How I’m Picking Up The Pieces and Re-Launching Them As Startups. Anyone interested in being founders?

Pick-up-Sticks

Around 3 years ago, STORM was in a rut.

We made a sellable product in Flexible Benefits. We were so excited that people were ACTUALLY BUYING our product that we…

…made OTHER products instead of concentrating and building on our winner.

I blame my entrepreneurial craziness for this one. Wrote about this a bit for homegrown.ph – on the serial temptation

Soon, we had more products than we had people! While each idea was an innovative one and made a BIT of money for us, what we mostly produced was a boatload of mediocrity. Instead of making one GREAT thing – we did a number of  inspired but UNDEVELOPED products.

So channeling our inner Steve Jobs, we killed all our horses except for the biggest one, the one which put us on the map – flexible benefits.

It’s been a great decision.

My STORM business partner Paolo and I made a little experiment though. Among the dropped products, we decided to pursue the next-most promising (and profitable) one, and spin it off into a startup.

Wary of committing the same mistakes again, Pao and I swore we won’t be involved operationally in this new one. So we then looked for TWO MORE co-founders for the would-be firm: a Pitcher CEO and a DOM (Borrowing Maoi’s awesome definitions).  Pao and I would only continue to be involved on a board level.

A few months after?

Strata.ph was launched. What Strata wants to do is to disrupt the way companies manage their people through an online platform which manages competencies.

Within the first few months of operations, it has already managed to secure lucrative b2b contracts. Using the standard of “How much time does it take for the startup to make its first million,” this, by far has been the most successful startup I’ve been involved in.

How has Strata.ph done this?

Here’s why it worked:

1) Fulltime founders

Really quite crucial. Self-explanatory.

2) Sharing the STORM marketing database

Storm and Strata have the same target market.

So instead of Strata calling clients on the phone and asking:

Good afternoon! I’m _____ from Strata. We sell an online competencies platform. May we talk to your HR Director? (pause to listen)

Uhm, no he isn’t expecting my call. 

Hello? Hello?!

We can instead call clients on the phone and ask:

Uy, Jun how are you? How are the kids and their first days in school?” (pause to listen)

Sounds good! Kamusta naman ang flexible benefits ninyo? (pause to listen)

I’m glad to hear that! Tawagan mo lang ako kung magkaroon kayo ng problema ha.”

Dude, do you remember that sister company I told you about? The one doing an online competency framework? Would you have some time this week to meet with them?

This is a BIGGIE.

3) The board knows the market and the business – from a startup perspective

Pao and I are members of the Strata board. Who better to help the CEO and COO of new HR technology startup than another CEO/COO pair who run a successful one?

HR

So where does this all point towards?

I’m now looking at the remaining dropped STORM product lines with a glint in my eye.

Does anyone want to help me put them up?

There are 3 HR ideas I want to pursue and build startups above. 

Here’s who I need (it should be pretty obvious if you’ve read the above):

1) I need people who can commit FULLTIME or if you’re working fulltime, someone who is SERIOUSLY considering a fulltime leap.

2A) The first idea has something to do with training and development. I need 2 people for this one. I need a pitching CEO, and a STATISTICIAN – someone who loves numbers and analysis.

2B) The second idea has something to do with recruitment. For this I might need 2 people as well people. A pitching CEO (ideally someone with recruitment background),  a tech guy who knows how to build web products.

2C) The third idea is an OD consulting play. It ALREADY has a pitching CEO, I would need a partner for him – preferably a someone with an OD background.

3) I need people who will LEAD and be accountable. I need entrepreneurs.

These people I’m looking for will really be STARTUP FOUNDERS. I will not be involved directly in operations, so it’s up to you to build the company.

If you’re interested, send me a line at peter@juangreatleap.com. Do attach a CV and a cover letter as to why you think you’d be a great fit.

Want to take a leap? Send me that email now!

