The Software Guru tells the Real Story: On Startups, Bankruptcy, and Attitude (Part 1 of the Joey Gurango Series)

I remember texting Peter right after my interview with Joey Gurango, which was just days before Startups Unplugged. In my text, I asked Peter about what he thought about posting an uncut version of Joey’s interview on JGL. The reason for my suggestion was that after my interview with Joey, I was completely taken aback by the incredible knowledge that he was sharing with me; even though I wasn’t a techie, Joey’s stories resonated with me and schooled the heck out of me. Everything Joey shared with me just seemed so important, so I wanted to post everything that he said. While I must admit, I’ve omitted some parts of the conversation to be practical, this is still a very raw version of what Joey shared with me. I hope this piece will allow Joey’s stories and insights to speak for itself. The other portions of his story will be coming soon! In the meantime, sit tight and allow the sublime to take its course.

Joey Gurango of Gurango Software
Joey Gurango of Gurango Software

When did you start and why? 

Joey: My first business was in 1981. I was at the University of Washington and I did a pizza delivery business. Out of necessity, I figured that most college kids living in dorms were too lazy to go down to the pizza place to get their own pizza, so I just setup a phone and gave out fliers. Then, I waited for people to call me and ask for an order. I had Dominos, Godfather’s, and Pizza Hut menus and they [the customers] would call and tell me what they wanted. I’d put a 15% surcharge on whatever they ordered, but I would get their money first (Joey chuckles). The pizza delivery business was actually my first real business. My first real tech business was in 1984. I had worked for apple computer for a little over 2 years. The Macintosh just launched, and I got this idea to make something called desktop furniture for the Macintosh. So with that I started a company with some money because back then it was really expensive to build injection mold products by the mold. Everything was going great…and then in 18 months we went bankrupt, so that was my first experience.

Why’d you guys go bankrupt?

Joey: ‘Cos we spent more than we made. Real simple. We were making a lot of money. I think the first 6 months, we had over $1 million in revenue. But then the next 6 months, it didn’t quite reach a million dollars. Then after that, I decided that I didn’t want to be in hardware anymore. I started my first software company… that was 1987…Match Data Systems. I started that doing excel custom programming. In 1991, I decided to move the company back here [Philippines]. By then Windows had come out, so we moved from Macintosh to Windows. We were one of the first, as far as I know in Asia, that were doing Windows development work. One thing led to another. In 1999, by then we kind of branched out into ERP software, a company called Great Plains software acquired us, so we become Great Plains Philippines. Two years later, Microsoft acquired Great Plains, so I become a Microsoft employee. Then, I stayed with Microsoft for two years in 2001. I’ve basically had three jobs in my life. My first job was with Apple computer. My second job was with a training company for less than year. My third job was with Microsoft. Then I started my first software company and haven’t really worked for anybody else, until my company was acquired, so technically I was working for a multinational company, but it never really felt that way, which is why I left.

Why did you move back to the Philippines?

Joey: My first company did custom software development. First for the Macintosh. We did a lot of excel work…a lot of data base programming for the mac. The problem was, since we were doing a lot of excel work, I would train these fresh grads on developing for the graphic leisure interface, and then because Microsoft was really heavy into doing Windows development back then, they kept hiring them away from me. Microsoft would give them double the pay. I was getting frustrated because we were losing programmers in the US. Our office was literally a 5 minute drive away from Microsoft headquarters. At the time, my brother was visiting the States from the Philippines. He says, “You know we have programmers in the Philippines?” “Really? Do you even have PCs there [in the Philippines]?” I said. He replied, “Oh yeah! We have dBase programmers.” So that’s when the idea struck me that I could have the company in the Philippines and continue servicing my US customers. And it would be cheaper, and I wouldn’t have to worry about losing these guys because nobody else would hire them because we were doing stuff that nobody else was doing. That’s why I came back. We were doing offshore outsourcing before it was even a term.

What experiences or skills from abroad did you find most valuable for starting up in the Philippines? 

