Can Startups Save an Unproductive Philippines?

While most are busy taking selfies and others are glued to their smartphones playing Clash of Clans (COC), a few are focused on creating the next great thing to land on our smartphone screens. To be honest, I’m quite disappointed at what our society has become. Instead of wasting our time making a fad out of something, why not become busy creating something, or at least be productive (am I right people)?

Whenever I would hear colleagues talk about the local telenovela, Koreanovela, or another American TV series they binged on the night before, I would stop and realize to myself that while I am busy with my blog that same night, others are busy wasting time. I’m not completely against it though, I am a movie goer and TV watcher myself, and I like to hang out with friends, too. No doubt about that. But I think (hold your horses, this is just my sole opinion) to be glued on to something created by others is to waste precious time spent on creating or doing something worthwhile yourself. You see, the Philippines has always been a consumer nation. We love foreign brands so much that we forget to create our own and be great at it in the process.

Let’s become more productive. Even better, let’s start to create something useful and make big business out of it. Here in the Philippines, small start-up businesses are popping everywhere. Before I proceed, let’s define what a startup is:

“Embark on a venture or undertaking, especially a commercial one.” – Google search
“A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed” – Neil Blumenthal, cofounder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, c/o
“It’s when people join your company and are still making the explicit decision to forgo stability in exchange for the promise of tremendous growth and the excitement of making immediate impact.” – Adora Cheung, cofounder and CEO of Homejoy, one of the Hottest U.S. Startups of 2013, c/o

These are the ones we are glued on-to everyday. Facebook, Instagram, Clash of Clans, etc. However, it’s not limited to technology. Even a new line of trendy and functional clothes, or a new concierge service for, say, photography enthusiasts, or even this blog, can make for a start-up as well.

This is when we engage in an entrepreneurial venture, not knowing how the future will be for our fledging business. All we know is that it is a great product worth introducing. But is it something worth doing? You bet. At least you’re being productive, and when your business fails, at least you get to learn something from it. The key here is to be prepared to fail, and be prepared to reap the benefits of your success as well in case your product booms. If you do try, at least you get a 50/50 chance of success. If you don’t, well, you are guaranteed a lifetime of working for someone else which nobody likes.

Take a look at some Philippine-born startups to give you an idea and inspire you:

  1. Kalibrr If you have recently been on a job hunt, the name Kalibrr may ring a bell. Kalibrr is an online job-seeker service founded in 2014 by Paul Rivera, which aims to disrupt the current online job market industry in the Philippines (and Southeast Asia) that is already dominated by Australian company Paul Rivera identified pain points in the current recruitment process wherein it was hard for companies to find the right candidates with the right skills, and also hard for job hunters to find the right jobs for them. So he created Kalibrr, which helps to assess the candidate’s skill as accurate as possible and match them to the right jobs, and if they lack a certain skill, trains them online.Kalibrr
  2. Awesome Lab The closest I can describe this company is ‘it is a startup within a startup’. This company attracts talented Filipino ‘technopreneurs’ and gives them a collaborative and creative environment to work their projects on, from product development and prototyping to activation. Their office is located in Quezon City, led by its 27-year old president Matthew Cua. By giving Filipino technopreneurs a resourceful, collaborative, and creative space work, learn, and fail on, chances of success are higher. And when the developed projects are mature enough to be a startup of its own, Awesome Lab of course retains its share of the venture. Now that’s awesome!
  3. Launched in 2012 by Jeffrey Siy and Chris Blanquera, this startup has a fairly unique business model, focusing only on selling products not found in the Philippines. Of course you can try shopping online at Amazon for that hard to find car accessory, however,’s advantage is that it ships directly to the Philippines and accept Philippine Pesos (PHP) from most Philippine banks and other payment
  4. SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting) – Now this is quite different from those I’ve previously mentioned. This startup founded by Aisa Mijeno is focused on giving compassion to the far flung areas of the country that has no access to elecricity. Together with her brother, they invented ASIN lamp which is solely powered by saltwater, or water with salt, whichever is available. I’m so proud of Aisa Mijeno, because she is a Filipino and because she created this startup with a cause. And while our own government hasn’t expressed utmost support, others have. Take a look at ASIN founder Aisa Mijeno’s interview with no other than US President Barack Obama and Alibaba CEO (and billionaire) Jack Ma below.
    Aisa Mijeno and her SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting)

    Aisa Mijeno and her SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting). Courtesy:

Lack of the skill and resources, you say?

Sure, it’s easy for me to say, but it’s obviously hard to do. Most of us don’t even have that spark of a bright idea let alone have the technical skills necessary code a website. But tell you what, there are tons of resources online that you can productively spend your time on instead of watching junk TV:

  1. Technology Entrepreneurship course Learn how to build a great idea and create your own technology startup by taking Stanford University’s Technology Entrepreneurship course. I’ve graduated from this course myself and I guarantee that you’ll learn a lot from this course and also meet like-minded students from all over the world and here in the Philippines, too. In this course you’ll team up and personally meet with nearby students and create your own idea as a group, build a prototype, create a business model, and possibly venture out into the next great thing in startups.
  2. Learn to code at Have you graduated from Nursing or any other course that’s too far from the nosebleed world of Computer Science? Codecademy’s here to the rescue. This site let’s you learn interactively for free, and anyone without IT background can easily learn from this platform.
  3. Create your own website at If in case you want to start your own blog like me, or create a website for your own startup company, is your go to site. This website allows you to create your own website for free, and you have the option to have it hosted as your own website later on. This is where this whole blog all started.

PS: Did I mention that above free resources are startup companies, too? There are tons of information available on the internet. If you encounter a roadblock when venturing, just Google your question, and most likely, fellow technopreneurs already have the answer available to you.

“Wait, but I don’t have any funds to invest…”

This shouldn’t be a reason for you to stop dreaming. Building your prototype and formulating your business success should virtually free at first, but as your company grows, you’re gonna need funding. Don’t let lack of funding hinder your company’s growth, because there are startup incubators out there that are willing to help you out with the funding. If your idea is really that awesome, check out these Philippine-based startup incubators that can help towards your goal. LaunchGarage | Kickstart Ventures | IdeaSpace Foundation

All it takes is a great idea, your undivided attention, perseverance, and some luck on the side.

The apps installed on my smartphone are all for my own productivity, and nothing else (with the exception of social media, which I use to catch up with friends and family, and also for the social media presence of FrustratedBillionaire). I avoid installing games and unnecessary stuff on my phone, because I see them as a barrier to my success. Call me boring, but hey, who created the blog you’re reading on right now?

Let’s push for a more productive Philippines, please. Are you a selfie addict? Go ahead build your brand on Instagram. A Clash of Clans addict? Why not create your own game and make money from it? Remember, free resources are already at your fingertips. Let’s create something, or do something productive. Just do it, and things will be exciting from thereon. The next time you find yourself glued to your smartphone, think of all the opportunities you miss that only a small percentage of our population takes advantage of.

All it takes is a great idea. So un-glue your eyes from your smartphone, look around you, identify problems and loopholes, and find the opportunity in every problem.



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