Geeks on a Beach, the technology conference organised by TechTalks.ph, is the Philippines’ answer to TechinAsia’s Startup Asia conferences, and e27’s mammoth Echelon event.
And while it might be tucked away in the relatively quiet tech ecosystem of the Philippines, Geeks on a Beach has something those conferences don’t - a beautiful locale in Cebu, gorgeous weather, cheap food and alcohol, and… oh, right, IT’S ON A BEACH!
The conference was full of amazing panels, brilliant keynotes, and some truly insightful discussions and takeaways that not only gave participants a great overview of the Philippines, but southeast Asia as a whole.
If you didn’t manage to join fellow startups at the beach, here’s a quick run-down on the best items from the two-day event.
Raid The Fridge by Kickstart
Kickstart is one of the Philippines top startup incubators, and you can tell by the epic parties they throw. In true Filipino spirit, they allow anyone and everyone to come down to their offices every month to raid their fridge, so to speak: food, alcohol, and good conversation are all free. Kickstart founders Christian Besler and Minette Navarette brought the feel of Raid The Fridge to GOAB: cheap San Miguel Light and Filipino lechon (suckling pig) accompanied startups and theirs founders while they exchanged notes and made deals until the wee hours.
Dave McClure: Ask Me Anything
Dave McClure is kind of a big deal. He’s the founder of 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley VC that’s actually invested in over 800 deals so far, way more than 500 (don’t let the name fool you). His investment portfolio includes the United States, Southeast Asia, and South America. And, he identifies himself as a Sith Lord on his Linkedin Profile. A man after my own heart.
Dave had a very funny Ask-Me-Anything session, where audience members could … well, you get the idea. He spoke at length about how to overcome local entrepreneurial obstacles, why the Philippines was a great place to invest and grow companies, and even how to pitch him your next billion dollar startup. i.e. NOT on the dance floor or while he’s at the urinal.
Global vs. Asian startups
Asian startups don’t get a lot of love from investors outside the region, and this panel was here to show why that’s wrong. Moderated by Singapore’s Gwendolyn Regina Tan of SGEntrepreneurs fame, the panel featured hard-hitters like Edith Yeung of Dolphin Browser, one of the first alternative web browsers for Android; Earl Valencia of IdeaSpace Foundation, one of the top incubators in the Philippines; and Amarit Charoenphan from Thailand’s co-working space HUBBA.
The region has its pitfalls, and it’s arguably harder to grow in Asia than more unified markets. But therein lies the opportunity: companies that do so successfully from venture funds are going to reap benefits that investors outside can hardly imagine.
Failcon: Failure as a Driver to Success
It’s always nice to hear successful, confident founders talk about how they’ve almost missed payroll, screwed up deals, or had to fire long-time employees. Paul Rivera of Kalibrr and Stephen Jagger of PayrollHero had a very open, casual discussion about their failures, and it was the highlight of the first day. It not only made their successes all the more amazing, but it made them more human.
The takeaway? The successful, rich CEO didn’t get there by chance; they went through the ringer more than a few times, so don’t be discouraged if you’re in a position where you think the sky is falling. People have been through worse and succeeded.
We Dare You to Use Bitcoins
The crypto currency is starting to make waves in southeast Asia, and the Philippines is no different. People are hungry for new technology here, even the controversial Bitcoin. But the panel was intended to showcase the opportunities, not the pitfalls. Moderated by Coins.ph co-founder and CEO Ron Hose, the panel featured Bitcoin gurus such as Sam Kaddoura of BuyBitcoin.ph; Antony Lewis of itBit; and Silicon Valley guest Nick Sullivan of ChangeCoin.
And when you think about it, it’s easy to understand why Bitcoin has so much potential here: no one uses credit cards, you can store all your money in digital wallets, and you can make anonymous purchases online or offline.