Joey: The one thing I’d say it’s not really a skill or experience, but more of an attitude. Through the years I’ve realized that the only difference, in general, between people in the countries like the US and here, when it comes to things like business and startups, is not knowledge, skills, IQ or EQ, but the big different shader is the willingness to risk and face failure. In the US, it’s not a big deal if you’ve started a company or even failed for that matter. My first real company went bankrupt after 18 months. We raised $250,000 in investor funds to start that company and in 18 months it was all gone. We never gave the investors back a single cent. Nobody was coming after to me trying to have me assassinated. There’s no shame in it. There’s no social stigma with that type of failure in the US. If I were to say what was the most helpful thing was to bring that mentality over here. Compared to most of the local technical guys, I was pretty fearless. I was willing to buy stuff that nobody else would consider. However, I’ve come to learn that taking the entrepreneurial path is not that risky. If you do it in the right way –like all the things I’ve learned just in the last five years- if you know how to do business modeling, practice lean startup and customer discovery, test and validate assumptions, it can be quite low-risk. It’s still not as low-risk as getting a job and a consistent paycheck, but it can get pretty close. I think if I knew what I knew today, it [the business] wouldn’t have gone bankrupt, but I would have shut it down a lot sooner. Now I can say that it’s not really that risky to be an entrepreneur, if you know how to do it right.



It’s OPEN COFFEE TIME again this March 23, 930 am at the 47 East Facility at Loyola Heights.

We’re inviting all startup-minded folk – veterans, startup newbies, and especially those who wish to take the leap – to drop by this awesome venue to both learn and network!

For those new to this monthly gathering, the format of OPEN COFFEE is pretty unique – everyone will have a strict 2 minutes to make a pitch. A pitch could be ANYTHING – a business idea, a call for advice, a call to partner, a recruitment pitch, etc…

(Well, anything EXCEPT doing a hard sell of an existing product or service)

And as those who’ve been to past sessions can attest – these sessions are AWESOME.

Do reserve your slot by clicking on the Eventbrite button below:


As per tradition, we shall be holding the event in a startup-related venue.

This time, it will be in a newly constructed co-working space near the Katipunan University belt – 47 East. (I was there a couple of days ago – it looks fantastic! Pictures below.)

See you there!

47east1 47east2 47east3

Startups Unplugged. Wow.

In a lot of ways, it was like launching a startup.

The concept (sorta-kinda-like group speed dating) had never been done before and it was either going to be AMAZING or a complete, fiery DISASTER. No in-between.

We thought it was a great way of creating better impact with a larger crowd than the usual conference/panel format. It was like holding a candle to a moth. We had to do it.

It now fell on the capable shoulders of Matt Lapid to execute.

So how did it go?

People coming in
People coming in
Prayer, The non-keynote, and instructions

At around 230, we started with a prayer, a sorta keynote (I felt totally unworthy doing a keynote, so I instead just went with some reminders), and then I painstakingly went through with the instructions – which were crucial.

First bell – transition, 5 minutes.

Second bell – settle down, 1 minute

Third bell  – start, 20 minutes

Five rounds of this.

The first bell sounded and people began going around with their maps (which people were also using as checklists).

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 10.25.40 PM

Second bell sounded. People were settled in their chosen areas.

Third bell sounded. No need – people were starting!

And there it was – energy!

I walked around the designated areas. People were nodding heads. Entrepreneurs were passionate.

Odell "I could've gone on for more rounds!" Ramirez of Looloo
Odell “I could’ve gone on for more rounds!” Ramirez of Looloo
Luis Buenaventura of
Luis Buenaventura of
I managed to sneak in one of  Maoi's sessions - she's brilliant! (plus, i think she can do stand-up comedy)
I managed to sneak in one of Maoi’s sessions – she’s brilliant! (plus, i think she can do stand-up comedy)
anna meloto-wilk
Multi-awarded Anna Meloto-Wilk explains her journey with Human Nature

Soon, the second and the third rounds were commencing. I started to allow myself to smile while walking around – we had managed to pull of a unique, amazing event!

It was evident how much people were LEARNING from the format and these marvelous entrepreneurs.

By the fifth round, the entrepreneurs were visibly tired, but incredibly, still just as passionate. It was amazing to see them give so much. EVERY entrepreneur wanted to make each of their answers (even if some of the questions repeated) as unique and as special for the person in front of her asking.

Some immediate reactions from Twitter:

Drei Alquiros ‏Fun and learning a lot here in @juangreatleap ‘s #Startupsunplugged

paula nierras Reaffirming, inspiring, and goosebumps-inducing afternoon c/o@JuanGreatLeap. Thanks and congratulations! #startupsunplugged

Zar Castro  Had a blast. Learned a lot. Thanks @JuanGreatLeap!

Jairuz A ‏ Thanks to @JuanGreatLeap @PeterCauton for organizing a very successful #startupsunplugged event today… See you on the next event!

Renelyn Tan ‏ Amazing event by @juangreatleap this afternoon. Thanks for all the inspiring entrepreneurs who shared their experience.