Universities Represent!

student entrep conference
Universities Represent! (from L – R) Christian Go (ADMU), Albert Mercado (MAPUA), James Fernando (DLSU), me, Angeli Recella (DLSU), Red Bermejo (ADMU), Quina Baterna (ADMU), Luis Gan (UP)

I had an absolute blast early today with 6 awesome student leaders (sorry Angeli, you don’t count anymore) talk about ideas on how to propagate the startup movement in campuses.

Basically, the group introduced themselves to one another, ate doughnuts, and then the awesome brainstorming happened.

There is one big plan the group is concocting (to be revealed soon). The next step is to get more universities represented in the next meeting, when more concrete details, will be decided on.

The next meeting will be next Thursday (May 23) at 3:00pm (venue still to be decided on). If you are an entrepreneurial student who wants to help out in spreading the startup movement in your school, do send me a message at peter@juangreatleap.com to get a reservation for this next meeting, along with an explanation as to why one of the seats needs to have your name on it!

Take the leap! Represent!

How To Assemble Your Startup Entourage

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?

The DOM

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

Juan Great Leap Calls on 5 More Student Leaders!

I’ll be meeting around 5 student leaders next Wednesday, 4pm, at the STORM conference room, at Unit 602, Centerpoint Building, along Julia Vargas. The main agenda will be: 1) How to push entrepreneurship and the startup movement in universities 2) How to help student entrepreneurs   (Map here) Our conference room seats around 10 people, so there are 5 seats still free. I wanted to open it up to interested parties.

Do you want to join this conversation?

If you are an incoming undergraduate student, interested in entrepreneurship, and you’re the type of person who gets things done, then you might want to join us.

This is the actual room to be used 🙂

If you are interested, please do send me an email at peter@juangreatleap.com, along with an explanation on why you’d be a good choice.

(know anyone who might be interested in this? forward and share!)

What is PITCHCRAFT and why you NEED to attend it

pitchingIn my 10 years of HR work prior to becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur, I did an awful lot of presentations and gave a ton of job offers. I thought I was pretty good doing these things, so when I made my leap into entrepreneurship, I thought to myself:

“Hey whatever ‘selling’ I would need to do for my startup I can probably do preeetty well!”

Well, I was in for a rude awakening.

Pitching is Everything in Entrepreneurship

It turns out, selling (or pitching in startup parlance) is absolutely critical in startup development. ALL the major activities in doing a startup involved pitching:

Finding Co-founders:

Yep, you have to present something  very convincing to get them to say yes. I had to go through dozens of rejections before I was able to perfect my pitch and talk my first partner into investing their time and money in me. 

Recruiting Employees:

As a veteran recruiter coming into startup life, I thought this would be chicken feed.

Then I realized just how much help a brand name like “Chikka” helped me in recruiting when I was in corporate. Or how an actual office helped (and how a pseudo-office-home arrangement doesn’t help).  Or how a recruitment budget helped.

I had to learn to use other strategies to help me.

Raising Money:

If my 2013 self saw my 2006 self doing the investment pitches I did before, this is how my 2013 self would react:

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Sales:

The lifeblood of any business. When my co-founder and I decided to split responsibilities for STORM during its first year, I took on the responsibility of being the “pitchman.”

After 7 years of selling for my startup, its really been only in the last few years (and I’m a pretty confident guy) that I can say to myself “I CAN DO SALES WELL.”

Prior to that, I was grasping at straws. I didn’t know what worked and what didn’t. I really learned about selling through trial and error. (I am hopeful you won’t need 7 years to get a knack for this.)

The Pitching Gap is Real and Needs to be Addressed

I’ve now heard literally hundreds of startup pitches, if you combine the pitches I’ve heard facilitating Open Coffee, hearing individuals out during Startup Saturdays, observing in Startup Weekend, and attending other startup-related events.

Here’s an observation:

Often, the best idea doesn’t get the best opportunities.

If you go to the next Startup Weekend for example, this is something you can quickly observe if you listen to the pitches: if you just rely on the idea’s merit and block out the pitch (you can do this by writing down all the ideas as they are pitched, try not to judge, and then when the pitching stops, you can go back to your list and then judge), you’d see a discrepancy between the ideas you find interesting and the ideas that actually get chosen by the participants.

