04 November 2011

Silicone Valley in the Philippines?

Back track to around 1984. When I was in 6th grade, the first computer magazine I was exposed to is called "BYTE", those thick glossies almost had everything. One issue even had an old "treasure" map of Silicone Valley where Apple, Intel, 3Com(?) etc. are drawn in isometric popup-book style.

During non-school days we visit our other house in Muntinlupa in which where I live now, a half-hour drive from our house in San Andres, Manila via the South Super Highway(yes, those buses you see with "...via SSH" that's where they go, very secure) now known as the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). Along this 25km journey involved passing by front gates of what made up Silicone Valley back then; Intel's factory was located before stopping at Pasay Road intersection, American Microelectronics along the West Service Road, Motorola where their 2-way radio and the first cellphone was mass produced and then the PowerPC was mass-produced from there too, Panasonic-Technics, Toshiba, Sharp is still there, Amkor Technologies who did a lot for Silicone Valley with a large facility along the East Service now has a second factory at Laguna Technopark. On the software side, I only remember one big building at Faraday Street corner South Super Highway in Palanan, Makati with a big sign outside that said they're always on the hunt for C/C++, DB2 etc. talents. Seeing those companies advertise in BYTE magazine and actually passing by them every now and then reminded me that it doesn't look bad times at all.

My first encounter with a computer was with Sinclair ZX81 it's a microcomputer, not a Personal Computer  it uses casette tape to store data and only understands BASIC. Working with ZX81 cookbook was fun but  I wish I can do something more useful back then like "sari-sari" store inventory(?), and another guy who has a similar device like this one is an old chap with a "startup" called "CompuServe" with his home/office/garage located near Wilson Street in Greenhills. Sinclair is UK-based computer company, not connected to Silicone Valley but one of the early tools that motivated kids like me that somehow we can have something like Silicone Valley.

Sinclair ZX81 with 16KB ROM Pack

Star Trek was not the geek flick of choice around 1984, it's War Games since it's closer to reality, almost life threatening and War on Communism is of paramount importance than War on Terrorism (which was just treated as a petty criminal act those days and not worth putting an army for).

Matthew Broderick in his state-of-the-art Commodore in War Games
So much for the past now. Recently, there's some questions being raised by blogging geeks, tech guys in PHL who were probably born in the 80's or late 70's asking questions why we don't have Silicone Valley in the Philippines? Well, we almost did! We had our shot and we blew it! The bus stopped and we missed it! The Captain called out but we're not ready! We were the China back then until our power generation costs nearly killed us, causing some of the factories to shut down and move elsewhere. The old "evil" regime decided to put up a nuclear power plant to make these big guys stay and keep the money in, but the nuclear dream was fought hard by those who will benefit from it in the future, I'm almost certain that these same people who fought has to push their kids out of the country to work for those companies in similar environmental danger today. The reason it's called Silicone Valley is because it's not about software, there's a place for software and it's called Redmond. We can't be Silicone Valley if we're always paralyzed by power failures both political and electrical. Is Cebu going to be Silicone Valley? Probably, but if the work down there is just about "gluing" things together, then I don't think so.

Will there be a chance to have a Silicone Valley in PHL? Yes, if we stop fighting what's good for us.

26 October 2011

Startup Weekend Manila

I want to check my history first. My first foray in to the startup scene circles back to the first Internet Bubble between '99-'04, there's not much stuff to read about it online and the only two printed media I looked at during those years were Red Herring and Fast Company magazines. I was so amazed by how much money has changed hands with those tissue paper ideas, there were no social apps back then, it was so inspiring that I believe I can build any of those ideas myself and get funded too! But there's seems to be an invisible barrier to entry. Then I searched locally for startup scenes or forums brewing around and I only stumbled in to two; Philippine Venture Capital Group or PhilVenCap and MindShare which was curated by Luli Arroyo. PhilVenCap is a monthly meeting at Asian Institute of Management for early risers in which you can pitch your business ideas for 3 minutes and network aftwards, PhilVenCap has been around for more than 20 years, I did a couple of pitches there and it's really quite a learning experience. MindShare was more technology specific and saw some of the big local names like Ramcar, whom, back then, were attempting to expose themselves to this new "ecosystem", MindShare is slowly making a comeback now. Then comes the SMS generation, not only it's more exciting but applications were easier to develop as well, almost no GUI, everything is done at the backend. Ideas were starting to get crazier, open source APIs were already available and eventually got a chance to work with local startup specializing in SMS with artificial intelligence. And then came the Bubble burst and I had to work with one of the largest telco, yes the brick and mortar, learned a lot on how to deal with them, moved to Singapore for awhile and worked briefly with another startup in which we did touchscreens (even before everyone else got a touchscreen!) for a major telco, yes another brick and mortar.