Yas Coles ‏ Great way to spend a Saturday afternoon: meet startup superstars to get going. Looking forward to more @JuanGreatLeap

Kazumi Shiroma ‏ “Be shameless with failure, be critical when you want to help.” -Reese Fernandez-Ruiz | Well spent Saturday afternoon with@JuanGreatLeap 🙂

Maria Rona Beltran  @JuanGreatLeap learned a lot of building an #entrepreneur attitude and startup stuff last saturday!


For those who attended, let me repeat the most important thing: I hope you not only learned from the experience, but I sincerely pray that you USE whatever motivation and/or information you were able to garner.


Our major sponsors:

Ayala Foundation: Thank you so much to Michi and her team for the beautiful venue, all the logistical help, and introducing us to some of the entreps!

Kickstart: To Minette and her team – for all the help and support! If you have a startup and you need funding, you have GOT to talk to Minette and her team.

Co.lab: Especially Chesa for helping us design the whole event, and for lending us Danella, who agreed to celebrate part of her birthday weekend as one of our awesome 20 entreps!

Velprint: For all your printing needs, be sure to check out the awesome, high quality work which Velprint can provide.

Thank you so much to our minor sponsors as well:

Gonuts Donuts for the awesome pastries!

Starbucks for the perfect cup of coffee (and water) you served (and boy, did it go splendidly with the doughnuts!)

Rocket Concepts for producing ALL the marketing/event collateral we used.

Human Nature for the awesome giveaways!

Stream Engine Studios for the great video introduction of our 20 entreps!

More pics! (for even more pics, check out the facebook page)

justin garrido talks about
justin garrido talks about
Reese Fernandez-Ruiz of Rags2riches
Reese Fernandez-Ruiz of Rags2riches


Gian Javelona of Orange Apps
Gian Javelona of Orange Apps
The ayala-TBI hallway
Group Shot! So proud of these 20 entreps!
Group Shot! So proud of these 20 entreps!
I dated the guest usher (shown here) after the event.
I dated the guest usher (shown here) after the event.

The Starstruck Guide to Startups Unplugged

Girl with Stars Over Eyes

I’m starstruck.

Looking at our line-up for Saturday, I am humbled, excited, giddy, honored, and super-thankful all at the same time.

I cannot over-emphasize the fact: Saturday will be a TREMENDOUS LEARNING EXPERIENCE.

You just have to take advantage of this rare opportunity to gain access to some of the most innovative and compelling startup founders in the country today.

There will be a brief keynote, and then the main “group speed dating” activity will transpire.

The rules are simple:

  1. Each entrepreneur will have his own “nook” with 12-15 chairs each. These chairs shall not be moved. 
  2. A first bell will ring to signal the start of the proceedings. You can now go and sit on one of the chairs of your chosen entrepreneur. This is musical-chairs type. If the seats are filled for one entrep, you have to proceed to go to a vacant chair. 
  3. A second bell will ring to signal that people should now ALL be seated and settled down. 
  4. A third bell will ring to signal that the sessions can begin. You are now in arms length to your entrepreneur of choice. SEIZE THE DAY. Ask your questions. 
  5. The bell will ring again to signal that the session has ended and that the next one will begin. You now need to look for your next entrep. 
  6. This will go on for FIVE rounds. 

Two very obvious suggestions then:

  1. PLAN ON WHO TO TALK TO. This will save you time. Plus you only have 6 rounds.
  2. PLAN YOUR QUESTIONS. Without your questions, the whole concept falls on its behind.

Now, here’s my very biased, star-struck, and informal guide to WHY YOU HAVE TO TALK TO EACH ENTREPRENEUR.

Ready? Let’s do it. In no particular order:

1. KAREN YAO is dear friend I had known since my HR days. Karen has had what I would call a very organic journey into entrepreneurship. She’s simply one of the best HR practitioners I know. And of course, when you’re as good in your field as she is in hers, a very obvious choice is to go consulting. She established a great solo consulting career before realizing it’s a great advantage if you build a company around your consulting practice. She founded Congruent Partnerships  in 2010, a company which provides the world-class HR outsourcing services to SME’s. Karen’s taught me some real valuable lessons: that doing great work results in the freedom to CHOOSE who to work with, and that BIG isn’t necessarily always GREAT. 

Those of who who are interested in B2B’s, bootstrapping, transitioning from consulting into running a firm, functional consulting, and anything HR – TALK to Karen!

