d like to share some practical questions you can ask a potential partner during an interview. This is by no means a comprehensive list – these are just a random, practical list of questions I’ve found to be pretty helpful over the years.

Image converted using ifftoany

1) What are your own dreams for this startup?

You want a partner, not an employee. You want someone who will share your startup dream and very importantly, make it something bigger. Your potential partner HAS to have his own take on how to further build on your idea or vision.

Red flag answers:

“Well, uhm, I haven’t really thought of that.”

“It’s your vision, not mine.”


2) I really suck at _______, _________, and _________. What are YOUR weaknesses?

Weaknesses questions are very, very tricky in interviews. People know the question is coming and yet are are still befuddled by it. Moreover, you typically get people who won’t divulge real weaknesses and instead give you duh answers like:

“I work too hard”


“I’m a perfectionist.”


“I used to be bad with detail, but now it’s no longer a weakness.” (this means its a HUGE weakness!!)

In the co-founder search, the weakness/strength discussion is just so crucial. The whole point of getting a partner or two is to find people who will complement you and account for your weaknesses  (and vice versa).

So you HAVE to have an honest, open conversation about strengths and weaknesses.

The first part of the question, “My weaknesses are…” is designed to make the interviewee more comfortable in divulging her own weaknesses by first divulging your own. Share these truthfully. If you are genuine, your interviewee WILL, more often than not, reciprocate.

Red flag answers:

“I work too hard.”

“I have worked so hard in correcting my weaknesses that now I have none.” (yep, I have gotten this multiple times)


3) How do you like to get rewarded? 

I like this question precisely because it is a very general question and can lead the conversation where the interviewee chooses. You can then see patterns as far as motivation is concerned. Knowing what will motivate a partner is crucial in ensuring your partner/s stays with you.

For extrinsic rewards, be sensitive to answers which pertain to the timing of when the interviewee would want to get rewarded.

You want people who will believe in your idea and will work for FUTURE monetary rewards. You want to be talking more about equity, success-based rewards, and future plans, instead of negotiating current salary.

Which reminds me of another very strategic question to ask:


4) What are your current financial obligations?

This is an AWESOME question.

I’ve found that a person’s current financial situation is a HUGE determinant as to whether he would take a leap with you or not. Not only will you get a good picture of this, but this is also a VERY GOOD WAY of determining what the person’s minimum salary can be.

(If the person says “I’m paying around P3000 a month for the phone bill and around P4000 for gas. that’s it.” and then he says later on, “I would require a fulltime salary of P40,000,” then you have a red flag.)

I just am realizing this right now as I type this – I hope I won’t regret posting these when I do future founder interviews…


5) Can you design/program/sell/  ________ for me right now? 

These are the three classic roles for the ideal founding team: a design expert, a programmer (or more generally, your MAKER/PRODUCER), and your pitchman.

How do you know if they can do the role well? Make them exhibit it. Make them audition.

Make the pitcher give you a 5-minute pitch. Ask the programmer to code. Make the designer draw something. Don’t  rely on a portfolio (you’re not sure if they really did it). Rely on what they could produce right there and then. This will take time yes, but believe me, its worth it.

Red flag answers:

“Really? Now?”

Other quick suggestions: 

– NEVER partner from just one interview. Do AT LEAST 3. Ask many references. And then work on a small project together before shelling out any equity. This is not an employee. This is a marriage. Be thorough.

– If its been a long time already and you haven’t found a partner yet? (I know some people who are now at year 3 of the search). Just start and incorporate. The work you will do (assumption: you do good work) WILL attract potential partners. Who knows, you might not even need one.




WHEN: June 22, 2013 9:30 am

WHERE: 47 East Compound, 47 Esteban Abada Street, Loyola Heights, QC (Right in front of the MCDC school)

It’s that time of the month again!

For those who’ve been to one of the sessions, you already know how awesomely helpful open coffee is when it comes to networking, validating ideas, and finding opportunities are concerned. I’m excited to see all the familiar faces!

For those who haven’t gone – you just have to check out for yourself what all the fuss is about!

Do click HERE to reserve your slot!

(Do bring a minimum fee of P100 to pay for coffee and simple snacks)

(Know anyone who would benefit from joining Open Coffee? If so, be a blessing and share!)

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How To Assemble Your Startup Entourage


(the following is a guest post by multi-awarded entrepreneur Maoi Arroyo)

As a junkie of all things startup, I’ve always loved shows like Bloomberg’s TechStars. Whichever season you watch, these entrepreneurship-themed reality shows try to select the best teams as opposed to the best ideas. As Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, famously said

“The view that good ideas are rarer and more valuable than good people is rooted in a misconception of creativity. If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they’ll screw it up. But if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they’ll make it work.”

