By Anna Valmero
QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA—Peter Cauton encourages Filipinos to take a leap into creating their own businesses and help build a community of entrepreneurs to create more jobs in the country.
“Juan Great Leap is a movement that aims to encourage Filipinos to follow their dream of starting their own business, make them realize that it is a valid alternative to build your own business while providing them an avenue to discuss their ideas with the best of the country’s startup gurus,” said Cauton.
After a decade of working as an HR executive in a private firm, Cauton started his own human resources consulting firm called Storm in 2006. The reason? He was uninspired to go to work every morning because it was monotonous and repetitive already.
“I already know what to do the next month so I took the leap and I found my happiness in starting up a business while working part-time in the corporate world,” he said.
Two years later, he left his corporate job to manage the business full-time and expand it.
“Having a start-up is like having a baby and you need to be there for it almost all the time to make sure that it grows,” he added during the sidelines of last weekend’s Startups Unplugged event held at UP Ayala Technohub in Diliman.
After cherishing the benefits of being an entrepreneur between 2008 to 2011, Cauton said he was inspired to share his experiences on the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur so he started his personal blog, Juan Great Leap.com.
In between managing his consulting firm and his personal blog, he also built another startup.
“I was hesitant at first to put my thoughts out there in a blog but the passion to share my story and inspire at least one person to start their own business was what lead me to write stories and tips on startups.”
“Over time, the blog had a following, readers kept asking questions to which I reply to, and then, some people asked for small group meet ups,” Cauton said.
This is when the idea for the blog morphed into a full blown movement that brings together successful startup founders to give free business advice to those who wish to tread the same path.
The setup is simple, think speed dating between the successful startup founders and people interested to start or improve their new business.
“We want to do away with formal conferences and stages because it might intimidate people. We just set up small tables so it is more where the startup founders can meet the attendees and discuss questions related to their expertise and value proposition,” Cauton said.
In a span of three hours, some 200 attendees took rounds to sit down with 20 of the country’s established startup founders and ask questions on how to improve their business model and sometimes, down to the nitty-gritty of the product or service if the 15-minute time period allows.
Others also take up the opportunity to strike potential partnerships with other attendees.
“The speed dating design of the entrepreneurship project of Juan Great Leap is the only one of its kind in the country. We like to experiment on this and it seems to work out. That’s an entrepreneurship culture we want to inspire among the attendees, to learn to take calculated risks and to not be afraid to make mistakes because there is learning from there,” he said.
Cauton stressed that the Juan Great Leap team is powered by volunteers, including Fil-Am Matthew Lapid, who helped co-organized the theme of speed dating with the entrepreneurs.
For his part, Lapid returned to the Philippines after graduating from the University of California Irvine to improve his language skills and see for himself how beautiful the Philippines is based on the romanticized stories of his Filipino parents and grandparents.
He has spent his first two years in the country with Gawad Kalinga communities.
“The event is like presenting a buffet of startups to attendees so interested parties have a choice on the combination of meetings that they want. The goal is simple: to build and fuel the entrepreneurship character among Filipinos as young as college students and in a way, help them build their own startups or improve on them,” said Lapid, who previously worked as business consultant with social enterprise Human Heart Nature and as banker with JP Morgan Chase in the US.
Prior to setting up the event, Cauton and Lapid are in regular talks with startup founders in the Philippines during coffee meet ups.
“Based on my observation, Filipinos are not innately risk-takers so the typical route is graduate from a respectable school and get a high-paying job. By pushing for startup talks like this, we are creating awareness on the movement,” said Lapid. “For me, developing entrepreneurs is a better way of making a better Philippines.”
A year or two from now, Cauton said that they envision to hold larger events to accommodate more participants.
To best sum up his aspirations to build a country of entrepreneurs, Cauton wrote in one of his blog entries:
“My initial dream was to just earn enough to get out of corporate. And I did (with a great leap). Then I figured we could grow this baby into an industry leader. We did. Then I figured I could use the experience to create more startups. I did. Then, I figured I could use everything I learned to help people create more startups.”
“This (helping others create their own startups is my passion, dream now, and it excites and burns within me furiously. I would do this for free. And when I think of it, I think it’s an aspiration worth being called a dream.”
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