2. There’s a reason why TEMBONG YAMBAO‘s face was plastered in a big EDSA ad promoting an entrepreneurial event some years back. This guy is an awesome entrepreneur. He’s founded a couple of huge distribution firms already, including Apollo, which I think is the largest independent pharma distribution company in the country. Tembong is one of the most animated and charismatic “let’s do it” guys you’ll ever meet, which sometimes belies his keen entrepreneurial mind.

If you are interested in serial entrepreneurship, retail, “brick and mortar” business, and learning about the art of networking (oh wow, I think Tembong is the best networker I know), then you should talk to this guy. 

3. Babypips is a forex trading website with a GLOBAL audience. ODELL RAMIREZ is one of the guys behind that. Have you heard of the awesome Looloo review app which was recently launched? This guy is also behind that. I had a chance to talk to Odell in a startup event some months ago and he is just an awesome conversation!

Interested in building a startup around an online community? Doing a great mobile app? Serial entrepreneurship? Doing an online training platform? Odell’s the guy to approach!

4. Filipino startup legend JOEY GURANGO needs no introduction. He is not only one of the most decorated startup tech entrepreneurs in the country, but as you will surely find out, also one of the most gracious. Joey has been an early supporter of Juan Great Leap, and we always look forward to hearing his sage wisdom during events. He is a very active supporter of tech startups

Doing a tech startup? Interested in LEAN METHODOLOGY? Want to know how you can market your tech products abroad? Just want to hear plain kick-ass startup wisdom? You can’t go wrong with allotting one of your 6 slots to Joey. 

5. I wrote about NOREEN BAUTISTA a few months back. Fresh off college, she founded EcoIngenuity, wit its flagship brand, Jacinto and Lirio, which creates fashions items from the (pest) water hyacinth. It’s a brilliant idea, which is brilliantly executed by Noreen and her team. Noreen has created a solid distribution for her products, uses great branding strategies, makes a profit, and most importantly helps uplift impoverished communities. Noreen, I find, is also a great young networker and pours herself into her advocacies.

If you are interested in social entrepreneurship, retail, fashion, doing a startup right after college, bootstrapping, networking, and about (very) young people doing startups, talk to Noreen!  

6. I don’t know MARK RUIZ personally, but he’s one of the people I’m really very excited to meet and learn from on Saturday. Mark took the leap from corporate to become one of the most renowned and awarded social entrepreneurs in the country. His firm, Microventures, launched the popular microfinance program Hapinoy back in 2007, helping thousands.

If you are interested in social entreprises, microfinance, business incubation, enacting massive social change, taking the leap from corporate, and even tech stuff, Mark’s your guy. 

7. Of course, Mark gets to marry ANOTHER multi-awarded social entrepreneur in REESE FERNANDEZ-RUIZ. Reese is the President and co-founder of Rags2Riches, a social enterprise that has drawn worldwide attention for its eco-ethical approach to style. Reese was one of five inaugural Rolex Young Laureates by the Rolex Foundation in Switzerland for recognition of her work.

If you are interested in social enterprises, retail, style, making waves across different countries, sustainable fashion, and helping communities, be sure to approach Reese!

8. I’d say DAVID CRUZ is one of the most underrated tech entrepreneurs in the country. Heard about the PLDT telpad? One of his firms, Neugent Technologies, made it. The same firm which has has been developing surveillance systems and exporting to more than 40 countries worldwide. A former corporate salesperson turned serial entrepreneur, David has founded other firms engaged in hardware and gaming. Can’t wait to hear this guy’s insights – he founded his first firm when he experienced an epiphany in a visit to Korea – where he saw college kids form tech startup ventures.

If you are interested in serial entrepreneurship, tech (particularly hardware), jumping from corporate, scaling firms, working for big clients, and building global distribution channels, then David’s your guy. 

9. DANELLA YAPTINCHAY is an ex-globetrotter who has found a living in developing startups which cater to startups! Her firms include  startup hangout Co-lab, startup service provider Full Suite, and the recently launched startup publication, Homegrown. You will surely enjoy talking to Danella with her global mindset, in-depth knowledge of the Filipino startup scene, and on-point insights. It’s also her birthday on the 2nd, so be sure to greet her!

If you are interested in: b2b’s, service firms, firms which cater to the SME/startup industry, want to know more about the Philippine startup founder and how they think, co-labbing, and globetrotting, be sure to visit Danella’s nook!

