Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Founders Club

For a few months now, we (organized by me and @daveove) have had a series of exclusive meet-up of startup founders in Cebu, which we called the Founders Club. So far, the agenda is to have a regular meeting, and hang out with the teams who are in the startup stage. There is no clear structure or purpose yet, apart from getting updates from each other. The motivation to do these meetings started after the first Startup Weekend Cebu, to do a regular follow-up with the teams.

In the last meet-up, Jaideep, the managing director of NCR Cebu, joined us for a Q&A and discussions about entrepreneurship and innovation. He also gave critical feedback on the team's vision, plans and strategies. One particular feedback i learned from him, is that the meet-up is very valuable, and that we need to put a structure in place, so as not to waste time, and focus the discussion. I also got the same feedback from Harm.

Lately, i've been reading the "The Launch Pad" book, which is about the Y Combinator program, founded by Paul Graham (coincidentally, Dave is also reading the same book, no wonder we've been agreeing to the same ideas lately). And also been looking around the startup scene in SouthEast Asia, and particularly in Singapore. And i've also heard and read about SW Next, and also experienced organising two Startup Weekends in Cebu, and attended one in Davao.

Right now, we have been discussing what to do next. Certainly there will still be more Startup Weekends next year, and we're looking at a new team taking the lead this time.

One missing item that's been coming back-and-forth to us, is having a co-working space. So we have already made concrete plans to do this, and are doing the initial steps. I previously announced the plan about the BahayStartup co-working space. We will change the name though, to avoid confusing it with the BuhayStartup project. So this one is pushing through.

Another item that's been brewing in our minds now is to take the Founders Club to the next level. And here are some ideas:

  • We're planning to make it into a program similar to JFDI, YCombinator, TechStars
  • All the benefits of a seed accelerator, without the seed funding
  • Teams gets access to mentors, either through an exclusive "office hours" meeting and through the monthly meet-ups
  • Monthly meet-ups are treated as mini-demo days. Teams present progress. Mentors and other teams give critical feedback.
  • We can also do remote "office hours" through Skype
  • 3 months program. Teams apply, answer questions, and are interviewed
  • Very selective process, just like most accelerator programs
  • Exclusive for startups, meaning product-based and looking to grow fast
  • Apply same filtering as YCombinator, largely about the team, background and capacity
  • Access to resources and learning stuffs. We are also looking to do the extra mile to help a team take flight.
  • Make the needed connection or referrals. We understand we don't hold the answer to everything, so we make the best effort to refer teams, or make introductions to the ones we know who can help.
  • Since we don't have funding, we're going to operate it as a club membership for now. We're thinking 500 pesos per founder per month.

Why do this?

  • We don't want to waste our time anymore. So we're taking FC to the next level.
  • This will be our first MVP to a "real" accelerator program. The one that has seed money. I believe seed funding is easy to get, once we show "traction". So me thinks, i'd like to get to traction first, before i start blabbing about how great this is.
  • We're not part of any existing program yet nor are mentors. So, why not start one ourselves. Yes, we're the jealous type, so we also want to start our own.
  • BUT, we're not going to make it exclusive. We're the promiscuous type (and jealous!). It's a club, not a religion, so we think the startup teams can use all the help they can get from all places.
  • Going back to traction, one particular perspective i like to see from startup teams is how they make money. Just as Andreesen and Mixpanel recently said, let's cut all the BS metrics, and focus on money. Traction is all about money, M-O-N-E-Y. If a feature doesn't give you money, or lead you closer to it, it shouldn't be called traction.
  • We are an independent team, from scratch, and does not answer to an outside investor (not yet!). So if no one applies, or no one qualifies, or no teams succeeds, then no harm done. BUT, we will measure ourselves to the highest-nth level. 10X level expectations. What this means, our only goal is to make startups succeed, nothing else.
  • And personally, we could really use an extra 500 bucks from everyone, that's like free dinner at Cafe George once a month. How cool is that!? Seriously, we're doing this already anyway, we're just making ourselves accountable for results.

What's the plan now?

  • We're thinking of doing our first batch in Feb, Mar, Apr 2013.
  • In a few days, when the site is ready (it's still a blank WP site now), we will announce the opening, and teams can start applying
  • We are going to be looking for mentors. So far, there's me and Dave. Yes, the BS team, and we're going to deliver real, hard-core BS this time. :) (sometimes, i wonder if people can relate to this joke)

Alright, that's it. Comments, suggestions, ideas, please leave them in the comments below. Too shy to say something, send me an e-mail, hi@markjeee.com.

p.s. If you think this is cool, awesome, great, please help tweet, share this page, to get some buzz, and reach the right people. THANKS!

p.s. If you think this is ugly, lousy, then keep it to yourself.

p.s. Hey mentors, you might wonder, do we get paid to mentor? Nope. Zilch. Zero. BUT, BUUUT you will have a chance to invest in the teams, should you be interested, and of course if the teams are interested in you (remember folks, all monies are not created equal!). This is actually one personal motivation to be as mentor (speaking for myself here). At this age, any company, who's willing to stay ahead, better have acquisition or investment plans in mind. It's clear, it's becoming increasingly hard to innovate from within the company, largely due to the benefits and well-being perks that employees get. When life is good, there's really not a lot of pain to solve for. (speaking for myself as well, hehe, hoping i will not get burned for this, hi CS people! don't worry, we will introduce some non-artificial pains)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Life in 3

Two weeks from now, it will be 2013. Another year.

