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.

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

Flipping the Script: My Inspiring Interview with Peter

Peter Cauton, Founder of Juan Great Leap, sharing a father-son moment with his son, Wakeen
Peter Cauton, Founder of Juan Great Leap, sharing a moment with his son, Joaquin

This past Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, I sat down with Peter to experience Startup Saturdays first-hand. Initially, my initial vision for the interview was to ask as many thought-provoking questions as I could to get the insider’s scoop on the person behind Juan Great Leap. I sought to reveal a different side of Peter that showcased him as not just the inspiring founder behind Juan Great Leap, but also as an ordinary fellow.

However, as I was playing back the interview and transcribing his words something really clicked (it sometimes takes me a while to process things), I realized that Peter isn’t ordinary, and that we already know him. He’s already poured out his heart and soul to those that follow Juan Great Leap, and it shows in his honest and compelling answers.

Peter is many things: an entrepreneur, boss, teacher, mentor, husband, father, friend. This interview didn’t reveal any “different” side to Peter. It was simply inspiring. This is the Founder of Juan Great Leap, Peter Paul Cauton.

Juan Great Leap is known for the coffee talks you have with entrepreneurs on Startup Saturdays. What are the most interesting observations from your talks with entrepreneurs?

Peter: Well, there are several things. First, no two entrepreneurs are alike. Each entrepreneur has a compelling a story, with an emphasis on the word compelling. It’s not just that each person has a story, but every entrepreneur’s journey is a compelling one because there’s always a leap that’s involved.

When I get to talk to people, I always make it a point to ask them,

“How did you end up doing this?”

And there’s always a very real story behind it.

Secondly, and this is related to the first, I’ve experienced people really opening up about their stories, and you see how personal it becomes. It’s not just a job. There’s something of themselves that they pour into their venture. It’s a reflection of who they are as a real person and what they’re going through in life. For example, I met with someone who came to me about a problem he’s been having with his dad about inheriting the family business. It was a problem that’s always hung over his head and has been bogging him down in doing things.

Or a person who’s completely torn between his passions and what’s practical – which might sound pretty common.   But this time, I get to hear what his wife is like, and see a picture of his son. I get to hear what his startup idea is. I get to feel his passion directly.  Suddenly, his story is completely personal, unique, and I daresay, beautiful.

What is your opinion on taking the leap based on passion?

Peter: When you’re passionate about something everything else follows much easier. For example, if you have a hobby…let’s say you love following the NBA, you spend time on it, research about it, you know the players…it’s not work for you. You actually create competence from the sheer time and devotion you pour into it. In a sense, you get to learn the business side of it- the intricacies and details- because you spend more time on it…because you love it and it’s not work for you. If you’re passionate about the business and you’re pouring your heart into it, everything flows much faster.

Passion begets time, which begets competence. Without passion, it’s drudgery.

A few months back you met with a group about social enterprise. What interests you most about social enterprise?

Peter: A few weeks ago we were driving along Katipunan we saw a poor family literally living on the island in the middle of the road. Joaquin, my five-year old son, said,

“Dada, they’re having a picnic!”

When you’re exposed to seeing that and you really feel the gap between what you have and what they don’t, you can’t help but feel like something has to be done.

I see a very clear role between entrepreneurship and nation building and poverty alleviation.

When I talk to entrepreneurs, like earlier with Rex, even if it’s a more technical talk, I see a very clear link between entrepreneurship and the development of the country. Social or not, I think all entrepreneurs are crucial to building this country. If we can get more of our people – our very gifted people –  to take those leaps and build great startups, we could dramatically improve the economy and make a positive impact on lives.

What are some of your favorite things about JGL?

Peter: Definitely the diversity. I get to meet and hear the stories of people I wouldn’t otherwise have bumped into working in my other startups. In the community, you have people like Raquel who is doing a startup focused on teaching.  You have people who want to do tech and you who have those who are setting up service-based startups like a yaya academy.

How do you see Juan Great Leap as a Filipino Startup Movement?

Peter: There is a ton of value in letting people know about the tools and resources about doing a great startup. More than that though, I’d like to think that in JGL, there are heavy doses of passion and a certain spirituality mixed in. I’d like to think you can feel this a bit going through some of the posts in the blog. I want to help people find their mojo and place, and usually, finding one means finding the other. The usual result is that you get create something beautiful. Something that’s yours, too.

So it’s not only the technical part, the tools, but also the spirit of starting something that you love and the journey to make a living out of it.

What are you most excited about for 2013?

Peter: Lahat. Meeting more people. Getting to hear more ideas. Helping people out. Doing bigger and more events that touch more people. Setting up some sort of a school because I love teaching. Trying to bridge and connect people.

I love it when I see startups get the right mix of people with the right idea. It’s extremely fulfilling.

What are your top 5 books?

Peter: Very tough question.

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling– this book got me into reading. Prior to reading Harry Potter, I didn’t read many books. Instead of appreciating books in school, the system of teaching made me hate reading. Rowling started my love affair with reading.

2. Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki- the first “business” book I bought. The book is very irreverent, unlike the business books I read in the past, which were pretty dry and scientific.

3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries –

4. Tribes by Seth Godin  – Actually, any Godin book post All Marketers Are Liars. I’m a fanboy, and it’s not just the hair style.

5. Bible– It’s a cliché, but I read this book the most, this is the book I often go back to.

If you had the choice to live in the life of any NBA player, who would it be and why? 

Steve Nash because I like the assist. He scores, too, but helps other people on and off the court. This is different from my current favorite player, Kobe.

What inspires you to take the leap everyday?


My own leap was such a profound experience for me. It changed me. I learned not to rely on myself too much. I’ve learned that the best way to make decisions is to truly discern – asking God what He wants for you.

I’m 100% sure that if it were just based on my own desire, I would still be in corporate. I allowed God to lead me to the decisions that have brought me to this place in my life and really, there is no place else I’d rather be.