What Markets You Can Sell To In The Philippines

Here in the Philippines, I’ve found that there are only two very different markets you can serve: the super high-end moneyed market and the lower, lower class that’s just trying to make ends meet.

The lucrative middle class, the sweet spot market that every startup wants to serve is there but it’s not a really scalable market for tech startups. They just up and left, migrating to other countries.

As a startup, you want a scaleable problem. Both ends of the market are not scalable in that the top end is too demanding and also is gated while the low end doesn’t have the money to spend on what you’re selling unless it’s a basic need.

From what I’ve seen, you can still target a few markets:

1) Enterprise: Always looking for ways to make more money as well as save money for the business. I’m talking about MNCs and big corps here since there are basically no SMBs to tap into. Be prepared for suits, presentations and golf.

2) Lower class: Either offer a basic need (food, clothing, shelter, transport, jobs) or entertainment (games, content, social). They won’t pay for what you will offer though so while you will scale at the start, you’ll have to pick a business model that works. One way is to make your money with enterprise, selling the network you create for them to use.

3) Upper class: Our upper class is the equivalent of middle class in other countries. Not the same scale though, but they have the same problems. They will compare you to foreign equivalents though and demand very high quality versus what they are willing to pay. Nice jumping point but be prepared to scale abroad and not locally.

Maybe someone has a different opinion but when others say it doesn’t make sense to be a local company, I understand what they mean now.

Dogfooding: Outsourcing my Video Watching to 199Jobs

I’ve been dogfooding my own startup for a while now and I use it for some of the stuff that I really don’t like doing, like watching videos. Scratch that, I do like watching videos but sometimes you don’t have the time to watch it all the way through, no matter how engaging it is.

Take for example this video from Tim Ferriss blog:


I know that it’s something I’ll get a lot out of (like Tim, I am a data geek) but I just can’t get through the entire thing. So I did the next best thing: I hired someone to watch it for me.

I got this summarization job from zenyeay and told him what I needed from the summary. Basically the whole shebang: links mentioned, important images, bullets of ideas and so on. (you can download it below)

dogfooding 199jobs

Snapshot of the summary I ordered

After a day, I got a Word doc of all the ideas Tim talked about. Since I was able to watch some of the video, I could verify that this was the real deal.

While I might have spent P400 on the summary, I got way more out of it:

  • 1 hour saved from watching the video
  • copious notes that are a quick read and portable
  • content for my blog
  • copy pasteable tidbits I’ll use later for the 199jobs blog

You might say I’m pimping my own startup and yes, I am. But since I have no control over who can do jobs and how they do them until I get the output back, I’m really happy how this turned out.

And for your time for wading through this blog post, I want to share to you the summary itself.

Unedited and in PDF form: How to Blog Without Killing Yourself

Growth Hacking Lessons from Candy Crush


I’ve recently come across this free Willy Wonka-esque mobile game called Candy Crush. It wasn’t the game mechanics that got to me (it’s basically a souped up Bejeweled clone), rather it was how it got on my radar and even retained me as a player. Heck, I’ve even paid the piper and bought a few lives to extend my play.

What intrigued me is how it’s scaling; there are certainly a lot of things the game is doing right. When you see the theories you read about put into practice like they’ve done here, it’s really something else. Let’s have at it then.

Build upon a solid, existing product or idea.

The Bejeweled game mechanic is more than a decade old in my estimate and I’m pretty sure everyone has played it at one point or another. Candy Crush built upon that idea and added challenges like matching tiles at certain areas of the board to pop jellies or moving ingredients from the top of the board down to the chute at the bottom.

If it was a standalone casual game, I’d probably play it since the gameplay itself is solid. It’s enough of a challenge that you’ll play it over and over without feeling the need to invite friends and nag them. But because of the solid gameplay, I’d be willing to bet that my friends would also love playing it so I’ll probably be mentioning it when I chat with friends (provided it comes up organically that is).

Make social part of the product and not just an afterthought.

Every game out there in the app stores tries to be social but I think Candy Crush really gets how to do social. Yes, it does make it quite obvious that logging into Facebook has its perks but you’re not required to do so and if you’re good, you can actually carry on without seeing a single friend in the game.

I myself was just bothered by not having a pic in my game token which was why I connected to Facebook, but there are a couple more ways the game entices you to connect.

First, you’ll be hooked by curiosity. It’s likely you heard about the game from a friend and when playing a level, its teaser is that connecting to Facebook will show you the progress of your friends in the game. Everybody likes to see how they measure up against their friends, right?

So when you connect, you’ll see your friends high scores (and try to beat them) as well as where they are in the candy map (and try to catch up to them). And even though you’re not actively playing with them, the sense of a shared struggle especially with people in the same level as you give a small sense of camaraderie.

The other more selfish reason is that you can ask for lives from your friends.