So much depends on the pitchman and how he pitches.

And you know what? Collectively, I think we need a lot of work on our pitches.

(I just remembered someone I was talking to about this who was saying: “it gets worse when they think they’re awesome…and they’re really not.” This is partly why I keep saying self-awareness and humility are two very important traits to develop as a founder)

Post Startups Unplugged

After conversing in Startups Unplugged, Maoi Arroyo (no relation to the former president) and I agreed that our interests dovetailed and we needed to work together on…something.

During a recent meeting at the Hybridgm office in AIM, Maoi mentioned, “Maybe we could do an event on how to do the right pitch, targeting entrep…”

Ittookmeabouttwomilliseconds to say yes, realizing how critical addressing this gap was.

PitchCraft: How To Develop a Killer Pitch for Raising Capital and Recruiting

pitchcraft logo

On May 25, 2013, we’re doing a seminar designed to teach participants what exactly the formula is on executing the right pitch, specifically for raising money and finding partners/recruitment.

It shall be held at the Fuller Hall of the Asian Institute of Management in Makati, from 1pm to 5pm.

This will be a paid event. Early bird rates (valid only up to May 15) are at P1000 for professionals and P500 for students (with valid ID).

Regular rates are at P1500 for professionals and P1000 for students (with a valid ID).

Here’s how the event will go:

1. Introductions

2. Keynote

3. Panel Discussion

4. Q&A

5. Post-Event: Real Pitching to Real Investors (Around a week after the Pitchcraft event, all interested participants shall be invited to do their pitches in front of real investors. This is the real thing!)

The keynote speaker for the event shall be Maoi herself. We’ll be announcing who the panelists will be soon enough. 

I think Maoi’s the perfect choice for giving this seminar (I actually can’t wait to attend this myself). Her firm, Hybridigm, is a startup incubator specializing in biotech. She’s been helping startup founders hone their pitches for more than a decade now. (And if you’ve ever met her, you’d know it’s going to be FUN).

I find that one of the VERY interesting inclusions here is the Post-Event. We figured, the best learning happens during ACTUAL pitches right? So what did we arrange? A real pitching event with real investors.  You can get to apply everything you will learn form the Pitchcraft proper onto an ACTUAL pitching process. (If you think about it…this is AWESOME)

How to Register

1. Send payment to:

BPI Account No: 0321-0230-61
Account Name: Hybridigm Consulting Inc.

2. Send a photo/scanned copy of the deposit slip to Angeli at angeli@juangreatleap.com

3. Angeli will send you an email confirmation (and an ultra-quick survey) to confirm your slot

OR

You could pay online:

1. Purchase the tickets online by clicking one of the buttons below:

RATE FOR PROFESSIONALS – P1500
buy now button

RATE FOR STUDENTS (Students) – P1000
buy now button

2. Send a copy of the Paypal receipt to Angeli at angeli@juangreatleap.com

3. Angeli will send you an email confirmation (and an ultra-quick survey) to confirm your slot

Register NOW!

If you are an aspiring/current entrepreneur from ANY field, I suggest you register as fast as possible to reserve your slot (150 slots only).

Let’s make our pitches count, eh? 

Pitchcraft: How To Develop a Killer Pitch for Raising Capital and Recruiting is being brought to you by

JGL with textand

hybridigm

with the help of our sponsors:

ayala

go negosyo

binalot

Open Coffee Postscript

open coffee april

I had another awesome time last Saturday morning at the April Edition of Open Coffee. Here are some of my thoughts and observations on now holding four of these formatted mixers.

1)  The Sharing Continues to Amaze Me

My colleague AR told me that she plans to write a thesis about how the growing Filipino entrepreneurial community is debunking the notion of Filipino crab mentality. You can see this is in action in Open Coffee. In the pitches, you will see people will share business plans, ideas, and plans to people they do not know. (and unlike in “formal” pitching venues, there is no “prize” save for the learning. What’s magical is that the audience reciprocates – sharing their own insight, personal experience, and contacts to the one pitching. (You gotta see it if you haven’t yet.)

