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Is being in the Philippines bane or boon for founding a tech startup?

Last January 10th, I posted a topic which I hoped would get insights from the community to help not only budding technopreneurs better understand the challenges they face in not only starting their own technology venture, but also help them create truly sustainable, wealth-creating companies which can emulate the success of organiations such as F-secure (Finland), Trend Micro (Japan/Taiwan), Kaspersky (Russia), ICQ (Israel), Skype (Estonia/Sweden), SAP (Germany), Zoho (India), and many others.

I was surprised and happy to find that it generated a  lot of insightful comments from very knowledgeable people in the industry (many of whom have actually lived through, going through, or are helping others through the experience).

The gist of the discussion: Filipino technopreneurs face several challenges in getting their company to a point where it can become a truly world class company (initially the discussion was confined to software, but is applicable as well to any technology venture). Here are some of them:

1) Access to capital:

  • according to Carlos Perez: “Easy and cheap capital helps you avoid distraction of having to hunt for money”
  • But Jay Fajardo had a counter point saying: “Tech startups nowadays require less capital to launch because of very cheap access to web and cloud infrastructure. The focus [has] shifted from raising money to getting a product out fast.”
  • Francis Egenias shared that organic growth is possible

2) Timing
(need to catch an inflection point in the industry, take advantage of discontinuous shifts in technology and business models)

  • Jay Fajardo mentioned leveraging new developments such as cloud computing; but applicable here as well are new trends such as open source, social/Web 2.0 technologies, mobile applications (ie iPhone apps), virtualization, etc.

3) Focus
(dominate a niche, target specific verticals, get into markets where size and capital is not an issue, target the needs of a larger, international market, go into markets similar to your local market, leverage local unique culture/economic/social conditions–>ie as in the case of wireless/SMS technologies; or English speaking talent in the case of customer service and distance learning solution providers)

  • Here strategy was mentioned

4) Talent
(access to world class engineering talent, product management and product marketing talent, executive talent, ability to recruit and retain talent–> not losing them to greener pastures abroad or to multinationals with local operations)

  • Paco Sandejas and Joey Gurango talked not only about engineering talent but product management talent.
  • Giancarlo Angulo mentioned a lack of critical mass of talent

5) Leadership
(of course!)

  • Joey Gurango, Paco sandejas and Michael Hamlin talked about competence and experience of the leader (they themselves are leaders of their own enterprise)

6) Attitude/orientation/commitment
(to have confidence to stay the course when faced with challenge)

  • Miguel Ladios shared his experience working in a multinational environment and the importance of attitude
  • Floyd Piedad shared that we should have an attitude that focuses on solutions instead of over-analyzing problems

7) Enabling infrastructure
(ie government, education, IP protection, etc)

  • Michael Vincent Yap and Albert de Cera talked about IP protection
  • Ody dela Merced and Ruben Canlas talked about the role of government and education in creating the right environment for entrepreneurship to succeed

I’m intrigued however by Michael Hamlin’s last post about:

8) how effective communications plays a key part in gaining success on the world stage.

I agree that communicating effectively is crucial (but unfortunately is often missed as I have). Communication plays a key role in the lifecycle of any enterprise/product from startup to maturity–ie getting attention, creating awareness/interest, driving adoption, creating loyalty, building on success.

But just out of curiosity (and in the context of Filipino technopreneurship and what it takes to communicate effectively to the global market), is being in the Philippines (and being associated with the “Philippine brand” if there is such a thing) bane or boon to founding a tech startup and its marketing communication efforts? Does it matter at all?

A review of the communication strategies service companies employ in the IT and IT-enabled services sector seem to prominently tout the advantages of being in the Philippines (or for that matter India, China, Mexico, Poland, etc). But what if you are a product company?

Social responsibility and nationalism aside, does it make business sense to prominently display that your company is “proudly Filipino?” Or that your product was developed by Filipino talent?

Can it be a liability? (ie shows narrow focus? insular thinking?). Should the fact that your enterprise is a Filipino company employing Filipino talent be buried in the marketing copy? Should it be mentioned at all? Some companies I know (both here and abroad) make it a point to highlight the fact that they have international offices (even if its just a one bedroom apartment or PO Box somewhere) to show their global ambitions. At a time where distance is made almost meaningless by technology, does it still matter? Does it really help?

If I were an entrepreneur wanting to set up the next revolutionary open source/cloud computing/social networking/mobile gaming startup right now—what advice would you give?