Give something valuable in game in exchange for something of value from the user.

Unlike most casual games, Candy Crush limits the number of times you can play a level. If you’re really an excellent player, you won’t need to retry but folks like me and you will probably fail at a level more often than not.

That’s okay since playing for several hours straight is not only bad for you, it’s also bad for your phone’s battery. You get a new life every 30 minutes anyway, so just do something else to while away the time. But of course, the game is so addictive that you’ll want to play another round right away and for junkies, the game gives you a way to feed your need.

Candy Crush has a somewhat crafty invite system. You actually can ask friends for lives but what you’re actually doing is asking them to sign up (from what I’ve figured, you can’t ask lives from people who already play the game). It’s a lucrative incentive to share, especially when you’re in the flow of the game and need an immediate fix.

Another way to do it is to buy lives, but I’m sure that falls second to the sharing. After all, what they want is lots of players to buy not just lives, but the other power-ups in the game. It’s also a way to give people an additional option to get lives, especially those not likely to share.

Indulge in your in-app world.

I hated the candy graphics but over time, I grew into it. To be honest, clashing colors and gaudy fonts aren’t for me but if you want to really to sell your story, you have to go all in. Let users into your world and don’t be half assed about it. They might not like it and might be turned off but hey, it’s part of the game. I’d probably be more turned off if it didn’t have a theme at all or if the theme didn’t make sense like a jungle or space background.

What did I learn from Candy Crush?

So here are my takeaways from playing the game:

  1. Your product has to be good and should fit your target audience well whether it’s bored office workers or busy entrepreneurs.
  2. Your product is more social than you think. If it fosters competition, cooperation or communication, baking in social will help you scale it faster.
  3. Conversely, don’t force social if it’s not in the DNA of your product.
  4. Quid pro quo. If you want them to share your product socially, be upfront and give something in return.
  5. For consumer products like apps, monetization takes a backseat to scaling users.Of course you should offer a way for them to pay for the service but don’t make people pay unless they see the value in doing so.
  6. Get users to see your viewpoint and change their minds about your product by immersing them fully into the experience.

Startup Travels: Eateresting

Eateresting Norris Perez

Yours truly and Norris

I also met Norris during the Samurai Juan meetup. He’s building a simple site called Eateresting where restos can give out discounts to diners in exchange for some social media lovin’. We didn’t get to try it out in the resto where the meetup was held though since he’s still testing it out.

In a sense, it’s a bit like Kred or Klout where you get perks for being an influencer. Even if you’re not an influencer, it’s likely that someone who eats at a place has friends who are also nearby so word spreads about the new place (and more importantly, their new dishes) without money leaving the biz.

He’s also building a nice site where you can buy apps even without a credit card, something most people don’t have around these parts. But with jailbreaking being so rampant, can we change the minds of people from paying a service to “free” their device and have them buy apps instead? Maybe.

What I like about Norris is that he’s an executor. Not only does he have grand ideas, he also can prototype and hustle, the mark of a great founder. Hope to see your ideas scale up, bro!

Startup Travels: PayBilis

PayBilis Noah Israel

Noah, Me and Sael Darkly

Look who I bumped into during the Samurai Juan dinner? It’s Noah and Sael of PayBilis (apologies for the dark picture)!

What is PayBilis? Previously, they sought to make bills payment easier for everyone but have since pivoted to mobile payments. Think of them as the next PayPal, if PayPal started as a mobile-first company. From their site:

PayBilis will be the fastest and safer way to pay and get paid online via mobile devices and in store.

The service allows people to send money without sharing financial information, with the flexibility to pay using their account balances, bank accounts, debit cards or e-wallets like GCASH, SmartMoney and e-Money Cards.

Their main benefit is their low rates: half of what other services like PayPal charge. It’s amazing how they pulled that off and it will really help a lot of people, especially online sellers of physical merchandise who often have very slim margins to work with.

We hope this company will be the start of many more and create local Levchins, Thiels, Hurleys and Hoffmen!

Startup Travels: Samurai Juan Meetup

Samurai Juan Meetup Dinner

A few days after the Juan Great Leap event, I was again honored by Marc Medina and invited to a Filipino-Japanese dinner where we would meet our nihonjin friends. It was a great meeting of minds where we got to learn about Japanese startups that had a presence locally and they learned about Filipino startups as well.

Taka-san of Adways was our gracious host and it was great learning about the different companies of our Japanese friends like Jun who is helping Zynga and other companies maintain their social presence locally and Startup Weekend co-alumni Taku’s work in Research Panel Asia.

It’s always great meeting other entrepreneurs and certainly local founders who we only seem to see during events like these. As some of us joke, these events are our only social life since we’re all focused on our startups. Here’s to more collaboration between Japanese and Filipino startups. Kampai!


