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?

A Billion for a Billion

If you’re reading this, you can make a difference. It starts with one person: https://www.wfp.org/donate/…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "A Billion for a Billion", posted with vodpod

Interesting Service: Business Summaries

I’ve been using this new interesting service called Business Summaries, and basically what it does is it gives users access to business book summaries in PDF, Powerpoint, PDA, and HTML, and now even in Mindmap, Video and Audio formats. Its specially well suited for folks who need quick doses of ideas and insights from some of the leading business book authors today.

I find the service particulary useful as I am an avowed business book junkie. Just check out my collection here.  I often don’t have the time (nor the resources) to buy all the books I want, and the summaries *in some cases but not always) offer a good substitute.  If there is a book I really want, I use it to get a feel of the content to see if its really worth it. For those books I already own, I use it to very quickly remember the key points of the books specially if I want to share the ideas to my colleagues (here the Powerpoint and Mindmaps are useful).

Their selection of titles is impressive, just some of the summaries available when you sign up include such best sellers such as:

Inside, books can be searched by Title, Author and Category. When you access a summary, you are presented with links to the PDF, HTML, Powerpoint, PDA, Mindmap, Audio and Video formats as well. The site also offers a daily summary sent via email.

I wish though they would have made the sign up process a little easier (I had to hunt around the website to find out more information about their different packages). Perhaps more thought and work into making the site more usable would be helpful here–as the pages seem to me were designed for maximum search engine friendliness and not human friendliness. While the website is not as slick and feature-rich as the sites from other similar services such as getAbstract and SoundView, it offers a nice balance of features and content for the price. Overall its a good value.

Open Source Alternatives to Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino

Microsoft Exchange is a messaging and collaboration platform that has quickly gained adoption among many corporate organizations, specially those who have standardized on Microsoft Windows Server for their infrastructure. It brings in one package many enterprise features including messaging (using its own proprietary MAPI/RPC protocol or open standard protocols such as POP3/IMAP and SMTP), shared calendaring, resource management, directory services (LDAP/AD) and many others. In later releases, it has added web access, mobile sync (supports Windows mobile, Blackberry, Android devices) clustering, and high availability features making it suitable for large organizations and mission-critical deployments. If deployed and integrated with other products from Microsoft‘s suite of server solutions such as Sharepoint (for collaboration, document management and workflow) and OCS (unified communications and collaboration), Exchange can be a formidable platform for any vendor to match.

Lotus Domino on the other hand has been around earlier, and is still used in many organizations who have decided to deploy corporate groupware solutions early on with Lotus Notes. Like Exchange, it is a messaging and collaboration platform but in addition is also an application development platform commonly used for forms-based or workflow applications. In recent releases, IBM has made Domino an extensible platform with document management services, portal services, unified communications and collaboration (with Lotus Sametime), and others.

Both platforms are mature and have enjoyed wide use in many corporate deployments. Lotus Domino has the advantage of being in the market earlier, while Exchange enjoys the advantage of having an excellent and ubiquitous client in Microsoft Outlook and great integration with Microsoft’s market-leading products.

However, customers looking for an alternative from the open source community or commercial open source vendors are in luck as there is now a host of choices. On top of standard messaging and collaboration features, many of them bundle a ton of other features and functionality, such as built-in antispam and antivirus, file or document management, cross-platform support (ie can often run on both Windows and Linux) and many others. In this post, I’ll try to list down the well known enterprise-ready alternatives and rate them based on their features, extensibility and adoption. Let’s get started:

