Archive for the ‘money’ Category

December 15, 2007

There are plenty of side projects that I can work on while here on my foreign assignment. I can do them after working at our client. I can do them on weekends, which are quite idle.

But I barely do them, Research & Development that used to be my lifeblood. Am I losing it as a techie?

Or, is it I’m becoming older. Physically, I’m less willing and capable of working 12 to 16 hours a day like I did ten years ago. Back then, I was very motivated and obsessed that I was working on something that would make it big. Did I succeed? Sadly no, not in my opinion. I guess I gained in a few small things but what I lost out on is enough to make me go thinking all the time, what could have been?

Part of what could have been would be: what if I spent more time in being a more artistic and cultured person? That is what I am trying to catch up on – the reason I make efforts at writing. But part of me says, I have to try a second time at success, I’m never too old, and aging is a good thing as it leads to maturity.

Silicon Valley Envy
December 8, 2007

Some time ago I was writing on the “Silicon Valley in the Philippines” theme. I was going through a “Silicon Valley Envy” phase. I wished I were part of the culture – not just the tech, but hanging out with people I read in tech blogs.

Time passed and I did not magically get transplanted to Silicon Valley. So I guess I need to work on it and not just wish. Can I work there as an employee? Probably, with some life changes of course. Can I start up? Now that’s tough, and the subject of another discussion.

One source of angst is that I had a startup before – in what I called my previous career – and it didn’t work out. It’s not a failure on my part, and it’s not viewed as such, but I still tend to think “what could have been.” On the other hand, if I had continued along that path, I won’t be doing software development and the rest of the things I do.

The Multiple Intelligences of Tech
November 2, 2007

In my previous post about product and technology innovation, I complained that I lacked the skill or opportunity to create my own product. Instead, I implement plans made by others.

Now I’m thinking this is a similar to the theory of multiple intelligences: intelligence is not one-dimensional. While there are tech people like me who can design and implement a product, there are other people who can identity problems and think about the needed solutions. Product development skill – and marketing the idea – uses a different intelligence than making the idea a reality. Programming is basically problem solving, and is pointless when there is no identifiable problem.

The single person who can do both has an awesome combination.

This reminds me of a career advice post by Scott Adams, which I found through Marc Andreesen’s own career posts. To be extraordinary, being very good at two or more things is more achievable than being the best in one. Making use of the multiple intelligences of tech will help one become extraordinary.

Needless to say, that is what I want to do.

Career Guidance for Today’s Pinoy Tech Graduates
October 13, 2007

Marc Andreesen’s guide to career planning is interesting:

part 0, part 1, part 2, and part 3

How does it apply to the Philippines situation, which is obviously different from what Andreesen describes? One way would be to look at the future of Web startups in the Philippines. In the original article which I quote, Paul Graham says that there should be a means of fresh graduates to put up startups instead of join existing companies.

I think putting up startups – at least on the technical part for web startups- is easier now. It costs much less to reuse open source components, and get cheap hosting. Now that PayPal Philippines is open for receiving money, it should be easier to build a revenue model. Or, for those who favor the advertising-based model, Google Adsense has been present for a while and it has done well for probloggers. (Yes one could probably be a problogger right out of school, instead of getting a job, but that’s a different story.)

Back when I was starting up in 1994-1995, there wasn’t much of an Internet to speak of, so the opportunity was in putting up access. It may be relatively cheap now, but it was very expensive back then. Much of the cost of providing Internet access was paying a lot for international connectivity. Today, the infrastructure is pretty well set up, and it just takes a Pinoy with a grand idea plus the skills to put up that web startup. Now, to make it big… is another issue that I tackled in my previous post.

I hope the youth of today follow it. For instance, the Ateneo programmers to watch as posted by Dr. Pablo Manalastas. (Aside: This post is heavily focused on programming contests – something I am jealous of because we never had a culture of contests back in my university days. I for one would like to know if I were “among the best.”)

The Future of Web Startups – in the Philippines
October 13, 2007

Here are some of my reactions to Paul Graham’s latest article, The Future of Web Startups. Pardon the lack of a creative title. All quotes below are from the article. Read his article before this post.

It’s so cheap to start web startups that orders of magnitudes more will be started. If the pattern holds true, that should cause dramatic changes.