2) Get Ready for Sheer Variety

pitch

I think this is what makes the Juan Great Leap audience a bit different from other startup communities. Just on this version of Open Coffee alone, we had pitches for: a customer service consulting firm for front-liners, an essential oil which increases productivity, a crowdfunding site for volunteers, a published book targeting young entrepreneurs, a lactation consulting play on social media, a do-it-yourself online explainer video maker, a bazaar a unique social interaction app, and a consulting firm for boutique hotels.  For someone with my need for different stimulus, this is like a kid in a Toys R’ Us.

Long story short, it’s also tremendous learning.

3) For the Most Part, the Pitching Needs Work

The 2-minute limit presents a nice quandary for presenters:

How do I get my point across effectively in two minutes?

Theoretically, pitchers are then forced to be ultra-EFFICIENT, cutting less-important details for the MOST important details.

I’m not so sure this is what happens though, as most people prematurely wrap up their pitch when the two minutes are up.

I think there can be VAST improvement over how most of us present their pitches. Pitching is a crucial part of the startup life. Entrepreneurs need to be effective pitchmen for so many different, crucial things – recruitment, raising money, sales, marketing, partnerships,etc…

This is something we need to improve. (more on this soon)

4) The Platform Needs To Be a “Safe Place”

In the March 47 East Open Coffee, student Christian Go hitched with me going home. He told me he almost didn’t pitch, because he thought the first pitcher was sort of attacked. (basically people said the idea wasn’t too good)

Remembering what Christian shared, I started this Open Coffee by underlining two things. I told people that: a) they have to be extra-conscious of HOW they give their comments, and b) that ALL comments have to have some semblance of being CONSTRUCTIVE.

The resulting pitch rounds and feedback-giving were super. I think people took the two things to heart.

I do realize that there are some people who prefer the Western-style “tell it as it is in my face” method. But this is the Philippines after all, a reminder makes all the difference.

5) Bigger and Bigger

open coffee full house

I commented on the JGL FB page that OPEN COFFEE getting too big for the venue. The March Open Coffee had 40+ participants. This April version had 50+.

From an idea I wasn’t sure would pan out,

(would people share? what if no one wants to be the first to pitch? would people give useful feedback)

I think it’s safe to call Open Coffee a success after 4 iterations.

Onwards to bigger and better versions. Thank you so much to everyone who keep on making it so!

matt lapid profile pic
Naks! Matt Lapid profile pic!

More pics here! 

(For those who are new to Open Coffee, it happens MONTHLY, with the next one coming out mid-to-late May. Stay tuned!)

The Software Guru: On Refuting Peter, Premature Startup Culture, and Change for the Next Generation (Part 2 of the Joey Gurango Series )

The Software Guru, Joey Gurango of Gurango Software
The Software Guru, Joey Gurango of Gurango Software

In one of his blogposts, Peter, refers to the concept of the Argonaut from the book, Start-up Nation.

What are your personal opinions on the contribution of the Argonaut to a Philippine Startup Nation? 

Joey: I think the Philippine Startup scene is about 10 years away from being labeled as mature. A lot of my colleagues, maybe including Peter, might say that we’re on the cusp, about four years away from being a mature startup scene, I don’t think so. I actually don’t agree with some of the assumptions  [Peter] is making on the Philippines as a Startup Nation and the impact that you can make on it.

For me, it’s almost like saying that the Philippines is a mature democracy, but how far are we from a being a mature democracy? Well, to fix the problem it’s not just a matter of a constitutional amendment or having honest government officials or organizationally trying to change things, I think it goes far beyond all that stuff. It gets down to the common tao, the man on the street. Same thing, when thinking about ourselves as part of a mature Startup Nation. The common man on the street does not think about business. He thinks,

How do I get mine?

Now, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but there are too many people in this country that aren’t able to fulfill what would be considered the basic luxuries of life. There aren’t too many people who are at a level, in which they can comfortably say,

I’m enjoying my life, and I have time to think about things other than trying to just make ends meet from one paycheck to the next.