  • Citadel. I got to know of Citadel from mailing lists and recommendations of some uses from message boards, forums and social networking sites. I haven’t tried Citadel but from what I was able to gather from their website, it seems Citadel has been around for a long time, making it a mature product in terms of features. It supports messaging (support for POP3/IMAP/SMTP), group calendars and address books, but in addition offers instant messaging, mailing list management, and bulletin board-style forums. It also bundles open source antispam and antivirus solutions SpamAssassin and ClamAV respectively. Notable is its support for the GroupDAV protocol (a subset of WebDAV), which makes it a great choice if you will be using open source clients as well such as Thunderbird, KDE Kontact, Evolution and others. A notable disadvantage is lack of support for syncing calendar and task information in Outlook. Lack of built-in clustering and high availability features may be a  problem for some organizations, although a knowledgeable Linux admin can compensate for this. With its support for GroupDAV and light hardware requirements, Citadel makes a great choice for organizations comfortable with open source or companies who want to extend the life of old server hardware. I would be hard pressed to recommend this for large enterprise deployments however where support, ease of use, and ease of maintenance and management are more important considerations than features.
  • Horde Groupware Webmail Edition. Horde is really a web application framework with Horde Groupware as a project showcase of what is possible with the framework. It is actually a mail client, with the mail and identity management pieces being handled by Postfix, Dovecot, Sendmail and OpenLDAP. Horde Groupware is widely used by many web hosting providers as a hosted groupware solution for customers and is bundled by some Linux distribution vendors (such as ClarkConnect) as their collaboration solution. Because of its roots as an application development framework, Horde can easily be extended and is really a collection of different integrated modules. Besides messaging, different modules handle calendaring, task management, mailing list management, antivirus and antispam (via SpamAssassin and ClamAV), along with file management, photo gallery, forums, memos, wikis and many others. Syncing data with Outlook is possible via 3rd party plugins, and it readily supports other open source clients as well such as Thunderbird, Evolution and others. My criticism against Horde is its dated User Interface versus the other choices here with their slick and snappy AJAX-powered front-ends. Another is the complicated and time consuming set up the various components (ie Postfix and others) Horde modules–admins might be better served getting a pre-packaged solution in place. Overall Horde, like Citadel, is a great choice for organizations with experienced Linux admins, who want to extend the life of old server hardware and want a feature-rich and mature solution. I would be hard pressed to recommend this for large enterprise deployments however where support, ease of use, and ease of maintenance and management are more important considerations than features.
  • OpenGroupware/InstantOGO. OpenGroupware also has a rich and long past. It was originally a commercial project which was later spun off to open source project was later spun off and called OpenGroupware. Like many here it supports messaging, group calendars and address books, scheduling and task management, support for GroupDAV, CalDAV, and LDAP out of the box, file and document management and many others. Its a pre-packaged solution and is relatively easy to set up and configure. The commercial version offers support for Outlook sync, as well as commercial support. Definitely a mature, feature-rich solution that is in many ways a good choice for midsized to large organizations.
  • Open-Xchange. Open-Xchange is a messaging and collaboration server that is OEMed by many service providers because of its rich features, slick webmail client and ease of setup and use. It supports many open standards protocols and supports Outlook sync via a commercial extension. Originally a commercial product that was bundled with Novell’s Linux Messaging product (SuSE Linux Open-Xchange or SLOX), it features messaging, group calendars/addressbook and scheduling, identity management (support for LDAP and AD), document management, portals,  and more. Recent releases highlight its social networking capabilities with the ability to share information with Social Networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. It will also soon feature support for mobile clients via Exchange’s Active Sync technology. The software is available as a community-supported product, a commercially-supported product, a turnkey appliance or as a hosted instance. Definitely a mature, feature-rich solution that is in many ways a good choice for midsized to large organizations.
  • Scalix. Scalix is also a relatively new player that from the get-go targetted the entreprise market early on. It was originally developed on top of HP OpenMail, and was licensed from HP. On top of standard messaging and groupware features it supports a lot of enterprise-grade functionality such as LDAP and AD support, high availability, multi-tenant management, support for Outlook sync and mobile devices, and many others. It features a nice, slick webmail client, but supports Outlook and mobile devices, on top of other open source clients such as Evolution, Thunderbird and many others. It was recently bought by Xandros and is now offered as a hosted instance, commercial turn-key product or a community-supported downloadable product. Because of its rich features, it should be considered as a contender in any enterprise deployment.
  • Zarafa. Zarafa is a relatively new player that is being marketed as a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Exchange. That means you can replace your existing Exchange installation with Zarafa and your existing Outlook clients and mobile devices wouldn’t know the difference. It supports Outlook’s MAPI protocol as well as the ActiveSync protocol for mobile devices. It has a slick webmail which mimics the look and feel of Outlook Web Access, and makes available a nice set of APIs so third party developers can integrate and sync data with the platform. Some popular open source applications that can sync data with Zarafa include SugarCRM (CRM) and Alfresco (document management). It is available in community as well as commercial versions, with some of the more advanced features only available in the commercial editions. The nice thing though is that the Outlook sync, unlike many here, is available as well in the community supported (ie FREE) version. Its rich feature set, compatibility with Outlook, ease of use and management ensures that this solution should be on the short list looking for a lower cost alternative to Microsoft Exchange.
  • Zimbra Collaboration Suite. Zimbra’s entry is the most interesting in that they really rethought the architecture and design of a groupware product. Zimbra is positioned as messaging and collaboration 2.0 with its mashup platform (via Zimlets which allow the product to share and sync data with third-party data sources and service providers) and its slick AJAX-powered webmail and offline client. On top of this, they still offer standard messaging and collaboration features, along with many high-end, enterprise-grade features (only available in their commercial product) such as LDAP and AD support, high availability, archiving, support for Outlook sync and mobile devices, and many others. Like Scalix, the company was recently bought by Yahoo and is now offered as a hosted instance, commercial turn-key product or a community-supported downloadable product. Like Zarafa, integration with other open source products exist like SugarCRM, Alfresco, Asterisk (IP-based PBX) and XMPP (instant messaging). Like Open-Xchange and Scalix, definitely should be on the short list for any midsized to large company looking at deploying a collaboration platform. Its extensibility and rich UI make it a good choice for companies looking for a platform to integrate with form-based and workflow applications making it my choice for companies wishing to look for an alternative to Lotus Domino.

