April 25, 2017
Robert A. Vergara Jr.
Cover art Erka Capili Inciong
“There are a lot of [projects] in the Philippines that only young, hungry tech startup founders can do,” declared Mario Jordan “Magellan” Fetalino III, founder and CEO of Acudeen Technologies Inc. His company, which lets small‑ and medium‑sized enterprises liquidate invoices in as little as 24 hours, became the Seedstars World Global Winner 2016 and took first place in Tech in Asia Tokyo 2016. He continued: “The startup culture is a big factor in changing old systems.”
During a forum organized by the Young Entrepreneurs Society Philippines on April 20 in Makati City, Mr. Fetalino recounted his journey so far. Although directed to tech founders, these takeaways can also apply to any kind of leader—startup entrepreneurs and corporate managers alike.
The tech scene is a wild, puzzling world, that only a few brave ones can handle. “You have to be ready to deal with all these people when you step into this road,” he said. “You may have the best technology, but if you don’t know how to work with all of these human beings it’s not gonna work.” Starting up a tech company? Here are the three types of people you need to be prepared to deal with:
Art Erka Capili Inciong
A startup’s success begins with the right people. As early as job interview, Mr. Fetalino said startup founders should already share the vision of their companies with their applicants.
“You have to make sure that when you hire people, you understand them or else they will do random things. As early as day one you have to know what they’re trying to do,” he explained. “The moment you share them the vision you already replicated yourself to them, and that’s why you don’t need to dictate what to do [repetitively].”
While it is advisable to guide them in fulfilling their jobs, Mr. Fetalino noted that employees should have the freedom to do their tasks the way they want to.
“The best way for them to be effective is to give them a stage to own. A leader is not a dictator. A good leader doesn’t dictate because if you’re the kind of entrepreneur who tells people what to do every time, you’re not gonna grow. You have to trust your people,” he said.
Moreover, he emphasized that startup owners should allow their employees to fail.
“If entrepreneurs fail many times, why can’t your employees? And why would you penalize them for that? It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “Don’t give them a job. Give them a stage that they will own and trust them. Give them that freedom.”
According to Mr. Fetalino, dealing with clients is “meant to be difficult.” Thus, tech startup owners should “make their message simple and understandable.”
“Don’t over complicate your product because at the end of the day, when you deal with clients they don’t care about the features. They care about how you’re solving a problem,” he said.
“[It’s] basic marketing,” he added. “When you solve a client’s need or want, then pretty much you can sell them anything.”
Startup companies should not sell a product’s features too much, which is a common mistake among startup companies, according to him. “When you deal with clients, don’t sell too much. Tell them how you’re solving, don’t tell them what you do.” He added: “There’s a lot of difficult clients anywhere and the only way to handle them properly is to give them an experience that, despite some glitches, they will enjoy.”
Mr. Fetalino said startup owners should choose an investor “who understands [the company’s] vision, and the right one one who will give real value more than money.”
He said some investors are still hesitant to fund startups because they still don’t know how they operate. But more than the financial aspect, he said tech startup owners should highlight their vision. “Investors are also humans,” he said. “In running a business, having investors at your back is important, and you have to deal with them properly as well.”
At the end of the day, he said a company’s desire to spark a change will determine the fate of its venture. More than the financial gains, he said entrepreneurs should consider the impact of their endeavours to the society.
“[Startups are] not lucrative in the beginning. If your aspiration is focused on the financial returns, you will not get anywhere,” he said. “It’s very important that what drives you is your vision to create impact or change. If it’s financial, you’re not gonna grow.”
“Don’t fall in love with your product. It is bound to change. Don’t fall in love with your partners because some of them will leave you,” he said.
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