#WorkLifeGoals: Francis Simisim on Startups, Business Partners, and How to Get Up from Failure

What’s it like to have, not 1, but 3 (I think. I’m not sure. There’s just so many.) full-time jobs in the startup world while being a partner in a venture capital firm? Find out in tonight’s #WorkLifeGoals post with Francis Simisim, multi hyphenate pillar in the Philippines’ startup community and one of my bosses at Blogapalooza!

Before we get to that though, I want to apologize for not having any new posts, especially Internship FAQ’s in so long. I’ve been busy, as has Betina, because obviously, we’re both working throughout our semesters. She’s at Estee Lauder, I’m freelance content writing because apparently people read what I write here all the time and think my writing’s good enough to pay for.

Betina’s also juggling thesis while I’m just struggling against my being very lazy versus all my work. If you want to help us produce content faster and just generally be our friend, drop me a line at justine@thebordercollective.com because I need someone organized to tell me what to do.

Speaking of which, I should probably introduce us for those who don’t know.

I’m Justine, my partner is Betina, and this is The Border Collective, where we talk about anything and everything internship related. We’re chronic interns: students with resumes that are easily 2 pages long at its shortest. Both of us happen to like multinational corporations more, so that’s where we tend to intern.

While we were busy during the summer, with Betina at Unilever and me at Philip Morris, I had our super amazing interns fill in the gap while we were gone with tonight’s kind of post, #WorkLifeGoals, where we interview people who are literally work life goals, and Intern-view, where we interview people who interned somewhere we haven’t.

Today’s post is brought to you by Annicka Koteh, our awesome intern who’s in charge of fielding and screening our #WorkLifeGoals. So if you know someone who should be featured here, drop her a line at annicka@thebordercollective.com! Time for me to shut up and let her take over to introduce Francis and his #WorkLifeGoals feature!


Annicka: Hello, readers! It’s been quite a while, but #WorkLifeGoals is finally back with someone whose accomplishments hopefully make up for the wait.

So far, we’ve featured a slew of kickass ladies here—from media, the arts, social work, and education. The fact that it’s been an all-girl ride, however, is just kind of a coincidence rather than us pushing an overtly #GirlBoss agenda. At TBC, we believe that success doesn’t depend on factors like gender and race, but on hard work and persistence most of all.

Francis Simisim has those latter qualities down to a tee.

He’s taken risks and worked on the results in IT, business operations, entrepreneurship, publishing, and more. If you’ve heard of When in Manila, Blue Water Day Spa, and Justine’s beloved Blogapalooza, know that Francis was once or currently behind these brands, though he’s constantly on the lookout for new endeavors. Case in point: becoming Original Pitch Venture Capital’s partner just this July, meaning that he wasn’t even part of this venture capital company when we interviewed him.

So here’s where we turn you over to Francis for his take on career success! Happy reading, and we hope you’ll be as motivated as we were after listening to him!


Going into college and higher education, what did you expect your career path to be like? Did you always plan to pursue education abroad, but bring back your insights to the Philippines?

I always expected myself to have and run my own business as I come from a traditional Chinese Family where having a business is almost expected. (J: Same. #ChinesePeopleProblems are really real, guys.) I never expected to study abroad, as a matter of fact, it was my mom that really pushed me to that direction. That said, I really appreciated her decision and sacrifices to send me abroad. I always wanted to go back right after I finished college to start my business here where it’s cheaper and I have more influence.

 

You have been the founder or managing executive of several business ventures in your career. What draws you to work on a certain concept, or to move away from it?

I believe in the mission and vision each company has, when I’m aligned to it then it draws me to a concept. That said, it’s also important for me to understand the fundamental problem that we’re solving with the business and it’s viability.

 

Fun Fact: the winners aka Chromewell are my friends too haha small world talaga
Fun Fact: the winners aka Chromewell are my friends too haha small world talaga

Specifically, how did you put up your first business, Gang IT Ventures, and eventually move onto Social Light, inc. and Detivo? 

My first business was a web development firm, I simply registered a company and created a website to do so. The biggest challenge I had was I wanted to create my own website companies but it was outsourcing that floated the company.

I didn’t have proper mission and vision and didn’t want to pursue it further hence its closure and my first taste of failure. My eventual move to Social Light Inc was in pursuit of solving deep business problems using technology.

 

Similarly, how did your involvement with When in Manila start? How did your experiences handling operations for Blue Water and First Rate Commercial translate to a more communications-based publishing endeavor?

I was very involved in the technical side of WhenInManila, I built and maintained the website. While BlueWater Day Spa and First Rate Commercial were my family businesses, which taught me a lot on the operational side of business.

 

How were the early days of running Blogapalooza different from how it is now with all the college-aged kids running around it? What can you attribute its growth and traction to?

The early days of Blogapalooza was just me and Vince, we did everything manually and even packed all the freebies on our own. Now that the college-aged kids are running the show, we’re given a different perspective where it’s more young, new and dynamic! I would attribute the recent success of Blogapalooza to the new CEO, Ace Gapuz, which has gone all the way to bringing Blogapalooza to where it is today.

 

This isn't even everything he does, ok.
This isn’t even everything he does, ok.

What keeps you coming back to Blogapalooza amidst all your other ventures because really, there are a lot.

I believe that online media is still a big problem for a lot of the businesses. Understanding how they can get a return on their investment from online media exposure is still a myth. The vision and mission of Blogapalooza to help businesses and bloggers connect in a meaningful way is what we aim to solve the fundamental industry-wide issue.