As long as you have a society, in which majority of the people are trying to make ends meets, you won’t have the mentality to think about starting a business. Now, when I say business, I don’t mean a business, in which the guy is doing pasaloads or running a sari-sari store. I’m talking about a real business which will attract employees and grow into something substantial. But when was the last time you saw a locally made television show that featured this happening?

In comparison to the typical US sitcom, how often do you see the TV characters start a business? Just the other week I was watching The Office and one of the characters in The Office was going to join a startup. It’s a common thing there [in the U.S.], but I don’t see that in the mainstream media here [in the Philippines]. If anything, you see some big business man who is corrupt, greedy and oppressive to his employees doing anything to make a profit. I believe that’s the common man’s perception of a successful businessman. We have to change that first. It’s going to take a while…many years…

In your opinion, what is the key to development in the Philippines?

Joey: Changing people’s perception about entrepreneurship. In all the things we’re doing, what Peter’s doing, what I am going to do as part of our advocacy with the Software Industry Association, and TechnoNegosyo. All of these efforts when you get down to it is geared towards changing people’s perception. We want to show people that pursuing a career in entrepreneurship is viable.

Right now, what the masses understand are celebrities. The most popular figures in the country are celebrities or politicians.

But you talk to the common man about who the most popular business man is and they’ll probably say MVP or the Ayalas. If you ask them about a regular businessman, not part of a conglomerate or oligarchy, who started a business… you ask them who started Jolibee… they wouldn’t know. This is the type of rags to riches story that our culture doesn’t promote.

Will changing the perceptions of individuals change our country?

Yes, and it starts with your generation. It starts with the people who are in their 20s.  It will take a whole bunch of successes and more people learning about what theses successes do to make this movement happen.

The Software Guru: On Refuting Peter, Premature Startup Culture, and Change for the Next Generation (Part 2 of the Joey Gurango Series )

The Software Guru, Joey Gurango of Gurango Software
The Software Guru, Joey Gurango of Gurango Software

In one of his blogposts, Peter, refers to the concept of the Argonaut from the book, Start-up Nation.

What are your personal opinions on the contribution of the Argonaut to a Philippine Startup Nation? 

Joey: I think the Philippine Startup scene is about 10 years away from being labeled as mature. A lot of my colleagues, maybe including Peter, might say that we’re on the cusp, about four years away from being a mature startup scene, I don’t think so. I actually don’t agree with some of the assumptions  [Peter] is making on the Philippines as a Startup Nation and the impact that you can make on it.

For me, it’s almost like saying that the Philippines is a mature democracy, but how far are we from a being a mature democracy? Well, to fix the problem it’s not just a matter of a constitutional amendment or having honest government officials or organizationally trying to change things, I think it goes far beyond all that stuff. It gets down to the common tao, the man on the street. Same thing, when thinking about ourselves as part of a mature Startup Nation. The common man on the street does not think about business. He thinks,

How do I get mine?

Now, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but there are too many people in this country that aren’t able to fulfill what would be considered the basic luxuries of life. There aren’t too many people who are at a level, in which they can comfortably say,

I’m enjoying my life, and I have time to think about things other than trying to just make ends meet from one paycheck to the next.

As long as you have a society, in which majority of the people are trying to make ends meets, you won’t have the mentality to think about starting a business. Now, when I say business, I don’t mean a business, in which the guy is doing pasaloads or running a sari-sari store. I’m talking about a real business which will attract employees and grow into something substantial. But when was the last time you saw a locally made television show that featured this happening?

In comparison to the typical US sitcom, how often do you see the TV characters start a business? Just the other week I was watching The Office and one of the characters in The Office was going to join a startup. It’s a common thing there [in the U.S.], but I don’t see that in the mainstream media here [in the Philippines]. If anything, you see some big business man who is corrupt, greedy and oppressive to his employees doing anything to make a profit. I believe that’s the common man’s perception of a successful businessman. We have to change that first. It’s going to take a while…many years…

In your opinion, what is the key to development in the Philippines?