If there’s one thing I learned in the nine years I’ve helped tech-based startups get off the ground, it’s that business is a team game, and the firm with the best team wins. It’s unavoidable that the media and the public focus on the “front men”. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Dado Banatao: the charismatic and slightly kooky guys get the attention. People gravitate to “self-made” men.

Except that there is no such animal.

Show me anyone you think is “self-made” and I will show you at least three other people who helped get them there and are wealthy enough to do anything they want.  Larry Page and Sergei Brin founded Google in 1998, and Marisa Mayer was employee #20 in 1999. If her name sounds familiar it’s because she’s now CEO of Yahoo. Why in the world would she want to be in charge of a floundering company like Yahoo? Because after you grow a company from 20 to 30,000 staff; you have enough money to  be comfortable and you can do something ludicrously risky.

So the question is: if you want to be the next Google, how do you find a Marisa Mayer? Who do you recruit to your founding team and in what order?


expertSorry, it doesn’t mean what you think it means. DOM is shorthand for the person with Domain Knowledge. You want to start a restaurant? Makes sense to start with a chef. App Development?  A programmer would be useful. Fashion? A thorough examination of the fashion portfolio and comparative analysis of chaka-ness is a must.

Domain knowledge can come from experience, education, or both. Choo Yeang Keat was a Malaysian cobbler who had been making shoes since he was 11. He built a respectable business which exploded when Tamara Mellon, accessories editor from British Vogue, partnered with him. Jimmy Choo’s shoes now sell in 32 countries for prices that regularly give husbands palpitations.

If you are the DOM, you’d better have geek cred and partner with someone who is market savvy and handle all those pesky numbers and “models” that always seems to be encapsulated in PowerPoint Smart Art. If you aren’t the DOM, find one and give them the role of Chief Technology Officer.

The Wizard

wizardSome people call them mentors, but I call them Wizards. Wizards are both mentors and tormentors. It’s Merlin’s job to tell you that this Lancelot guy you’re thinking of hiring is cuter than you and your wife is into him. It’s Gandalf’s job to call you a “Fool of a Took” when you wake up the Balrog. The Wiz is going to provide you insight to the very important baby steps you should take BEFORE you found the company. Things like technology and market validation before you waste your money on a patent. In return for this knowledge, you should give them a part of your company EVEN IF they aren’t going to be involved in running it from day to day. 3% equity up-front or 10% vested over 3 years (translation: “3 gives”); in preferred shares that have no voting rights but get paid FIRST when you issue dividends. Like any RPG, your wizards will stand back from the fray and need time to cast massive spells. Keep them with you and don’t let them get overwhelmed.

The Anti-You

oppositesIsolate the key things that are characteristic of you and find someone who is the complete opposite. I’m the kind of person who can come back from the bathroom with 20 new ideas that I want to pursue simultaneously. I have a knack for exaggeration. Math classes gave me PTSD. No one has ever accused me of shyness or humility. So I found a detail-oriented, frighteningly accurate, introverted co-founder who inhales numbers and exhales cash. Naturally you have to have the same vision and integrity, but someone you respect has to stand up to you and pull you back from insanity.

The Spartan

spartanThe Spartans embody the philosophy that makes start-ups work. If one Spartan falls, another one takes his place. They work as a single unit. All of them are leaders. Filipinos seem to live in horror of having “too many leaders”. That’s because we misunderstand what leadership is. Being able to lead well is a skill, not inborn ability. You can get people to listen to you by being charismatic; leading them is something you have to learn how to do. It’s essential to be in command of yourself before you try and command others, and you must prove yourself worthy and deserving of your team’s trust in you with your every action. A leader for a startup is not “in the rear, with the gear”. They stand shoulder to shoulder, right up front. They are the tip of the spear. They are the first among equals.

The Spartan is your CEO. On very rare occasions is your DOM a Spartan. That’s because the critical job of a CEO is sales. You know how a Founder-CEO is pitching? His mouth is open. That’s all they do. They have a recruitment pitch, they have a sales pitch, and they have a fund-raising pitch. If your CEO can’t pitch, get another CEO. There will be no cash to manage, no team to enable, no world-changing company if they cannot pitch.

You can call yourself an entrepreneur but until you get a solid team and some cash, you’re just some wannabe with a great idea. Ideas don’t change the world, people do.

Don’t stay a wannabe.

You can learn the fine art of PitchCraft on Saturday, May 25. Karen Hipol, associate director of Carillion Partners, will teach you what to pitch and I’ll teach you how to do it. Attend the event and you get an opportunity in June to get in front of institutional investors, all for one low price! (See I told you all we do is sell).  The PhP 500 discount ends on May 15th, and slots are limited. Sign-up today and build your dream team! – Maoi Arroyo