As I gazed from across my seat, looking at the multitude of people riding the MRT in Singapore, I realized that the episodes from my favorite TV series, Silicon Valley, were actually true. In this case, however, they were in the US and I was in South East Asia.The stories if the technopreneurs in that show were almost very close to reality. This weekend proved to be an amazing experience. It wasn’t because we won that pitch competition or we got to raise seed funding (because we didn’t but we’ve been getting emails already from VC’s since this morning!), but because I learned so much about myself, about our team, and about this interesting world encapsulated in one word — tech.
The Early Bird Catches the Worm
We went to Singapore to showcase our web/mobile application called Taxumo. Our flight from the Philippines left at 10:00 PM and we arrived at Singapore at 1:00 AM the following day. There were four of us, Ej (CEO), Alex (CFO and the CPA in our team), Dex (CTO) and yours truly. We arrived hungry so we had to eat at the nearby McDonalds, a brand familiar to us. We left the airport after and arrived at our hotel around 4AM. We had to be at Singapore Expo (the venue at 7:30 AM) to set up so that meant we had to leave at 7 AM (yup, since traffic wasn’t really evident in Singapore). EJ and I woke up to the messages of our colleagues at 7 am and hurriedly rushed so that we could leave right away. We really thought we were late, but lo and behold, we were actually one of the earliest ones there at 8:00 AM.
Being early in conferences, gives you the advantage. You get to practice your pitch to a few people (mostly co-tech startup founders), so that when investors come in, you have already amazingly mastered your pitch after saying it a dozen times over. Also, you already have prepared answering questions, and these questions will probably be the same questions repeated over and over again from different people.
Pitch, Listen and Participate
We have seen that in conferences like these, the people who ‘win’ (not used literally) are the people who maximize their presence in the conference. How do you maximize your presence? One is to share your idea to as many people as possible. Don’t be scared to share your idea as there may be investors who will be willing to help out, potential brand partners who might be willing to partner with you, existing solutions providers that may be able to integrate with your system, potential users who will have great insights and other enablers who may speed the process of launching or expanding your idea.
We thought that Echelon Asia Summit was great because we got to meet with various venture capitalists. We also got invited to join totally awesome incubator and accelerator programs. We also got offers for help if we want to expand to other ASEAN countries.
Also, I have learned to be willing to listen to other people’s ideas, too. I got to meet a lot of interesting people with unique ideas and it was so inspiring to hear them. We mad new friends, like our Indian friends from NoCoinz and we got to bind with the other Philippine delegates, too.
Make Calculated Risks Fast
I have always been exposed to how traditional businesses and how large corporations in the Philippines operate. I grew up with a family whose main business was putting up brick and mortar stores where we sell food. Preparations for these kinds of businesses would take years. My family was lucky since what we entered was a food franchise business; otherwise, planning, preparing and building wouldn’t have gone that fast.
We have noticed that in this industry, everything seems to move so quickly. A large number of the businesses there have only started with the idea less than a year. Prototypes have already been built, whether it be software or hardware, and these groups and entities have already validated ideas with customers. Most of the companies that have received seed funding where those that have shown some form of traction from paying customers.
It’s no wonder that concepts like the Lean Methodology and tools like the Javelin board and also methods like Agile and Scrum have taken this industry by storm. In this industry, all of the founders of the your company need to act fast and work fast while still working on the grounds that your ideas have been validated by your target market. We have noticed that some ideas are great ideas but don’t seem to get much attention since the problem and pain point wasn’t validated enough. We have also heard stories about great and validated ideas but since execution was slow, the idea never really flew and they were beaten by competition. Both are crucial. Check that your start-up has done or can do both.
Learn to Hustle
I never really understood what the term meant when I first encountered the word during our incubator program in Ideaspace. At first, I felt that the term was too ‘hard-core’ and ‘rough’ to be used in a business environment (lol! I thought that they should have used a more business-y term). But man, this week proved me wrong! Hustling was definitely what we did. In the two days that we were in #ECAsia2016, we probably talked to more than 500 people and pitched our idea to close to 10 investors.
And that wasn’t all, the day after the conference, we visited 2 VCs and made a courtesy call to DTI – Philippine Trade and Investments Council Singapore. It was inside of the MRT in Singapore in between meetings where I found myself thinking about our country and our future. Both Venture Capitalists also mentioned that they haven’t had any visits yet from any startup from the Philippines.
I know that we all know that we have talented people in the Philippines. What we know and what we have as a Taxumo, may even be nothing in comparison with what you, my readers, may be capable of doing or are capable of creating. We just have to try to achieve our dreams and try to make a difference. We may not be the best startup out there, winning competitions and all, but we will never stop trying.
PS. Thanks for the tip, Bianca Medina to not wear heels! haha! My feet hurt so bad! 🙂 haha! It was worth it though.
PPS. For Angels, VCs, Investors and possible partners, please email me at ginger(at)taxumo.com 🙂