10. I met ESTELLE OSORIO in one of the earlier Startup Saturdays I’ve done. I found someone so open, insightful, and compelling! Another corporate leaper, Estelle went fulltime into her startup, BizWhiz Business Training and Consultancy, back in 2010. Estelle runs and organizes both public and corporate training courses and now has numerous renowned clients who are happy to call her a business partner. Estelle herself is an awesome public speaker and trainer!

If you are interested in: building a b2b business, building a training business, building communities, bootstrapping, training, (very) young people running startups, and public speaking, go talk to ESTELLE!

 11. You have probably seen GIAN SCOTTIE JAVELONA in TV or in an article (I did an article on him months ago – which easily became one of the most popular posts ever) somewhere. Why, you ask? Well, he’s a startup founder (Orange Apps). Oh, and he’s also going to be a senior in College NEXT YEAR. Wow. Great Scott indeed! Go visit his area!

If you are interested in mobile apps, developing a tech startup, and (very, very) young startup founders, this is your guy!

12. Where do I start with NIX NOLLEDO? Nix is one of the most awesome entrepreneurs I’ve ever met (and I’ve met quite a lot). Period. Nix is a serial startup entrepreneur/ investor, having built and invested in numerous highly successful startups like Havoc Digital (responsible for the likes of Pinoy Exchange,, Rappler, and mobile startups like Fluxion and Xurpas – both of which operate on a global scale. Nix is refreshingly down-to-earth and low-key WHILE clearly being a big-idea guy who can see possibilities years down the line. Oh, and Nix is another spectacular networker with an eye for entrepreneurial talent.

If you are interested in: e-commerce, super-serial entrepreneurship, startup funding, tech entrepreneurship, mobile, building global firms, and long-term strategy, then talk to Nix!

13. The multi-awarded MAOI ARROYO is a Filipino trailblazer. Her firm, Hybridigm, is the first biotech consulting firm in the country. Hybridigm has become a game-changing startup incubator, having facilitated over $3.5M in biotech investments, trained over 15,000 aspiring entrepreneurs, and now, raising seed capital for 4 startups and series A funding for 3 companies. I had the privilege of meeting Maoi a few weeks back, and wow, she makes quite the impression with her wit, intelligence, trailblazer outlook, and humor.

If you are interested in: biotech, doing a startup based on the life sciences, startup incubation, startup funding, and R&D, you should go talk to Maoi!

14. We have Human Nature products in our home. My wife raves about them. Human Nature co-founder ANNA MELOTO-WILK  takes a lot of pride in her company’s pro-poor, pro-environment approach, as well as the fact that she has led her company’s growth to around 200 employee in just under 4 years. Anna is another multi-awarded, globally recognized entrepreneur we should all be proud of. She recently got selected as one of DEVEX 40 Under 40 Award for international development leaders.

If you are interested in: retail, brick-and-mortar startups, social entrepreneurship, and scaling fast, talk to Anna!

15. You already met JUSTIN GARRIDO in Matt’s recent post about him. Justin combines his social entrepreneur side with his tech sensibilities in creating the crowdfunding website for local social-impact projects,

 If you are interested in: the crowdfunding concept, social enterprises, e-commerce, and social change, be sure to talk to Justin!

16. LUIS BUENAVENTURA is a cool dude. He has a wide range of interests, is very outspoken, and knows how to tell a story (a talent). He’s also one of those rare programmer/designer hybrids which comes in quite handy in doing startups. Oh, and Luis is also brilliant entrepreneur. He managed to sell his startup Syndeo way back in 2008. He’s now running, a startup which helps non-tech people build awesome websites, and also is a very passionate advocate of tech startups, helping run the tech bootcamp, Hack2Hatch.

If you are interested in: tech startups, design, serial entrepreneurship, the Philippine tech startup scene, bootstrapping, young people doing startups, young people SELLING startups, then Luis is your guy. 

17. MIKE GO is the founder of Trese, a silkscreen printing and sewing enterprise based in GK Blue Eagle Village in Payatas 13. Since its registration in 2011, Trese has produced over 100,000+ items while engaging out-of-school-youth, nanays, and other community members in Payatas 13. He also currently serves as the Social Enterprise Development Head of Human Nature.

If you are interested in: social enterprise, community development, social entreprise incubation, and agriculture-based startups, Mike’s your guy!

18. Raffy Taruc, Kiyo Miura, Miguel Buling & Brett Lim – I first met these guys (well, two of them), early last year. There were still trying to figure out their execution strategy. They did bring beer to the meeting for us to sample. Now, I don’t really fashion myself as some “beer connoisseur,” but they brought some GREAT TASTING beer. I’m happy to say their great beer can now be found in different establishments around town!

