On Scaling, the Recent SOFTCON, and the Wonder of Technology

Recently, I took a picture of the weekly FLEXIBLE BENEFIT products we received in our office and now had to deliver to our clients:


There were hundreds of items ordered in a span of a few days.

It was the very first time I’ve seen this many orders made in our system. We had to find a room to keep all the items secure.

The problems we’re facing in STORM now are very different from what we’ve faced over the last few years. Before, we would just be consumed mostly by sales and developing the technology further.

(and you know, startup stuff like “where the hell do we get the money for next month’s payroll?!”)

Now, while the above-mentioned things are still supremely important, we find ourselves worrying about corporatey stuff, like inventory, supply chain, financial ratios, and high-grade efficiency.

I realize these are good problems.

STORM is scaling.

By the end of this year, we would have something like 12,000 corporate users. We’re aiming for much larger things in 2014.

I then reminisce about how STORM started some years ago, and I find myself feeling quite blessed to have ended up choosing a TECH idea.

Soft Spot

Yep, Juan Great Leap is all about GENERAL entrepreneurship. It’s all about taking the leap and the process of being captain of your own ship – regardless of the type of ship.

As a tech entrepreneur though, I guess I’ll always have a soft spot for tech startups.

It is after all, what I think is the great equalizer. 

In almost any industry, you would need to spend a fortune to build an industry leader. Want to get into retail? You need to invest millions in machinery, R&D, and the right supply chain infrastructure. Want to do a resto? Yep, it would require a ton of capital as well. Want to build a benefits firm? Without tech, you’d be looking at creating a new HMO, or a new insurance firm. Again, millions.

Technology changes everything though. It disrupts.

Technology has allowed a nobody like me to START FROM SCRATCH, and build what is now the largest local flexible benefits provider.

You got a laptop? Internet access? Some programming skills (you or a partner)? Then guess what? Armed with the RIGHT business model, you too can create a scaleable startup right out of your living room. Like we did.


A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of being invited to the very first SOFTCON.PH (software conference), which was being organized by the Philippine Software Industry Association or the PSIA.

I was invited to moderate the startup panel (which was, as I found in the photo op after, a group of really tall people).

I looked at the agenda. More startup stuff! There was another panel “From Startup to Exit.”

I thought to myself, “Hmmmm…for a software conference, man, they sure talk a lot about startups.”

(I was thinking they’d be more talks like “Data Warehousing in 2013 and Beyond” or something)

Then it hit me.

Most of the member groups – and almost all of the most active players – of the PSIA are LOCAL Filipino software firms. Gurango Software. Pointwest Technologies. Seer. Stratpoint. Blastasia.

Startups. Some time ago, these guys were also building their businesses in someone’s living room.

Yep, the PSIA member lists reads like a who’s who of Philippine tech entrepreneurs.

You can tell.

Because this group is breeding even MORE startups.

In the room adjacent to the main conference room, they had an exhibit of 20 or so startups that PSIA was helping develop in some way, shape, or form.

Main Startup Exhibit Area

I found this to be a joy, an inspiration, and really logical, all at the same time.

A joy – because I just LOVE seeing people go for it.

An inspiration – because I found some of the ideas (and more importantly, the execution) to be brilliant.

Logical – because the one thing that you can’t stop true entrepreneurs from doing is to be themselves. Some of our most successful entrepreneurs are STILL going after new ideas.


host action shot
Moderator Action Shot!

Moderating the startup panel was a great privilege for me, because it was a who’s who of some of the biggest names in the Philippine startup ecosystem.

It was also quite literally the biggest panel I’ve ever seen. So it was a challenge for my moderator-powers.

The panel discussed the state of the Filipino Software Startup.

tall man panel
Startup Panel from Softcon.ph (the tall man panel) (from L-R) So that’s towering Ron Hose (author of the Phil. Startup Report), me, Rio Ilao (founder of Perxclub), Sulit founder RJ David, Kickstart’s Christian Besler, Ideaspace (and Meralco CIO) Marthyn Cuan, Payroll Hero’s Stephen Jagger, Plug and Play’s (based in Silicon Valley) Jojo Flores, Mon Ibrahim (DOST-ICTO Deputy Executive Director), TechTalk’s Tina Amper, and PSIA’s Spring.ph Co-founder (and Seer CEO) Joben Ilagan

We talked about a lot of interesting stuff, but the main takeaway I want to share with you?

It’s early. The Philippine startup ecosystem is in its veritable INFANCY.

TRANSLATION: Take the leap NOW people!

Opportunity Everywhere

Last week, I pitched an idea I had to a well-known Filipino entrepreneur (free, courtesy of a cross-country Skype session – technology is amazing if you think about it!) to get some input.

He gave a lot of very useful advice.

Then, I finally asked him to summarize: wait, do you think it would work?

His answer: “I think it’s a good idea. Though now there are good ideas everywhere if you just apply technology to an old concept. The key really is how your execution will be.” 

TRANSLATION: Take the leap NOW people! Sniff out those good ideas, because he’s right – they are EVERYWHERE if you know where to look and train your eye

My quick advice: think long and hard about doing a TECH startup. If you have a non-tech idea, think – how can I I apply technology to it?