Silicon Valley in the Philippines?
There’s this three-year itch about the idea of having our own version of the Silicon Valley in the Philippines. Migs started the discussion just over 2 years ago and has been revived by Marie of Pinoy Web StartUp.
The idea of having a Silicon Valley in the Philippines may have been dreamt way longer than that I think. I even thought that in the early 2000’s, we had it going — Andersen Consulting became Accenture and grew rapidly (with most of the consultants are based in the Philippines), Canon Philippines has tons of hard-core Filipino hardware programmers (still is until now), Trend Micro and its pool of geeky Filipino anti-virus engineers and Intel Philippines doing research on flash technology locally.
Instead, the Philippine Government focused on a related but more lucrative, higher job hiring industry — the call centers. And true enough, Bangalore aside, Makati City can be called the BPO Silicon Valley of the Philippines.
But why did we really lost track of the more nerdy industry? Intel moving its plant to China and selling its Flash Plant, Accenture employees being constantly hawked by its foreign clients, and top Filipino SAP and .NET developers flying off to Singapore in droves. Oh yes, we’ve practically exhausted most of the real-world reasons in our discussion over Google going for a Malaysian Data Center and totally ignoring the Philippines on their list.
On the other hand, the other end of the spectrum for a Silicon Valley mindset is an independent entrepreneurial inspiration. These are the people who have great ideas needing VC support. If there’s a minuscule chance we can revive that enthusiasm among Filipinos then that’s the ticket.
- Get the right people who have the bright ideas and the necessary skills and match them with a VC or an Angel.
- Change people’s mind-set on the existing business models — the Advertising Model is already diluted and the local market is still small to even accommodate more players (not to mention Friendster and Multiply inventories alone can eat up all CPM budgets).
- Avoid the usual pitfalls — leveraging your business model from someone else’s business. Sometimes it’s ok, especially if you can grab a multi-year lock-in deal. This is what happened to over half of the content providers (CPs) during the upstart of the SMS boom. Now, most of them have closed shop (after exclusive contracts have expired) or the telcos themselves got too greedy and bought out the players.
- Get them started at school. The younger crowd are more ambitious, have fresh skills and are not that too excited to join the corporate world. The idea of a start-up is more enticing to them.
- Avoid the “me-too” mentality. Not all hip and hot stuff that the real Silicon Valley spits out will be as hot in our own climate. Let’s play on our own strengths and creativity but bear in mind the culture-factor. Ideas need not be “eureka moments”, oftentimes these are simple ideas that meet an undiscovered market demands.
Need to get my ass back and revive that “What happened to …” series of mine.