Startup Travels: 3D2N

Glen Macadaeg 3D2N

Me and Glen (no relation)

You know what Glen’s passion is? Shirts. Yes, you got that right. Designer graphic tees.

That’s why he’s built 3D2N, to offer the best souvenir shirts around. If you’re wondering why it’s called 3D2N…

We create more than shirts. We create time machines. We believe there’s a need to relive those moments. Again and again.

Because the best of our lives happened in 3 Days and 2 Nights.

They’re different from your usual shirt company in that they offer unique designs and have a long roster of graphic designers to help them out. Also, they pick designs by letting the crowd choose. Two designs go in, and the one with the most likes wins.

Right now, they’re active on WordPress.com and Facebook though I’m guessing that they’ll get their own domain soon. It might look like just another apparel company but I’m pretty sure Glen will continue refining his concept and deliver better, bolder and badder-ass shirts to the Filipino travel junkie.


Startup Travels: Juan Great Leap

Peter Cauton Juan Great Leap

Peter Cauton speaking to the attendees. He’s the Rock of JGL

Are you an entrepreneur yet? If you aren’t, you probably have been thinking about it these past few days or rather, these past few years. You know what, our advice is: just start.

I was graciously invited last Wednesday (August 29, 2012) by Peter Cauton to be a panelist for the second Juan Great Leap meetup. There me, Howard of MochiBits and Denton of HealthCube talked about our startup experiences, our biggest punches in the face and our one-liner advice for upcoming entrepreneurs.

I have to admit, it was the most fun I’ve had in a while. It’s really an exciting space to be in right now, building a startup and I really encourage everyone to take the leap. If you’re not ready, start with a side project, a sideline or anything on the side but start something!

A bit about Juan Great Leap: it’s Peter’s own social startup of sorts (or rather a movement as he calls it) where he helps out other entrepreneurs discover the startup life. He won’t sugarcoat it for you though: building a business is lots of difficult work. That’s why communities like JGL are important–more often than not, you’ll be surrounded by people without the entrepreneurial mindset and you’ll need all the encouragement and help you can get.

I’ll be marking my calendar for the next startup event. Kudos Peter for the awesome time and fun gathering! May we help more founder find the startups they are meant for.

Fun fact: I was called a samurai (along with the other panelists) by Peter. Truly a great honor. *bows*

Startup Travels: WebGeek

Startup Travels Michael Marin John Arce Webgeek

Mike and John of WebGeek. Pahiram ng pichur, Raya.

If you don’t know what WebGeek is, you better come out of that rock you’ve been hiding under all these years. WebGeek is the premier community for people who like to build stuff and work with the latest tech. Developers, designers and everyone who loves creating are welcome here.

I was there with the WebGeek crew the other week during their first hackathon for the year. I won’t go into details but if you want to read more about that event, TechInAsia has the story here.

Michael Marin handles the operations side of WebGeek while John handles the creative and community side. I’ve hanging with these two guys a lot and they really play well together, which is means that they can handle their growing tech community no sweat.

They’ve been building up the community ever since they relaunched early this year, and now it’s stronger than ever. More than online content, which is created by the community, there’s been a push for more offline activities too such as this hackathon to really keep the community tightly-knit.

Maybe you can help them out? There’s slot for guest writers if you want your articles to be seen by the WebGeek community. Contact them here to learn more. On the other hand, if you just want to experience the warm fuzzy feeling of a Filipino tech community, go register here or like their FB page to get WebGeek news or join the FB group.

Startup Travels: AppNimbus / Taghuddle

AppNimbus Taghuddle

Me and Nikko @WebGeek DevCup

Part two of my posts from the DevCup. Nikko of Pabenta fame was there (at the table beside ours no less) and I chatted him up.

He has around 10,000 projects going on so I honed in on the most recent ones. We talked a bit about AppNimbus, a project I’m personally excited about even though I’m not really a developer. Maybe it’s precisely because of that.

AppNimbus is a backend-as-a-service for mobile apps. You know all the non-fun stuff you need to setup for apps like databases, logins and others? AppNimbus will handle that for you so you can concentrate on making the experience better for your users and not worry about the small stuff.

I also found out about Taghuddle. It’s a webapp that shows all the photos taken with a certain hashtag, whether it’s Instagram photos or Twitpics. It collects everything in a fun interface with an explosion of colors where people that aren’t at the event can interact with those that are there. Best part is, you don’t even need to be friends or follow each other to talk.

There’s a lot of great things you can do with Taghuddle: collate photos of events, turn everyone’s phones into impromptu photo booths, collect photos about certain topic and even use it for hashtag photo contests.

It’s too bad Nikko will be departing soon to SF but he said he’ll continue to work on both of these things while he’s abroad. It shouldn’t be too hard for him since he did win the Dev Cup after all. Godspeed Nikko and get back soon with tons of cash to invest into our homegrown startups!