Fast forward to present, tech entrepreneurs seems to be luckier these days. First, there are more venues like Startup Weekends, RoofCamps, Barcamps, Hackathons and whatnot, although sometimes they were run by the same people over and over again(the risk of losing fresh insights). Second, there isn't much re-inventing to do since startups can reuse most of what is available today in Twitter, Facebook etc. However, old guards still dominates like online shopping sites, online advertising, online gaming, search engines etc. transforming themselves in different mutations, but still, there are valuable lessons to be learned.

And now, the Startup Weekends. The concept of the Startup Weekend is to bring together aspiring tech entrepreneurs, investors, developers and designers in an event where they can pitch ideas, work on those ideas, and eventually launch a startup from those ideas, they may have to build prototypes over the weekend or polish a business plan or both. At the end of the event investors can pick for themselves which startup they think they can put money on. Thus, an idea can become a startup, become a business, who knows. Startup Weekend Manila is my third after Baltimore and Washington, DC. startup weekends, the last two was more like a weekend market while the one we just had is like an American Idol contest. Nevertheless, all of them were successful. Startup Weekend Manila has around 200 participants from what I heard and all were doing social apps one way or another. Well, this is not Silicone Valley.

Many teams were formed after the pitchfire and one of them was VenteeInc. The idea behind VenteeInc is event discovery or it's solving the what's-going-on or who's-going-where or what's-happening-at type of problems for mostly young people in their 20's downward who are really bored and looking for places to go or something to do. It's not rocket science. But again, we might lose the whole point of Startup Weekends, they are not meant to be coding contest of some sorts. Startup Weekends are for getting ideas turn to reality. So I signed up for this team because I think the idea is cool despite doubtful business viability, but of course, theories are almost, always 99% wrong. During the weekend, teams were grilled, ripped and tormented by some mentors to sharpen the ideas further and VenteeInc was no exception we were  at the point that we thought we're screwed but still has to go on and that has been a valuable teamwork lesson learned again and again regardless how silly an idea is. As usual VenteeInc's revenue model (this is what geeks are weak at) revolves around the economics of advertising, revenue-sharing with event organizers, ticketing networks, venue owners etc.

The 'cutters', screw you Terence, I hate that word :P (Photo pulled from Jonathan Richie Yap's Facebook album, me at extreme left, it's 1010 gets?)

The Sunday presentations were awesome, initial ideas has somewhat crystalized with teams who really worked hard with their presentations.

Project KIO, doing the magic

 TwitMusic, it's Twitter for Music

I'm not really a 'contest' or 'competition' guy, it's not my thing and I prefer killing the competition than play with it but clinching the top award together with our team somehow gave me some sort of personal in-your-face vindication from the people now I'm waiting to say 'crab' and points, clearly, went across now.

 VenteeInc, First Place and People's Choice Award

An event like this is not complete without a party and it was there where talks about business is more amplified and that's what we did. Won new networks, won new backdoor deals. Got home San Mig enlightened but wasn't able to sleep yet, Goods2Send has pending orders.

13 October 2011

RIP, Dennis Ritchie

No, it's not Steve Jobs who really changed the world. It's Dennis Ritchie, the man behind the C language and the UNIX operating system. For the non-geeks, here's how UNIX made your life livable everyday; you can sleep at night because opposing forces of the world's military organizations depend on it on a daily basis. Smart, Globe and Sun uses UNIX operating system so you can call, SMS and browse Facebook wherever you are. Your banks keeps your accounts safe with UNIX, your insurance company keeps you updated using UNIX. Steve Jobs is heavily dependent on UNIX from his Pixar gigs to his Macs. The influence of UNIX is widespread, Linus Torvalds' kernel is based on it. If you're reading this now, this blog is hosted in a UNIX platform one way or another. If you're on Twitter, Facebook, G+ etc. etc. you're engulfed by UNIX. When you book a flight to an airline and you check in to an airport, it's all done in UNIX. When you withdraw money from ATMs, it's UNIX. When you buy stuff at Amazon, it's UNIX. When you swipe your credit card at SM, Robinson's or Shopwise, it's UNIX. There's no getting away from it.

