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.

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