If you are interested in: retail, building your own consumable-product from scratch (R&D), food-and beverage startups, bootstrapping, building a distribution channel, and of course, BEER, well, you have to talk to these four. (I’m sure you’ll it will be a fun conversation – guess who the stand-up comic is among the 4)

WHEW! That’s 3-4 hours of writing! But it was worth it!  Do check these guys out on Saturday! They’re going to be there for YOU.

Eventbrite - Juan Great Leap's Startups Unplugged: Get Personal with 20 Startup Founders

Startups Unplugged: Get Personal with Justin Garrido of Social Project.PH

I recently caught up with fellow Fil-Am, Justin Garrido, of Social Project.PH. Justin’s a former director of Aldi Foods in the US and he received his MBA from Melbourne Business School. Now Justin is in the Philippines starting up, Social Project.PH. Justin is definitely a versatile and knowledgeable Argonaut. I always acquire a ton of knowledge from my conversations with him. I am honored to be able to share his story with what we Amboys call real talk.

I’d like to introduce you to the passionate, change-maker Justin Garrido of Social Project.PH, one of the awesome startup founders scheduled to speak at Startups Unplugged.

Justin Garrido of Social Project.PH
Justin Garrido of Social Project.PH

What is Social Project.PH? 

Justin: Social Project.PH is a crowdfunding website that features social projects in the Philippines by partnering with social enterprises and NGOs, as a means to address poverty and other social and environmental challenges.

How did the concept for Social Project.PH come about?

Justin: While I was in my MBA at University of Melbourne, I went on exchange at AIM (Asian Institute of Management). One day Julia, my co-founder, and I had lunch and we decided to start-up something social. Julia and I came up with different business models to support the current ecosystem.

As opposed to creating something that would compete with the same small diminishing pie, we thought of ways to make the pie bigger, and collectively support the ecosystem. We eventually decided to launch a crowdfunding website known as Social Project.PH.

My inspiration for Social Project was Kiva. I’ve avidly donated to Kiva, which provides microloans to small businesses. I felt that a type of platform like Kiva was something that we could provide to social enterprises and NGOs here in the Philippines.

Another need that we felt Social Project.PH could fill in the Philippines was the need for a transparent, credible, and engaging channel to give back.

For example, when you donate $25 to the Philippine Red Cross, you receive a simple thank you and that’s the extent of it. As a result, even though Red Cross is credible the experience with them isn’t engaging because you don’t here anything about your contribution afterwards. There’s no follow-up. If your contribution was for sacks of rice for a community, you never see the actual distribution of it.

Transparency and follow-up is something that we wanted to provide with Social Project.PH.

With all the buzz around Social Enterprise, can you give us your definition of it? 

Justin: I frequently refer to the definition of social enterprise from the non-profit known as Social Traders. It defines social enterprise as a social benefit business that trades to fulfill its mission. This means that there’s a target beneficiary (i.e. community with high poverty, nanays in an IP community, etc). There’s a strong social mission, but there’s also a way that the business is generating revenue, trade. The entrepreneur is selling a product or providing a service so that the business is sustainable. A social enterprise is within a third space.

On one extreme you have maximizing profit, maximizing shareholder wealth, a corporation. The other extreme is a non-profit that relies strictly on philanthropy and charity donations. In between you have a social enterprise, in which it is almost a hybrid of a corporation and a non-profit. As a result, some funding may come from donations, but there’s also a revenue generation component to it; Hapinoy is a great example of a social enterprise.

A social enterprise is not just about job creation. Exxon creates tons of jobs, but you wouldn’t call Exxon a social enterprise. Social enterprise is about a strong social mission and generating revenue.

What inspired you to take the leap to the Philippines and pursue Social Project.PH full-time?

Justin: In September of 2011, I lived in the Philippines for three months, while I was on exchange with AIM. However, I felt like my three months wasn’t enough time here. I wanted to come back. There was more that I wanted to do. There were more ways I wanted to help and give back. I needed to physically be here to experience commuting, meet the communities, visit the children’s orphanages. That’s why after I finished my MBA in July, I returned to the Philippines to pursue Social Project.PH full-time.

Justin's visit to a community in New Bataan Compostela Valley, where Typhon Pablo hit in December.
Justin’s visit to a community in New Bataan Compostela Valley, where Typhon Pablo hit in December.