Money-wise it may be cheaper in the Philippines IF talent is available. The common industry wisdom seems to be, from my point of view: the talent is available but needs to be tapped. At the moment, much of the talent that is available and productive is so because of outsourcing+offshoring. So, the Pinoy talents are put to use building Other People’s Products. But that is not a total loss since the skills picked up there can be used for Genuine Filipino products later on.

In the last batch of startups we funded, we had several founders who said they’d thought of applying before, but weren’t sure and got jobs instead. It was only after hearing reports of friends who’d done it that they decided to try it themselves.

Note “we funded.” There is no Paul Graham/Y Combinator in the Philippines who will fund $50K + (number of founders) x $50K – which is a lot of money in the Philippines. Let’s say the biggest expense is labor, and, software architects/developers are a factor of 5x cheaper in the Philippines. Bring down the figure down to $10K, and still you will be hard pressed to find anyone in the Philippines to put down half a million pesos (or less, at the moment). And if they do, it would be for the entire company, not for Y Combinator’s 6%. Why? No venture capital market for the investors to recoup their money with. And it boils down to the reason that it’s difficult for the Filipino web startup to make huge amounts of revenue, or to to sell to a huge company, either a Google/Yahoo/Microsoft or a more traditional company.

If startups become a cheap commodity, more people will be able to have them, just as more people could have computers once microprocessors made them cheap. And in particular, younger and more technical founders will be able to start startups than could before.

I think more young Filipinos are becoming aware that putting up a startup is a viable option. They just need to find the means. I just don’t know what formal programs are in place in computer science/IT education to help the students get started. (However, the quality of computer science education is another topic altogether.)

It’s true that you can now start a startup anywhere. But you have to do more with a startup than just start it. You have to make it succeed. And that is more likely to happen in a startup hub … This is not a nationalistic idea, incidentally. It’s cities that compete, not countries.

First thing, is it possible to build startup hub in the Philippines? Even if it’s Metro Manila, not all the pieces are in place. The university/industry/capital equation is not complete. Right now folks based in other cities and towns outside Manila or Cebu often have to move to find real tech jobs. On the other hand, one man startups working from their home broadband can put up a startup from anywhere in the Philippines with broadband access – but they won’t get the startup hub benefits.

Second, can Filipinos with startups in the Philippines move to tech hubs? Not quite. Filipinos don’t have mobility to relocate to Silicon Valley for legal and financial reasons. Legal because it is difficult to get a work visa unless you already have a US employer. (Can you work on your startup on a visitor’s visa? I don’t know. And even that is difficult to get for the typical person, “as we all know.” Financial because rent and living expenses in in the US is too expensive for somebody who just saved up startup money from their day job. To make it worse, Silicon Valley is even more expensive than the average US location.

As well as mattering less whether students get degrees, it will also start to matter less where they go to college. In a startup you’re judged by users, and they don’t care where you went to college.

This is a good thing in the Philippine university degree vs US university degree scenario. Filipinos who attended university in the US naturally have a benefit in getting hired in a Big Web Company. However, if joining the Big Web Company is done through acquisition, then the metric is not the degree or where it came from, but performance. That said, I’m still waiting for a Filipino startup to be acquired by a Big Web Company.

The greatest value of universities is not the brand name or perhaps even the classes so much as the people you meet. If it becomes common to start a startup after college, students may start trying to maximize this. Instead of focusing on getting internships at companies they want to work for, they may start to focus on working with other students they want as cofounders.

Filipino universities can already do this. “Cofounders” can be the people you work with for school projects, for instance.

This might seem a depressing scenario for Filipino web startups, but at least some things are happening that can make it easier. I hope this is a starting point for discussion.

Product and Technology Innovation
October 3, 2007

One great frustration I have with myself is that I can’t think of an original product to build.

So while I urge people to build “the next hot product,” and put up “the next hot Pinoy startup” (a topic I’ve discussed in the past), I find myself unable to follow my own advice. To this end I’ve studied different technologies that could help me “build something better,” but to this day all that’s done for me is getting to know more technologies in a deeper way. Which is what has interested me ever since I got into tech.

It’s fortunate that I get employed and make a career out of building things for people who have either: the product ideas, or the relationships with those who have got the ideas and those who need them. And permutations thereof.

I’ve been working in tech for a long enough time, so I think I’m OK with the technology innovation. I need to be content with my own lack of product innovation. I must stop thinking that I am a failure for not having accomplished what I set out to do. Perhaps I can build products in a vicarious way – by helping those who have the bright idea plus the interest and means to execute it.