Though technically, i reached my own annual milestone, 2 months ago, in Oct; my 32nd milestone.


In the past 20 years, i can view my life in cycles of 3-4 years.

1992-1996.. High school life. Life of discovery. Rock-n-Roll. Hip-hop music. I am one of the brightest kid in the worst section at school, section D. This is also the time, i started my interest in computers and electronics. Life is easy.

1996-1999. College life, all about passing exams, and scoring 1.0. Current dream: To be an astronaut. Or, a Robotics engineer at NASA (safer, than piloting them flying bombs called airplanes). I love Physics, Math and Computers -- perfect ingredients for the said dreams. Met and courted my soon-to-be wife for 1 week (yes, like i said, i 10x everything).

1998-2001. Then Internet came to my life. Start of professional, freelancing life. There's an overlap here, since i started working on projects, while still attending college.

This is the time, i started working at Internet Cebu as a sysadmin, started my social media persona, markjeee, at #upcebu IRC chatroom. And also the time, i worked on projects, Cevor, GoCebu, TheBigWap, Inserv. This era culminated with setting up the CleverLearn Office in Cebu, pre-cluding the Bigfoot company here.

2002-2005. The short stint at CleverLearn didn't turn out good for us. So together with Marvis, we set out on our own, and started LearningToGo. The plan is to sell mobile software, based on Palm and Pocket PC platforms, for the education market. We also started a call center business around this time, since we thought it was the business to be "in". And also a blogging business, at the time when blogging and SEO is still taking off.


2005-2008. The market for Palm OS and Pocket PC apps changed, and we were not able to change fast enough.

So, in 2005, i left LearningToGo, and started a small consulting company by myself, which i called Simpleteq (inspired by the 'simple' mantra of Jason Fried from 37s). My first paying project was to customise the payment options of an osCommerce installation for an adult site.

Soon after, i met Harm, and started working on a Diabetes Card product, which is now the main product of Caresharing. Together with Harm's project, we signed on-board the founding team, Franee, Norlan, and Dioni. And also Dory for a very short period.

During this time, we also had other projects, from DWC and a few other personal gigs.

2009-2012. Fortunately, the Caresharing project was successful, we had revenue. I originally envisioned Simpleteq as a small, boutique consulting firm (yes, just like 37s), with only us in the team. So, everyone in the founding team gathered, and agreed to stop Simpleteq, and focus in Caresharing. We can not do it by ourselves.

So we took it to the next level, from a 12k monthly rent, to a 110k a month rent. Yes, that kind of next level.

I would say, this is the stage where startups are tested. We have grown from < 10 people, to almost 40. This is the time where we expanded our presence in Holland, with a new office and a whole new team. A time where we 10x our customers, and also 10x our revenue.

This is also the time, i've started investing time being part of the local community, in 3 areas, computer programming, startups and running.

This is the biggest company i have managed so far. And this is where i am now.


2013-2016. I noticed, i am at a start of a whole new cycle again, and there are also new stuffs to look forward to. So what are they?

Disclaimer: These are forward looking statements, and are my own, and not entirely of my company, but since i managed my company, it might as well be my company's, but i wouldn't say it entirely, since i am not the company. Get it?!


A common theme i noticed is, go global. Personally, i see myself travelling out of the country. Although Caresharing is in a foreign market, in Netherlands, but i feel like it's not yet global enough. So i see taking this company global, to at least one other market.

We are changing our core business model, that will make it easy to take our main product into new markets. We are also building new product lines that is global from the beginning.

I can see myself, going to places, to run, explore, and do business. I can also imagine, expanding the company we are now, into a global team.

Although global, Cebu is still the main base. I don't see myself migrating to a new country. Although acquiring another citizenship is in my mind, but only for technicality purposes, not for living somewhere else.

I know it's unheard of, for a local Cebu startup company to go global. But, why not. We're given an opportunity to do it, so why not take it? Why not?


I can also see myself being more involved in the local startup scene, in a much deeper capacity.

Perhaps, a co-working space?, Or, maybe a seed accelerator program? Who knows, the seeds have been planted, so it's only a matter of watering them, and making sure they get enough sunlight. I know, i'm crazy and delusional to say things like this, but i think all dreams must start somewhere.


Personally, this is probably the most i'm excited about. Ever since when i was young, i always dreamt of going to places far and unknown, at least to me. I can so imagine, running around HK, KK, Nepal, China, Japan, NZ, AU. Though i don't see myself running UTMB or WS100 in this next cycle, but who knows -- it might become a possibility.

At the moment, this is just a personal goal. And just like everything i do, why not make a business around it. I think, as i do more of these endurance stuffs, i might find a new business to do.

Onward and upward

One key take away i have learned, is that, the opportunities in the next cycle, are discovered and started in the previous cycle. When i look at a cycle point, i don't see myself making a pivot, or a u-turn, or a left-turn, but rather, an acceleration.

There you have it, new cycle, new opportunities.