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.

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