Joey: Changing people’s perception about entrepreneurship. In all the things we’re doing, what Peter’s doing, what I am going to do as part of our advocacy with the Software Industry Association, and TechnoNegosyo. All of these efforts when you get down to it is geared towards changing people’s perception. We want to show people that pursuing a career in entrepreneurship is viable.

Right now, what the masses understand are celebrities. The most popular figures in the country are celebrities or politicians.

But you talk to the common man about who the most popular business man is and they’ll probably say MVP or the Ayalas. If you ask them about a regular businessman, not part of a conglomerate or oligarchy, who started a business… you ask them who started Jolibee… they wouldn’t know. This is the type of rags to riches story that our culture doesn’t promote.

Will changing the perceptions of individuals change our country?

Yes, and it starts with your generation. It starts with the people who are in their 20s.  It will take a whole bunch of successes and more people learning about what theses successes do to make this movement happen.

Forget Your Career And Pursue Your Vocation

discernment

My So-called Career Development

For the most part of my adult life, I thought I knew what I had wanted to do.

I wanted to pursue a career in HR. I wanted to make money. I wanted to make my resume as impressive as I could possible make it.

And so I tried my very best to achieve these. I knew they would make me happy.

At particular points, I would find myself dissatisfied with certain facets. So, I just decided on changing some things along the way.

Not enough money? Join a better-paying firm.

Resume not impressive enough? Get an advanced degree.

Still not happy? Party and go out with friends.

In my fourth company, Chikka, I became extremely confused.

I was doing well.

It was a dynamic firm. I had a great boss. I made key decisions in my function. I was paid well. It was fun.

I SHOULD be happy, I thought. So I pretended a bit, trying to ignore my restlessness.

But I just wasn’t happy.

Almost instinctively, I thought of leaving for another firm. But I knew one thing which bothered me to the core: after 3-4 months, the novelty would fade away in my theoretical new firm, and I would be left with the same dissatisfaction I had wanted to escape from.

Was this how life is? Just trudging from one place to another like a plodding headless chicken? 

Could I start anew in another field?! No! How can I just waste a decade of my life and start from scratch?

This was how effective my “career management” endeavors ended up being. My own decisions brought me to the brink of desperation.

Direction

Finding My Vocation

In How God Founded Our Startup, I talk about how God intervened at this particular point in my life.

It wasn’t an instant thing.

I think I really only found Him around two years before that fateful leap.

Prior to that, I had no prayer life whatsoever (except maybe when I needed something, then I’d say a short prayer), I did what I wanted when I wanted. I would usually skip Mass. In retrospect, I never let Him be a part of my life nor of my decisions.

When I decided to really follow and love God – and get to know Him and talk to Him more consistently in prayer, things slowly started to change. I learned I needed to let go of the wheel and surrender. Very tough for someone as independent as me.

Little did I know that 2 years after, God would ask of me all that I found important in the world – money, titles, security, clarity, control – in making my great leap.

I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be an entrepreneur, much, much, less a helper of entrepreneurs. It was never, ever a career option.

Up until I wrote the first Juan Great Leap post, blogging was something very very foreign for me. I never in my wildest dreams thought: “I want to start an entrepreneurial blog and a build a community of entreps who help one another.”

Yet, this is precisely where God has led me.

Only He could have designed something that fits me perfectly in so many profound ways, I cannot even begin to describe. I have found my vocation, and my soul cannot stop celebrating.

Career versus Vocation

When we speak of “vocation,” it is usually reserved for just describing someone entering the priesthood or the convent.

No way.

All of us are missioned. God has a purpose for EACH one of us, and until we find that purpose, our souls become restless. We may try to numb this restlessness with money, power, control, or even relationships, but until we find that purpose, I believe getting rid of this restlessness will be elusive.

Vocation hails from the latin word vocātiō, meaning a call or a summons. Quite literally, vocation means being were we are called by God.

path

Heeding our vocation  –  which connotes seeking and following what His will is for us – is quite a different process from developing our careers – which frequently involve mental decision making.

