MANILA, Philippines – For Filipinos, the term “raket” needs no explanation. It connotes a sideline job undertaken for extra income, which may include everything from selling goods (i.e. imported clothes) to services (i.e. web design).
So when serial entrepreneur, Lyle Jover, found the raket.ph domain surprisingly still available, he took it as another sign that he should pursue his business idea. He wanted to modernize both ends of the raket system – how Filipinos get clients or customers for their raket and how clients or customers find the right freelancer.
Jover got inspiration for the idea from of all places Facebook, where he noticed that many of his friends were often reaching out to their social network to get recommendations for freelancers. He gave several examples of these kinds of posts:
“I am looking for a photographer, any recommendations?”
“I need a tutor for my son, do you guys know anyone? Within Makati lang.”
“We’re having our wedding, any wedding planners out there? Within budget lang sana.”
In the end, these posts are so common that we can all come up with our own examples of them. That’s why many people are excited that Jover and his team want to take this aspect of “Filipino culture” and “bring it to the next level.”
Jover and his team are engineering graduates from De La Salle University, which might explain why raket.ph is different from its competitors on a basic technical level. “We think our competitors are Freelancer, Elance, and oDesk,” he said. “Raket.ph is designed differently. I don’t really want to compete by comparing but we have designed Raket.ph following the Filipino culture.”
He explained, “One example is that, if you’re looking for somebody, you don’t need to post a project and wait for freelancers to bid for it. With us, you just browse our categories or do a search and compare freelancers by referring to each freelancer’s portfolio, customer reviews, badge level, and budget. When you’re happy, contact him and you’re done. That’s it. That’s how we do it here in the Philippines.”
In other words, Jover felt that the systems of its international competitors do not translate well to the Philippines, given that that’s not how things work here. When we want to hire someone, we don’t want to canvas through dozens, if not hundreds, of proposals. We just want to find the one right person and negotiate with him directly, using social proof as an aid, whether it be a recommendation from a friend or – in the case of raket.ph – reviews, badges, and portfolios.
Jover also does not underestimate the power of raket.ph’s branding. He said, “Localized branding as for the term ‘raket’ is very important. It’s short, easy to remember, and has a clear meaning. It’s raket. There’s no other meaning for that. People will get it. No questions asked.”
Given that raket.ph just launched a few short days ago, Jover and his team are focused on growth of its user base. They face a rather unique challenge here. Most businesses have only one demographic to cater to, but raket.ph has two: Filipinos who want to market their raket and Filipinos who want to find the right freelancer.
Jover has a plan in place to address this challenge. He said, “It’s evident that we really need to get a lot of profiles from professionals and freelancers so that we would reach a point that Raket.ph would really serve its purpose in our society. This is our priority. We believe if we get enough profiles, this will spread naturally.” In other words, he hypothesizes that if he gets a critical mass of freelancers, the people looking for them will organically follow.
The nature of the site will aid in this effort. “Our site is designed to be social,” Jover said. “People will definitely share their profiles to market themselves and earn points from reviews from old and potential clients. In turn, people will get that recall on what raket.ph stands for.”
Of course, key to raket.ph’s growth is the site itself. It must be easy to use for both demographics, and Jover sees its early users as helping with this task. He said, “We have a lot of ideas for future features for the site, but we have to hold them for now. We can’t just rely on our own perspective. We think user experience is really important, so future improvements will be geared towards this.”
He continued, “We want to listen to people who use it and from there understand what they really need, what is essential and effective following our goal, our mission for the people. Raket.ph version 2.0 will be underway this year. Bigger, and more innovations.”
The entrepreneurial life
This is not the raket.ph’s teams first go at entrepreneurship. Of his team, Jover said, “Ever since after college, me and my friends were really geared toward becoming entrepreneurs. We like innovating things. Each of us had took different ventures. Some failed, some succeeded.”
“For us, the initial venture back in 2009 was Bum-Buys.com, which was an innovative platform for online sellers,” he said. “It was taken from the problem that we noticed back then that online sellers here in the Philippines just post whatever they sell in multiply or sulit.ph. There is no real space for sellers to create their brand properly. It failed, probably due to our lack of experience and we didn’t recognize the importance of marketing. We concentrated too much on the functionalities.”
Even though Jover and his team bring the lessons they learned from past failed ventures to raket.ph, they still have to contend with many challenges. Chief among them is the struggle of balancing their day jobs – they are all IT professionals – with the dream that raket.ph represents for each of them.
Jover said, “Three people created Raket.ph, Me, the ever social Jp Menjares, and our grumpy developer Bryan Martinez, who lost his humor in that two-month duration. It was really hard for us. Don’t believe it if people tell you it’s easy. We all have 24 hours each day. The question is: how do you use them? We had a lot of sleepless nights. We drink coffee if we need to be focused and beer if we need to be creative.”
Given the limited time in a day, Jover recommended, “It’s really given that your day job can’t really give way or else you’d get fired. Make the most out of all the time that you have left after work, weekends, and holidays. But to be straightforward – you really have to sacrifice sleep. How bad do you want it? Always ask yourself that.”
As a final note of advice, Jover added, “This is the reason that we always believe that when creating something, you need a strong vision and purpose. This is what keeps you going.” – Rappler.com
Rappler business columnist Ezra Ferraz graduated from UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California, where he taught writing for 3 years. He now consults full-time for educational companies in the United States. He brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Follow him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz
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