On the business side, I had the confidence that the business idea for Social Project.PH would be financially viable. While I was back in Melbourne, I entered a business plan competition at Melbourne Business school. I ended up winning for this business model that is now Social Project.PH. Winning the competition further gave me confidence in what I was doing. The judges, composed of angel investors and investment bankers, were reaffirming that this idea could really work.

Social Project.PH  is not just a charity. The business model itself can generate revenue. It can be sustainable.

In this day age, the voice of the third culture kid is coming more distinct. Do you consider yourself to be a third culture kid?

Justin: I’ve been called different things: third culture kid, hybrid, foreigner, and Fil-Am. I’m fine with all the names. I know what I’m here to do. I’m trying to use some of the best practices I learned from growing up, studying, and working in business abroad to make a positive impact on the Philippines.

What do you like the most about being in the Philippines? 

Justin: I love the people. People are just so friendly, even when I’m having a bad day. Sometimes I can be so serious, and that someone just smiling and saying,

“Hi, Ma’am/Sir!”

Or talks with the taxi drivers and joking around with them really makes my day.

The positivity of the people is inspiring. In the midst of the adversity, Filipinos always manage to put a smile on their faces. In the States, we can get so caught up in the Rat Race, and then you get a flat tire and it feels like the end of the world, but being here puts things in perspective.

What do you miss most about the US?

Justin: I miss family and friends back home. I haven’t seen my niece since she was born. I’m going to visit her in Hawaii this year. I’m her ninong 🙂

Truthfully, if I could bring my friends and family to the Philippines. I wouldn’t have any desire to return to the States. I love the Philippines. The country is so beautiful and the history is so rich.

I feel like I’m in the center of the world right now.

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100 Seats Remaining

With eight days left till the March 2 event, only around 1oo seats remain. From experience, these seats tend to get gobbled up fast a few days before the actual event – so we advice that you click on the button below NOW and reserve your slot! Eventbrite - Juan Great Leap's Startups Unplugged: Get Personal with 20 Startup Founders

Don’t Flake! 

Also, for those who already have reserved their slots, please don’t flake! We’ve exerted all effort to make this a free event for all those who want to attend, so if you think you already know you cannot make it on the 2nd for some reason, please just reach out and tell us so we can give your slot to someone who can make it! (email us at or

Prepare Your Questions! 

For those going, please don’t forget to prepare your questions! This event is all about sharing experiences in a very comfortable setting – so please take maximum advantage by knowing beforehand WHO to approach and WHAT exactly to ask!

Can’t wait for March 2!

Eventbrite - Juan Great Leap's Startups Unplugged: Get Personal with 20 Startup Founders

Open Coffee Fun!

Last Saturday was just an awesome experience.

It never fails – get a room full of entrepreneurial people together to talk about startups and the room just erupts with energy.

In the last open coffee, the discussion veered towards mostly finding co-founders and some the more philosophical aspects of doing a startup.

This one was really all about 2 things 1) ideas and 2) helping one another.

“What do you guys think of this idea?”

“I think that will/won’t work because…”

“I know someone who can help you with…”

“Let’s talk later I think I can help you with…”

I thought it was just awesome.

In fact, one of the attendees wanted to do a study on how this burgeoning startup culture is the antithesis of the Filipino crab mentality we are so often accused of.

Thank you so much Bo’s Coffee, for hosting us! The food and coffee were great! (I didn’t know Bo’s had such great breakfast food! As in!)

JGL OPEN COFFEE PRINCIPLES (very much evolving)

1) We are all peers. There is no one higher or lower.

2) We will help each other succeed. There is enough room for everyone. It is never a zero-sum game.

3) Newcomers are very much welcome!

Be sure to join the next one, coming in a month!

open coffee 7
Our gracious hosts!
open coffee
JGL February Open Coffee

open coffee1 open coffee2 open coffee3 open coffee5 open coffee6

Juan Great Leap Presents: Startups Unplugged – Get Personal With 20 Awesome Startup Founders!

On March 2, we’re having a MAMMOTH Juan Great Leap event!

We’ve invited a who’s who of 20 young startup movers and shakers across a variety of industries. Our objective? We want you to be able to learn from them in a very personal and unique way. I can best describe it as “Group Speed Dating.”

Those questions YOU’VE always wanted to ask? The stories YOU want to hear? The problems and solutions that’s relevant for YOU?

Well, simply put, you can just go around and ASK THEM yourselves.

This will be on March 2, Saturday (yep, we heard all those requests not to do it on a weeknight), at the AYALA TBI Office at the UP-Ayala Technohub in Diliman.

