Startup Weekend returns to Manila and Cebu

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Companies once again bring the much-anticipated Startup Weekend to the Philippines.

HOBBYMASH. From left: Mark Co, Josh Liao, Liezl Buenaventura, and Rafael Oca (with a former team member) at Startup Weekend 2011.

MANILA, Philippines – “Globe believes in giving opportunities to everyone with the skills and burning desire to turn their bright ideas into viable businesses,” begins Minette Navarrete, head of Globe New Business Group and president of Kickstart Ventures, Inc. “Startup Weekend Manila is the venue for those who have a passion for innovation and who want to be part of a global movement towards reshaping our economic future.”  

Startup Weekend Manila, which is in its second year, will be held on April 27-29 at MINT College in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. The Cebu leg will be on May 11-13. Startup Weekend is a 54-hour competition where developers, designers, marketers, technopreneurs, and venture capitalists come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startup businesses. 

Startup Weekend Manila 2011 winner HobbyMash – the preformed team of Liezl Buenaventura, Josh Liao, Rafael Oca, and Mark Co – came away with a SGD 15,000 startup fund and enrollment in a 100-day Startup Bootcamp in Singapore, led by SingTel Innov8 (the corporate venture arm of leading telecoms provider SingTel) and Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI). They presented in Demo Asia 2012, and are working towards the 2012 Demo Day this May.

Kickoff speech by Liezl Buenaventura, HobbyMash (2011 winner):

“The funny thing about startups is that people often think that you get rich overnight. They think you spend a few weeks throwing a web app together, then you launch it, then you get a billion users overnight. Then Google comes to buy your company and you exit a millionaire.

This is actually not true. What really happens is that you think you have a good idea, you spend a few months building your app, maybe get a friend or two to help, then you launch it. When you launch it, you then get a few hundred people to try it out, maybe around a thousand or more if you’re lucky, and then you add more features and wait for your app to get popular. For many startups, the journey ends there. Their app never gets popular, they don’t get noticed, they don’t get investment, they never quit their day job.

On the other hand, a small percentage of these startups do get a bit of traction. They get a few million users, attract investor attention, get actual money into their app and grow their business, and make a respectable exit, four or five years later.

The reality of startups is that they aren’t easy. This is damned hard work, and you put in far more hours than you would working a typical 9 to 6 job. You do not get rich overnight, it does not get easier as time passes, and there is a huge possibility that you will fail and gain nothing from all the time you’ve spent working on it.

So, now that I’ve sufficiently scared off half the room, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my startup experience at the Joyful Frog Digital Incubator in Singapore.

We came across JFDI at Startup Weekend Manila in October, 2011. I, along with Josh Liao, went to the event and teamed up with 4 strangers to build a startup in 2 days. Our concept was to make an app that would help hobbyists connect with each other. We finished a prototype and a business proposal in two days, presented it, and were awarded the JFDI bootcamp prize. Globe was kind enough to sponsor our plane tickets to Singapore, and three months later, we were at JFDI.

Coming down from our initial 6 person team, two of our members dropped out because they couldn’t quit their jobs and commit to being in Singapore for 100 days. This left myself, Josh, Rafael Oca, and Mark Jordan Co within our team. We incorporated our company in Singapore with the JFDI investment of SGD 15,000, and got to work developing our product.

Now, the role of JFDI is to basically give you mentorship over all aspects of your business. The product is just a part of this, and as designers and developers, people like me usually tend to focus too much on the app. It’s what we’re good at, it’s what we know how to do, and it’s our comfort zone. The value of JFDI is that they bring mentors who have been in your shoes, have made successful exits, and will share their experiences with you.

If you bring a team of developers and designers, they assess what you have and attempt to advise you in the areas that you’re weak. They also poke as many holes as they can in the problem that you’re trying to solve with your application, with the mantra that ‘if it’s not going to work, it’s best that you know now, rather than seven months later so you still have time to change it.’

The environment of an incubator is difficult. I won’t mince words. There are twelve startups in JFDI, and we are all feeling the pressure of producing something for day 100. Right now, we’re a little over a month away from Demo Day, which is for all intents and purposes, the most important  day of the JFDI Innov8 bootcamp. It’s when we present the fruits of our 100 days of labor in front of potential investors. Some teams have been working on their startups for over a year, so they’ll be producing revenue growth and showing where their product has been and where they’ll be taking it.

Since we started on day 1 of the bootcamp, we’ll be presenting our business case and a demo of our working product. We have since restarted our Hobbyist-connecting application, and are currently developing a product that will cater to overseas Filipinos. I can’t disclose too much about it right now, but suffice to say that we have gotten incredibly good customer validation and are excited to present our business case.

I look back right now and I’m somewhat surprised that we’ve gone through so many products in a handful of weeks. We went through about 5 or 6 ideas before we found a viable one, and there were times during the bootcamp that we didn’t know where to bring our application. As wonderful as mentors are, they don’t often agree with each other, and the bits of advice that you get tend to contradict each other.

I think that one of the things you have to remember if you’re interested in participating in an incubator is that people giving you advise is just that. People giving you advise. You can take it or leave it, but ultimately you have to live with where you bring your product. What’s important is that you listen to everything, give all the ideas and advice fair weight, and make sure that you make an informed decision.

And a big part of having an informed decision is by going out and talking to your customers. Mentors give you the benefit of educated hypothesis, but at the end of the day, what matters most is what your customers say. You can (and should) literally go to your customers with a pen and paper and interview them on what their problems are in the space that you’re trying to breach, and develop a product that answers their pain point. You don’t need to finish developing your product before you talk to customers, and in fact, a JPG mockup of your product will do just as well when you’re trying to get their thoughts and opinions at the start of it.

Also, don’t be scared to restart your product on day 50. If you’re going to make mistakes, make them now, not later when you’ve got investors breathing down your neck and asking where the customers that you promised them are.

So in closing, if you’re interested in making a startup because you want to get rich quickly, then you’d better quit now. If, on the other hand, you want to make a startup because you are a problem solver and are passionate about your chosen field, then I suggest applying for an incubator.

They help speed the process considerably, and while your competition is blindly stumbling around in the dark, an incubator will give you knee pads for when you inevitably trip.

That said, best of luck to all my fellow entrepreneurs. I’m incredibly proud to count myself and my team amongst you, and I salute you all. Thank you.” –


(Parties interested in Startup Weekend Manila can still register via until April 25, or while slots are available. Visit the site for updates.)

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