Anything I missed? Let me know by posting a comment. Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Freemium: The first business model of the 21st century : News & Interviews videos : ZDNet Asia

At the Revenue Bootcamp Conference in Mountain View, Calif., Chris Anderson, author of “Free: The Future of a Radical Price”, discusses how different companies use the free-to-premium, or freemium model to not only make money, but often keep customers at a higher rate than fully paid services. There are many economies–ones of status, time, information and more–and the trick is to get people to trade their money for one of them. (from ZDNet)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Google Juggernaut is On Course

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Four years ago, journalist Tim Weber of the BBC asked whether the growing Google juggernaut had firm idea on where it wanted to go. After finding phenomenal success in an advertising-supported business model in search, many had began to wonder how Google could possibly sustain its growth specially in light of the softening online advertising market.

For a while, it seemed that Google was everwhere and nowhere. Google had developed or acquired a collection of products in everything from search, to webmail services, internet telephony and communications, online content aggregation and distribution, analytics, Maps, satellite images, automated alerts, online translations, specialised searches, online video and many others. While many of these services were useful and interesting, they lacked coherence and more importantly lacked a business model.

Recent announcements from the company have made its strategy for growth moving forward very clear. Just recently they have launched their own browser (Chrome), their owen mobile platform (Android), a new distributed communication and collaboration platform and protocol (Wave), online hosted apps (Google Apps), and now–even its own OS.

The company is going beyond search and online advertising company to becoming a platform company.

Where IBM was the dominant platform company at the time when centralized, monolithic computing was the norm, or where Microsoft dominated when computing shifted to the PC and the Client-Server paradigm, so now Google is positioning itself to be at the forefront as the industry again experiences a sea change in the move towards massively distributed, connected and open systems in the “Internet cloud.”

It would be interesting to see if Google becomes successful and displaces Microsoft as the alpha dog of the industry. It certainly is well positioned to do so, and would be interesting to see how the entire industry will change if  this happens.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Bayan’s Lola Techie Campaign for Sky Broadband and Sky DSL

Lola Techie commercial from Bayan, a Filipino ISO. One of the more effective viral and traditional and new media marketing campaigns I have seen in a while. Great concept and execution.

In the commercial Lola Techie or “Techie Grandma” is having a webcam conversation with an unseen grandson whom she chastises for not sharing more Youtube videos or not replying to her Facebook chats. She has even resorted to “Super Poking” the grandson on Facebook and will soon “dropkick” him on the popular social networking site. You can follow Lola Techie on Facebook, Twitter and many other social networking sites. Kudos to the Bayan marketing team for actively posting and managing her different profiles to create a community online.

Interested in seeing Bayan post the results of this campaign if it is able to actually contribute to generating interest in Bayan’s Sky Broadband and Sky DSL service.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Entrepreneurs can change the world

Be an entrepreneur! Although US-centric, this is an inspirational video just the same. Created by the folks behind http://grasshopper.com.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Entrepreneurs can change the world", posted with vodpod

This is What I Want to Be When I Grow Up!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “This is What I Want to Be When I Grow…“, posted with vodpod

Yahoo Shuts Down Geocities.com

Yahoo has closed Geocities.com, an online property it bought several years ago for $4 billion. During its heyday–during the dotcom boom of the late 90s and early 2000, Geocities.com was one of the most trafficked sites on the Internet with its offer of free webhosting and web page building service. At the time it was the Blogger, Wordress, MySpace or Facebook of its day. A lot of web developers, web designers, and bloggers I know–including myself, used the service to learn and teach ourselves HTML. My first website I believe was hosted there (or was it Tripod?) and it was called “Boogie’s Base on the Web.” Sadly I couldnt find an online archive of this as this website predates Google and I think even the Internet Archive –can you imagine that?

Here’s to Yahoo Geocities! We will miss you.