(This will be awesome. And you just HAVE to go)

300 FREE seats, so grab ’em at the link below. Now.

Eventbrite - Juan Great Leap's Startups Unplugged: Get Personal with 20 Startup Founders

Check out the very gracious entrepreneurs who have already agreed to contribute and help out:

David Cruz

Industry: Technical (Hardware)

Blackfort Electronic Surveillance Systems Corporation; Mistral Global Gaming; Neugent Technologies; One-Touch Communications

Joey Gurango

Industry: Technical (Software)

Gurango Software Corporation

Nix Nolledo

Industry: IT (E-commerce)

Havoc Digital; Xurpas, Fluxion

Mark Ruiz

Industry: Microfinance

Microventures Inc. (Hapinoy), Rags 2 Riches Inc.

Noreen Bautista

Industry: Retail (Fashion)

EcoIngenuity (Jacinto & Lirio)

Justin Garrido

Industry: Social

Danella Yaptinchay

Industry: Business Services, Publishing

Co-lab; Homegrown Media Inc. (

Estelle Osorio

Industry: Consulting

BizWhiz Business and Training Consultancy

Karen Yao

Industry: Consulting

Congruent Partnerships 

Raffy Taruc

Industry: Retail (Beverages)

Katipunan Craft Ales

Mike Go

Industry: Retail (Apparel)

Bagong Payatas Community Ventures Inc. (TRESE)

Luis Buenaventura   

Industry: Technical (E-commerce), HACK2HATCH

Gian Javelona 

Industry: Technical (Application Development)

Orange Apps

Tembong Yambao  

Industry: Retail

Apollo, Urban Chef

Maoi Arroyo 

Industry: Biotech

Hybridgm Consulting

Odell Ramirez

Industry: Finance, Tech

Babypips, Lulu

Reese Fernandez

Industry: Retail


Anna Meloto-Wilk

Industry: Natural Personal Care

          Human Nature


Event Poster

The Sounding Board: Be Heard for A Change

Sharing information about your startup with other groups can be scary. You’ve put sweat and tears into building your business and sometimes you’d rather not share because others might just tear it down. It takes a lot of trust and confidence to bare your heart and soul to any individual or group. It’s understandable, but you have to get passed that apprehension. Seeking advice and counsel is crucial to the success of your business.

As proverbs says,

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

The message is clear: seek counsel from a group to prevent the fall.

Now the challenge in seeking counsel is finding a group that you can trust. Counselors are your most trusted advisors. They must be able to listen well without any hidden agendas.

What types of counselors can you trust?

You can trust groups with pure hearts and intentions, the youth. The youth, open-minded and fresh minds, who have ideas and solutions sprouting from a safe learning environment known as the university.

What if you could get free advice from a group of young, bright minds who have pure intentions and want to help?

Meet the Sounding Board, a group of young students and professionals who are crazy-passionate about social innovation at the grassroots. They provide idea-stage social entrepreneurs basic knowledge and tools that help turn their simple proposals into investment-ready social enterprise plans.

Sounding Board
The Sounding Board: Clockwise from Lt., Karl Satinitigan, Ryan Tan, Camille Ang, Anj Poe

While they focus on providing services to startup social enterprises, the Sounding Board is a perfect example of a group of young, bright individuals that you can consult with.

I met the group randomly when I tagged along with my good friend, Karl, Sounding Board’s Head Coach, after grabbing some grub in Kapitolyo.

After a long day of yapping to prospective partners, I was rejuvenated by the energy, ideas, and strategies being tossed around the table by the Sounding Board. Aside from their sound evaluations of client needs, the Sounding Board’s openness to working together for one common goal, to help social enterprises succeed, is what really moved me. In spite of all their commitments as busy college students and young working professionals, they were devoted and serious about their work as a consulting group that could help social enterprises develop. It was apparent in the way they worked as a team.

The Sounding Board @ Work
The Sounding Board @ Work

As I was sitting-in on the group’s meeting, I could feel their passion and sense of purpose as they worked together as a real team that listened to one another’s opinions and knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, they were hearing each other out to give the best advice for social change. The moment shared  truly inspired me to introduce the Sounding Board to all of you.

Are you also being moved to hear from the Sounding Board?

If you are a young person looking to join a group like the Sounding Board, click on this link.

If you would like to support the Sounding Board in any way shape or form,  you can also email:

If you are a startup enthusiast supporting other startup enterprises or groups determined to make changes for Juan, spread the good news!

We could all use a sounding board from time to time. Let’s hear each other out for a change!

The Sounding Board