The goals of a career are quite different from what the goals of a vocation are as well. The goal of a developing a career will likely revolve around some of the things I mentioned earlier: money, power, security, control.

The goal of a vocation, meanwhile, is to find our place and God’s purpose for us.

Careers are typically goal-based. We try to find jobs that pay us x amount per month let’s say, or will allow us to travel to countries, or will give us a certain title, or a certain type of car. There’s an endgame.

Vocations, on the other hand, to quote Fr. Ramon Bautista, SJ, in a retreat I had earlier today, “are never ‘mission-accomplished'”

Putting it most bluntly: careers don’t usually involve God. It seeks satisfaction in the external, specifically, that which we do not have.

“My dream job is out there. I need to keep looking.”

Vocation, on the other hand, makes you look at your interior self.

How has God moved in my life? What are my deepest desires? What are the gifts God gave me? How and where can I use them best for Him?

These internal questions, which I now so often use when I discern, are so different from the questions I used to ask, when I decided: 

What field will I be happy in? How much will my minimum salary be? Are the benefits comparable? Is my boss cool? What is the salary increase rate here? How fast will I get promoted? 

For lasting happiness and fulfillment, I think it’s pretty easy to see here what to pursue. You’d be glad to know following God has a practical angle as well: God’s plan will surely involve developing the best you that you can possibly be, maximizing your gifts and talents. When this happens, opportunity abounds. (In the end though, the bottom-line is this, if you surrender to God, don’t you think He will be faithful and take care of you?)

My social media spat

I got a note from someone around a year ago who said something like:

“Religious faith has no place business decisions. I would understand things like ‘having faith in the company,’ but religious faith? I fail to see how that can help any business.”

After everything that happened to me, I felt like going nuclear on the guy.

But then I realized that I felt the same way just a couple of years ago. Come to think of it, I NEVER involved God before in my career decisions. In fact, it was a little weird to mix “careers” and “God” in the same sentence for me.

I’m sure a lot of us still feel the same way.

So perhaps its best to start with something most of us can agree with: God loves us so very much.

Incredibly. Uniquely. Infinitely.

If you believe He loves us this much, then surely, You have to believe He must have a unique plan for each of us. A purpose.

If we believe He does have a plan then doesn’t it make sense to begin the process of trying to find out what it is?

Danny Moynihan’s Brilliant Open Coffee Moment

It was around 11:30 am.

marchopencoffee

I just closed the main pitching activity at the recently-held JGL Open Coffee activity and told everyone to gather at the hallway of 47 East to take a quick group pic.

And so we did.

After that, I told everyone it was free time.

You can probably imagine what happens next.

Wondrous chaos.

People began to just talk with one another. Small groups of 2, 3, and four people began to form.

Energy filled the room.

And then, incoming senior student Danny Moynihan unassumingly enters the room.

He quickly introduced himself to me, and then apologized for being late (he was from the south and got lost).

He then asked:

“Is the pitching done?”

“Yes, it was a few minutes ago.”

“Can I try to pitch?”

“Uhm…alright, let me try gathering them”

I then tried shouting: GUYS! CAN WE JUST GATHER QUICKLY FOR A QUICK PITCH?

I shouted again.

It was no use though.

People were very much INTO their conversations.

So I told Danny: “Sorry bro, it’s going to be tough to gather them like this.”

“Can I try, though?” Danny asked.

“Be my guest.”

Danny M
Danny gathering people at the adjacent room

After around 10 minutes, Danny miraculously got some of the people sitting down in an adjacent room, with half the people still having small conversations in the hallway.

Then, he got up on an elevated part of the room.

Then he proceeded to do what had to be THE LAST THING I’D EVER THOUGHT I’D SEE IN AN OPEN COFFEE EVENT.

You just have to see it for yourself: (go full volume)

Of course, by the time he finished, EVERYONE’S EARS were glued now glued to his every word. He then calmly gave his pitch. (and got more than a few people interested)

Now THAT, I thought, was pretty entrepreneurial!

(Lesson here: NEVER miss a JGL OPEN COFFEE session 🙂