For better or for worse, Dennis Ritchie and his work has made a larger impact to mankind more than any keynotes Steve Jobs has ever made.

My early encounters with UNIX as a developer involved its different flavors from System 7, AIX, HP-UX, Solaris and SCO. The UNIX culture shaped the way how we build cool stuff, it taught hard lessons that metrosexual geeks of today might not be able to pick up.

That is our lives with UNIX. Thanks Mr. Ritchie, bad design or good design, your legacy lives on.

01 October 2011

Co-Workingspaces, It's About Time (I Guess...)

I guess I'm one of those who long for a place where creativity must be squeezed out to the max level and working from home is not really boosting it in the same way squatting at a signature coffee shop can be easily quite distracting specially in this part of the globe where most yuppies are just too nosy about the logo of your laptop. Adding the fact that it's just too hard to work if you're too f*cking paranoid on the people going in and out of the doorway for safety reasons.

Aspiring technopreneurs who has limited resource in terms of funding, office space, photocopiers, white boards, conference rooms can make use of a co-workingspaces. So when do we need a co-workingspace? Like right now? I'm currently writing this blog in a place that is used to be quiet in the wee hours of the morning until just recently it's packed with call center people, yapping here and there looking at me in a very, very strange way. While drilling down and browsing the web on existing co-workingspaces currently operating in countries like United States, I believe co-workingspaces can be applied in some part of this country (PHL).

In the Philippines, co-workingpaces are suitable for startups who are already committed in to something and are:

1. Working to exploit real, not imagined opportunities - This means startups has "customers" ready to buy-in once the finished product has been launched.

2. Working to cut cost but not on the quality of work - A small startup can spend a day in co-workingspace perfecting a product.

3. Working with remote team members - Not just startups but for freelancers who can bring their work anywhere

4. Anybody who can't live with a bedroom that smells like a pigsty after establishing a hermit kingdom in it.

5. Working on a really seriously cool project but is not ready to move in to the big office yet.

Typically a co-workingspace, the ones that might theoretically work in the Philippines should have the following amenities:

1. A blazingly-fast WiFi, a co-workingspace operator can partner with top broadband provider in the country.

2. Big tables with office chairs.

3. A pantry or snack bar

4. A friendly clerk

5. Optionally, free coffee only for expats (let's admit it, we can't give free consumables to Filipinos, it will become a food bank).

6. A photocopier

7. A boardroom with projector

Laugh all you want but this is not a co-workingspace.

8. clean restrooms

An operator can charge like PHP800 to PHP1,000 for a day pass with a single chair, power outlet and unlimited internet access. Use of photocopier, boardroom and projector can be charged separately. Booking and upfront payment is required before anyone can drop by and loiter.

Again, will this work? I think expat startuppers have been looking for something like this around the block and if they can find one, more of those from the Bay Area, the East Coast might fly in and at the same time enjoy the beaches here, will trade our idiots with their geniuses.

26 August 2011

Create More With Less

This week has been one of the most exciting week in the technology industry, the Russians just crashed their spaceship that will supply stuff to the international space station so the guys up there will have to endure for another seven months on their meager supplies unless another space canister can be hauled up to speed anytime soon. So what else is hot this week? The HP Touchpad on fire sale, if a company is no longer interested in the product, those Touchpads and other handheld devices should be dumped in a landfill off limits to public, selling that to as low as $99 means the company, Hewlett Packard, are very much in to it and will be shoving it to as many hands as they can and give a chance to play with it, since webOS is really cool from my personal opinion, they have to let the public realize that and then bomb the device with really compelling applications as they promised (focusing on "Software Development" remember?).

The long awaited coming-to-maturity of front-end tools such as HTML5+CSS3+JQuery has come and with that comes the power tools that enable developers to create more with less and for many. Developers can now create mobile applications that run both on Android, iPhone and the rest in the shortest possible time without having to deploy to iTunes App Store or Android Marketplace, no more of the 70/30 profit sharing. One of the example of this new wonder is the "Galaksyan" game from Kupster Interactive. This demo game was created in less than 2 hours, also using Microsoft Tag to scan the game's originating URL

There's a lot with what a software developer can do now that creating just a "Hello World" for a demo is really a shame.