 

How did you then conceptualize your current venture, Social Light Inc.? What made you realize that there was a niche for Social WiFi to work in the Philippine market?

Understanding that businesses needed a way to get more repeat customers on their doorsteps is what pushed us to make Social WiFi accessible locally. The significant rise of mobile phone users and requirement for WiFi made the need more compelling.

I wouldn't do a 20 hour work day for anyone but you #blogapalooza

A post shared by Justine L.T. Chua (@justineltchua) on

How exactly does Social WiFi or Zion WiFi work to the benefit of its clients? What does it take to sell this idea to your prospective customers? Because I genuinely do not know what it is but it sounds so cool and I think everyone will appreciate what it is.

The basic problem of businesses is that they do a lot of marketing and promotions, but don’t have retention strategies to keep customers coming back. What we do is to allow them to collect customer databases legally with proper opt-ins required by law, and allow these brands to be top of mind and in touch with their real customers online and offline.

(J: I actually didn’t know what Social Light does for the longest time, so that’s such a helpful summary.)

 

As an entrepreneur, what do you look for in business partners? How have you built trust and delegated tasks in your collaborative ventures?

For business partners, I think integrity is the number 1 priority for me and everything else follows. That said, I take on business partners based on the need of the company but with a testing phase until we’re comfortable to take them on as a partner.

 

I'm very proud to have had a very successful 3rd Zion Talks. I'd like to thank our team in Social Light who's dedicated time and effort to making this happen and getting it done at Zero marketing budget (really amazing work guys!)! I also wanted to thank the speakers (Ace Gapuz, Robert Suyom & Luis) for sharing their insights to businesses looking to learn more about digital marketing. Thank you our clients, partners and guests who attended, we're happy to have helped make an impact, however big or small, with our talks. We'll definitely run another Zion Wifi Talks very soon!
I’m very proud to have had a very successful 3rd Zion Talks. I’d like to thank our team in Social Light who’s dedicated time and effort to making this happen and getting it done at Zero marketing budget (really amazing work guys!)! I also wanted to thank the speakers (Ace Gapuz, Robert Suyom & Luis) for sharing their insights to businesses looking to learn more about digital marketing. Thank you our clients, partners and guests who attended, we’re happy to have helped make an impact, however big or small, with our talks.
We’ll definitely run another Zion Wifi Talks very soon!

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career? How have you approached and overcome these?

Failure is definitely the hardest thing to face. Coming from a school that punishes failure, it felt like I was not good enough for what I do. Having a good support group definitely helps, and I took the time understanding why I failed which ultimately made me get back up. This process is now very short for me as I already understood myself and how I deal with this.

 

What’s a normal day for you like? How do you manage your time among your different projects and your personal life?

There’s no normal day for a startup. When things become normal then that’s when you know you’re not doing too well. I would say that majority of my time is with Social Light Inc and I constantly help out in Blogapalooza should there be a need and when I see an opportunity. I also just accepted a new role as a partner in a Venture Capital Firm, Original Pitch, which funds companies.

 

Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years, in your current field or otherwise? By then, what impacts on your industry and society would you want to have made?

In 5 to 10 years, I see myself as one of the leading companies in what we do (for each company). I believe that all companies that I’m part of has a clear vision and mission for what we want to aim for. Not only that, the products / services we’re doing have a deep impact in the fundamental problem that a industry is facing.

Totally unrelated but look how cute his children are. Just take a moment to look at these adorable babies.
Totally unrelated but look how cute his children are. Just take a moment to look at these adorable babies.

What advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to achieve the same level of success as you have?  

Learn to fail, and move on.

Learn to be a leader (than to be a boss)

 

Additionally, would you like to discuss any personal projects, programs, or advocacies here? We would love for your passion to inspire others as well.

We’re currently looking for companies that are raising funds with our new startup Venture Capital Firm, Original Pitch. OriginalPitch.vc aims to help companies from Seed stage to growth stage startups by funding and helping them reach their goals through partnerships and advice.


And that’s it from both Annicka and Francis! This is our first foray into the startup world, and hopefully not our last since it really is an interesting and very different community from what I’m used to.

Related: We interviewed the #1 collegiate level programmer in the Philippines a while back. Find out how he got there and how to get in touch with him here.

I don’t really see myself going into the startup world right away because I’m a messy person and it’s a messy world. That’s a bad combination. I’d probably have to learn some self discipline first, like what Francis has, before doing so.

He’s really someone I greatly admire, partly because he is one of my bosses at Blogapalooza, and partly because Francis has a really interesting life. He is an example of a slightly offbeat path from what normal Chinese people have to take, and that’s very timely for me during this year of reflection. There’s no standard path to success; there’s not even a standard definition to success. 

Again, apologies that it’s been so silent here on TBC. I’ve just really felt like I needed to grow during my last year in college, so I’ve been spending a lot of my time on growth opportunities for me. It’s selfish, but that’s how I got here in the first place.

I will try to be more mindful of TBC since this really is my good karma points ticker, but if I’m not, just blast into the ask.fm “where’s the next post????????” because I get email updates from it hehe.

If you have anything you want to ask, say, or comment about to either Betina or me, email us at either justine@thebordercollective.com or betina@thebordercollective.com! For partnerships and business deals, like our features on Startup Weekend and Woman Up 2016, you can email admin@thebordercollective.com!

And if you want to get a faster reply, message us on The Border Collective’s Facebook page!

If you have any questions to ask us anonymously or anything you want us to write about, drop it into our ask.fm and Google Form! We’re always happy to help, though we may be slow in replying because of school and work up this semester. 🙂

Thanks for reading and hope Francis wrote something useful for you!

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