When we completed the 6-month BETA of Dogma, my Startup Mentor required that I create a more prolific online bio. Here is the start of it. I can’t promise to always update it but will do when something moves me.
Dogma is my third Startup. I have failed twice before and have learnt valuable lessons. The good news is that failing does not necessarily mean failing at everything. I may not have reached specified goals but I was able to pivot and make some money in the process. I’ve already sold a Startup Project. The turn of events in my life has made me keep coming back to the Startup table hungrier than ever.
Ideas are only 10%, Execution is 90%
Startup #1: I created my first startup when I was 24 years old in Manila, Philippines. I raised over PhP 2 Million in a few months and recruited my favorite officemates to come with me on an adventure. Our Investor was also our mentor.
Goal #1: Even before The Amazing Race, I started a company called Team Journeys and the concept was very similar. When the Amazing Race premiered a year later I was pretty certain they stole that concept from me. Our goal was to get a couple (any couple: two sisters, brother and sister, best friends, married couple, dating couple, etc) to travel through different countries with a task to do in each country. We would have a tv crew filming the entire journey and we would sell Advertising to cover the cost as well as profit. We would also go online and ensure the viewers could follow their adventures online.
Epic Fail #1: None of us had TV or Advertising backgrounds.
Lesson #1.1: Make sure that you are going to make a profit if you are going to do all the work. That means knowing your industry’s current rates and your expected overhead expenses.
Lesson #1.2: Work with people who have industry knowledge and background. If you dont have one in your team, hire someone! Enthusiasm will only get you so far.
Lesson #1.3: Don’t ask people to join you just because you like working with them. Ask them only when they bring a unique talent to the table that enhances the entire teams capabilities.
Ironically, after my epic failure, I was hired to work for a local television Producer where I created and produced two televisions shows for Philippine Television, namely “Pera o Puso” (Love or Money) for Channel 5 and Single Girls for Channel 9. I even consulted for a huge break out TV Show called, “Wowowee” — with Willy Revillame for ABS-CBN, Channel 2. What a ride!
Startup #2: I left the Philippines to work in the Cayman Islands when I was 31. I worked as an SEO Professional for a couple of years but my contract was over so I applied for jobs in the US. When I was about to accept a contract in Miami, my current clients in the Cayman Islands asked me to stay. It was strange really as I got offers for investment money, for an office and even a boat! My mentor (eventually my Investor), who managed the largest International Private bank in the Cayman Islands said to me, “If you want to be more than ordinary? Stay. If you want to be ordinary, go!” I decided to stay, start another Startup and get my favorite clients as Investors. I had to think of a concept and so I did within a week. I wrote a business plan and my three amazing Investors / Clients approved it. It was to create an online booking platform utilizing World Travel Partners (now Orbitz) as our booking engine. I was funded for almost half a million dollars and I was a single founder.
Goal #2: Since I was an SEO professional, the easiest way to make money was to build portals, integrate a booking engine and just watch the money from commissions pour in. So I thought. If you have noticed all the Trivago Ads on Television then you know its not that easy. Its not cheap and it will take a long while. You seriously need to differentiate your brand. If you build it, they wont come unless you have an imperative proposition, an impossible-to-resist kind of proposition. And even when you have an imperative proposition, its not guaranteed. Users are fickle and loyal at the same time. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get them to try your service and to let them have the most amazing online experience that they keep coming back for more. In the industry its called, “usability” but its more than that, I call it “an online magical experience”
Epic Fail #2: Don’t build a Startup just to build it. You will be another website in a space already crowded with other websites. You need to solve a problem and you need to be emotionally invested. This was my problem the second time around. I wasn’t passionate about my Startup. Apparently I just wanted to be more than “ordinary” but WTF does that even mean?
Lesson #2.1: Ask for money on your terms and not on theirs. I spent more time creating excel sheets of expense reports than I did creating an online magical experience.
Lesson #2.2: Ignore your Investors when they tell you to change your business plan to become a small business. I focused on immediate income rather than on building the portals. Instead of being a portal we became a Web development and SEO Company. Mind you I was making over half a million a year but we couldn’t do anymore than that because I was maxed out and exhausted after 3 years. I started walking around like a Zombie and I felt so empty even with half a million dollars in the bank.
Lesson #2.3 Don’t give up too much of your shares at the beginning of your Startup journey. It will be like working for someone else so there will be no point, you might as well go and work for someone else.
So even if the crystal clear waters of the Cayman Islands didn’t provide the clarify needed for this project, I was able to build another website that became a booking engine for Condos on Seven Mile Beach and eventually sold it to one of my partners. More information in the Startups page.
I left the Cayman Islands when I met and married my partner and now live in Northern Virginia. I am still in Web development and SEO. I think that if I continue doing Web dev and SEO for the rest of my life, I would be ok. But I don’t think I’d be ok with being ok.
Starting a Startup (again)
The thing with being an entrepreneur is that you are always afraid to fail but at the same time you are more scared not to pursue your vision. Winston Churchill said,“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Thats me personified. Dogma is a culmination of all the things I’ve ever been good at in life. Its about pets and its about technology, my two greatest passions! Also, didn’t someone wise once say, “Third times a charm.”