No XCode, No Java, No Cables, No Software Engineers

This is also a great time for marketers to storm their brains on how best to utilize these technologies to their business' advantage. Doing these cool apps now is relatively cheaper than before.


If you want to try out the game use the Microsoft Tag Reader and scan the Tag below:

The game may not load properly at first shot, so you have it to shoot again(or refresh again). Don't worry that will be fixed, you won't even know it, we'll not hassle you with update notifications. You have been informed.

22 August 2011

Necessitas Qt Suite for Android

My time has been dramatically divided from writing code to managing the opportunities of the technologies that we choose to use. It's basically my left hand on the code and right hand on the spreadsheets. It should have been awesome, I observed the Android (Java) developer community, the iPhone developer community and each has its own crap to talk about, I stumbled upon Objective C after installing Slackware 6.0 hot-of-the-grill so I'm not really, pretty much a fan of that, and I found today's high-level application development amazingly boring be it mobile,web or desktop why would I get my hands dirty since coding these apps can be easily outsourced to places like India, China and Russia or even Ukraine at the same rate I can get a local but problematic talent. I'd rather spend my time developing and "spec'ing" out the idea and get the hardcore engineers to work on it while I fly out and showcase the good stuff.

"Create More With Less" is how I got sold to the idea of Qt C++ development. I'm an impatient coder, I hate the web application development process, I hate all the frameworks (most from the Java camp) that goes with it and some turned out to be author's scam who has no actual real-world development experience and tried to make money peddling his ideas and his books. I'm the write-run-debug-on-the-fly dev guy, because the more I wait the more I going to be distracted(just like anybody else). Trends after trends on software development and seeing some of those goes out of style, Qt C++ has remained stable and has been the "power tool" of choice for many applications including some of the apps at Intel AppUp Store. Now it has found its way to Android development through Necessitas. Watch the video.

Recent developments between Google and Motorola, HP webOS products has put the future of mobile development in to some level of uncertainty specially in the Android space, if things can go "wrong" there isn't much value in betting on Android venture but having Qt in a technology portfolio can compensate for the risk.

Necessitas Qt Suite for Android has come a long way from almost two years ago and its efforts has never(or secretly?) been supported by Nokia which I surmise is playing Two-Face in this mobile war. I've watched Necessitas up to this moment, though I have no real use for it right now, and if I have one I'll just delegate it somewhere and I can say Necessitas' time has come and it's up to the developers to stop eating rice and learn it. I'm just to busy on the spreadsheets right now.

Up Next...Qt for iPhone (hope I'm not too lazy to write)

08 July 2011

Navigation in Metro Manila

Here's a little fearless forecast, pretty soon all motorists will have some sort of GPS navigation being used to aid their journey on a daily basis. Whether it's a car-mounted GPS module like Garmin or an Android-based MotoNav that works together with Google Maps. Different brand and models will soon flood the market as they become more and more affordable. In the hardware area, Garmin is the clear winner as a lot of mapping software are compatible with it including the crowd-sourced OpenStreetMap.

Garmin Nuvi 205 in action

In the U.S. and in other developed countries GPS navigation works almost perfectly including street addresses and their exact pinpoint location. The Philippine map for Garmin, however, is still a work in progress which is available from different sources such as from esambale.wikispaces.com, Roadguide.Ph. These maps are updated almost on a daily basis for new roads, new detour, new POIs, new routes, the author is also one of the most active contributors.

My latest Garmin upgrade is the Nuvi 295W, if you haven't tried any of these Garmin devices, it talks. My 295W is loaded with OpenstreetMap PH for Garmin, I got this wonderful device from Philippines' premiere online shopping site Goods2Send, this site also sells downloadable Garmin Maps that doesn't require MapSource to install and a version available in SD or microSD card.

550m to turn right

So far I've used this device as far as Subic up north and Cebu down south, though not as excellent as the U.S. map, the Philippine map covers almost of the physical roads anyone can tread on, almost all of the existing POIs (points-of-interests) and the new ones. Since mapping the Philippines is still very much a work in progress, I'm pretty much confident that there are a lot of opportunities still waiting to be realized in relation to GPS navigation in Metro Manila which is relatively new. Some of these opportunities will come from location-based advertising, various map renditions, competing map providers for more accurate navigation, lower price points to compete with mostly gray-market GPS retailers.