Google and PayPal Cause Peso To Strengthen
September 28, 2007

I’m no economist, but I’d like this to happen. The twin development is all over the Internets – Google Adsense allowing Western Union payments, and PayPal enabling payments to PH accounts (and paying credit cards? how’s that, by crediting?)

So, more money flowing into the Philippines through the Internet Economy. I hope we don’t get “PaypalSucks” type stories, though.

IT Globalization: A Two Way Street
September 27, 2007

A curious pair of stories coming from the same interview:

In the first article, Fermin Taruc wears his Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA) hat and complains about an effect of globalization. There is job mobility for the Filipino programmers, who can move to Singapore and meet the demand there.

In the second article, Taruc wears his business hat, as Managing Director of a software firm – Gurango Software. This company has been busy acquiring foreign companies and moving their back offices to the Philippines. This is globalization as well, this time in his company’s favor. What about those people abroad (in the US I guess) who lose their jobs due to this move?

Personally I think the answer to “losing people” to Singapore and other places is developing the Philippine talent pool. I put the “losing” in quotes since when IT professionals move abroad, they may be lost to the company who used to employ them, but still may be a net gain as they pick up experience and skills from situations unavailable in the Philippines. Even if they don’t come back home, physically, they still have influence over the Filipino developer community.

Senior Developer Issues
June 22, 2007

We’ve been talking about tech, our country, and our capabilities in starting startups. Now let’s look at something common to small, new companies and large, established ones alike. Software Developer Talent.

First of all who are the “seniors” and what makes them senior? While this was a PinoyJUG mailing list discussion on junior Java developers, it’s not limited to that skill set. The different criteria discussed were: tenure, technical skills (but are they all applicable?), talent, salary, maturity, and even political skills.

Once we have defined who the seniors are, are they available for hiring? Or did they move abroad? What does it take to get them back? There is current discussion on how Philippines-based companies are now boosting salaries to never-heard-before levels to attract or retain talent.

Of course, keeping talent is not just about salary. Pay is just 1/3 of Joel’s Criteria for Geek Job Satisfaction. Then Gabusch adds tips on keeping creative people happy. I had some thoughts on it as well comparing the developer situation in the Philippines and abroad (within my limited experience of course.)

There is seniority in terms of age. There was a discussion about the maximum age posted in local job ads, and postings for in other Asian countries. It seems that this is ageism is common in Asian work cultures, even as it’s illegal in US (and probably elsewhere.) I suspect this is because Asians are not comfortable with working with older or younger people as their peers. The younger people would look at an older person as someone who should be more senior to them in the organization. The older people would feel insecure that they are at the same level as younger people. But then again, it could also be due to the higher salaries that older people would get, or perceived higher costs and lower productivity.

What are the positions for senior developers outside of a traditional organization? There has been a discussion on PinoyJUG and a parallel one in PLUG (Philippine Linux Users Group) regarding the proper salary for a telecommuting US job. The most important point has been: should the candidate ask for a higher salary, since the US employer is expecting to spend, and to keep up the price expectations for Filipino developers? Or should the candidate avoid this “‘entitlement”‘ and ask for what they would normally want or need if it were a local company hiring. This has our country’s outsourcing competitiveness in mind – at least price-wise.

Startups and Geek Job Satisfaction
June 6, 2007

Joel (a software developer) wrote about
criteria for geek job satisfaction. I noted that he left out work-life balance, to which he replied, he never had a problem with that.

That’s good for him, since work-life balance is a common – even stereotypical – tech working problem. I myself have always had a balance, but it’s mostly out of choice. Since I started my career in my own startup, even after I left and got employed (by other startups!) I still had that startup mentality. I guess startups seek to employ people who are willing to imbalance their life versus work, for some greater reward (hopefully for real.)

I can see another geek criterion in action. I’m now working abroad – onshore outsourcing – in a more “advanced” country. Here they can give away some things for free, and have a better physical working environment than the typical Pinoy IT firm. Not the computers, but the floor space and desks, and private offices for many. Needless to say, this is something I’d like to look at when I get home.

How come more Pinoy companies don’t spend more on these? One thing would be the lack of cash, from the lack of capital for companies. Another is that for the typical company who is not outsourcing, they earn less money per person in absolute terms, compared to their foreign counterparts. Nevertheless, I have read experiences where benefits are cheaper to provide than a higher cash salary, especially when recruiting.