What I Learned from The Brilliant People Who Attended the Forbes Summit in Manila
(Previously Posted on TechinAsia)
Back to Manila! It seems like a second home now. I love the people and culture here, which is not far from what I have experienced back in the US, Middle East, or South Asia. As a company, we have spread wings across the globe, but Southeast Asia is where I find the perfect summation and confluence of diverse cultural flows. There is great balance between tradition and innovation. In Manila for the Forbes 30 Under 30 summit, I can’t help but marvel the power of innovation in bridging cultural and generational gaps across the world.
The first thing I realized when I met the 2017 batch of the Forbes 30 Under 30 top achievers, is that they are all rock stars. And as the night wore on, leading to the next day, I got a taste of the collective experience and talent that resided at the Solaire Grand Ballroom, Manila at that opportune moment. Starting off with sights and sounds of Manila, on the night we arrived, to the fun and fervor of the next night. More on that fun later. But let’s follow a linear storyline to get the best out of my experience as a Forbes 30 Under 30 achiever at Manila.
Here are the top learnings from my ‘Manila Files’!
Always Introspect: “What do you do? Why do you do it?’
As I left the airport, I was welcomed in the pulsating and growing startup infrastructure of Philippines. It was truly engaging and humbling to see that there are energized dreamers across the world ready to take tech and innovation up many notches.
I asked some of the wonder kids (and some veterans of the industry) who had initiated their startup in the past year, ‘What is a startup?’. I got varied responses, but my favorite was uttered by an unassuming individual at the cocktail meet-up. I sat with a street artist who had just showcased his ware to the 30 Under 30 batch. His name was Rocko, which I guessed was his stage name, and he belonged to a local art center. He simply said,
“A startup is a vision. A vision of greatness. You simply visualize something beautiful and mesmerizing, like a grand mural, and you embark on realizing that vision. You plan ahead, arranging for your resources, your time, your support, and then you structure your vision through to the end. That’s how I do art, that’s how I do business”.
I reminisced over my own early days, when LogiNext was a nascent startup in the US. We knew we had something grand and amazing in our heads and hands when we figured out the correlative benefit of machine learning and logistics optimization. Some interesting insights included the CEO of MedGrocer, Jerome Uy, stating that “In Manila, it’s still easier to get pizza than life saving pills”. Gap identified, and noted, I thought to myself, possibly the same as everyone else present there.
Always Know Your Strengths: “What are you capable of?”
The next day bought in excitement and wonder as I joined the batch in vivid discussions. I represented Enterprise Technology as a front amongst the diverse backgrounds of the achievers. Watching them speak about their ventures, I felt the power of the future that the room collectively held. And that led to the engaging and inspiring welcome address by Randall Lane.
The Forbes editor rephrased his famous line covering the 30 Under 30 listers,
“These are the people who will run every industry for the next 50 years”.
This couldn’t be closer to the truth if he had been a sorcerer. We were here for on a mission, as he pointed out, we were here to forge a path for multiple industries, leveraging the shared intellect and guidance of the current inhabitants of the room. The spirit of innovation was clearly visible in Hrishikesh Datar’s words. He is the founder of Vakilsearch Legal Solutions. He shared his key working phrase, “If what you’re trying to do is bigger than yourself, you’ll stay awake and do it”.
Always Know Your Market: “Where, How, and to Whom do you sell?”
Close to 5 billion population spread across Asia, with a pan-cultural inclination towards technological disruption in the name of progress, make a very strong case of industrial reawakening of the world. Industry 4.0 has an extremely high adoption rate across Asia, as pointed out by the co-founders of GoDimensions, Sanjay and Shravan Kumaran, some of the youngest members of Forbes 30 Under 30, depicted it with vigor.
Asia has truly become the epicenter of opportunity for the world. Come to think of it, Asia has always been the epicenter of opportunity across ages. Asian e-commerce and retail solutions have taken over the top position in consumer goods movement. The last ‘Single’s Day’ run by Alibaba outperformed all retail and e-commerce campaigns in the US. Consumer goods movement was a hot topic amongst all subgroups at the event, and being in enterprise mobility optimization, it was a good place for me.
Always Respect Talent: “Who do you work with?”
Talent, abilities, and merit have overtaken all other considerations such as age and gender. Now the ideal entrepreneur is a person who is a visionary, who is energetic and passionate, and who is strategic and disciplined. That’s all!
We got to witness the achievements of some of the leading women entrepreneurs of Asia. I have seen the world transform and become more accepting of the power of female leadership, through the experiences of my co-founder, Manisha Raisinghani.
I have seen her break gender stereotypes in historically traditional industries. I experienced similar stories unfurl with Neelofa, Founder, NH Prima International Sdn Bhd; Lee Jisoo, Cofounder, Dano; and Katrina Razon, Managing Partner, Third Culture Music + Media & Director, Wonderfruit Festival. It is always interesting to hear people who have overcome strong hurdles.
The changing face of talent and entrepreneurship was again represented through Chris Kelsey, another young entrepreneur who was successful in breaking the mold of perceptions around experiential barriers and the co-founder of Cazza. Today, a combination of high thinking and passionate perusal defines business. As Stephanie Sy; Founder and Data Scientist, Thinking Machines Data Science; mentioned, “In the 3 years I’ve been around, I’ve seen more investors, better standards and practices in the Philippines”.
Always Contribute to the Society: “What difference did you make?”
Meeting Nirary Dacho, co-founder, RefugeeTalent, was another interesting point of my trip. Originally a refugee in Australia, Nirary shed light on how 60% refugees and migrants were unemployed in the Land Down Under. It is a huge talent gap that his firm is looking to fill. It takes people like Nirary to reshape society and business as we know it.
Another achiever at the summit, Manny Pacquiao, signifies the social element of success very well. “Martial arts is about unleashing potential. You inherit courage, discipline, a warrior spirit”, stated expertly by Chatri Sityodtong, CEO, ONE Championship. He set up the stage for one of the most inspiring stories of valor and achievement in sports in the recent years. Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao, better known to the world as Manny Pacquiao. Rising from poverty to being one the greatest sports personality, while actively giving back to society is a tale worth noting.
Manny Pacquiao truly represents the far-reaching success of Asians across the world, and depicts what excellence can achieve when backed with dedication.
Always Invest in the Future: “What do you want to do? Where do you want to be?”
That brings me to my closing thoughts. What was the intent of having the top minds and influencers of the near future collected in Manila, learning and sharing, interacting and collaborating, innovating, and possibly disrupting? The idea behind is to develop the feeling of a community which might direct the future in to a better place. Almost every business is interconnected with other service providers or partners to offer collective value to the end-user.
It is an intricate eco-system which involves, not only the business community, but also the government and the general public.
To make this eco-system a sustainable one with a steady influx of young entrepreneurs and a healthy output of innovation and expertise, is the only way global development can happen. Businesses can invest in this eco-system through such knowledge sharing platforms like Forbes, or startup mentorship sessions. Either way, as successful entrepreneurs in the batch of 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30, we must sustain this sense of community when we leave Manila. We must continue investing in growth of this community. It would be great! I have seen firsthand; the dividends are already stacking way beyond the level of satisfaction. The future is bright, we just have to realize it now.