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November 23, 2020
4 min read
“There are three key things that make a startup ecosystem fertile: internet, affordable smartphones, and a young population."
CEO and Co-Founder
Roland is the CEO and Co-Founder of Kumu. Among his other initiatives are driving millions of customers to clients that include Uber and Mastercard and co-founding another startup, Tracking202. Throughout the years, Roland has been involved in different humanitarian and environmental non-profit organizations.
President and Co-Founder
Rexy serves as the President and Co-Founder of Kumu. He also founded Kaya Collaborative, a Filipino youth diaspora engagement program that aims to spur social change in their home country. Through his work with Ashoka and Endeavor, Rexy is able to support and advise various high-impact entrepreneurs.
How did Kumu start?
Roland: Back then, Ambassador Cuisia asked me “Instead of doing non-profit work, why won’t you actually do business in the Philippines?” That’s when I contacted Rexy and began recruiting our team. He and I put on our Nick Fury patch and searched for our Avengers. After forming the team, we moved to the Philippines to start Kumu.
Observing the market, we saw all these entrepreneurs from Vietnam and Indonesia creating apps that prioritized their own people’s voices. I asked myself “Why can’t I do this for the Filipinos?”
In February 2018, we launched Kumu but back then it was just like a Filipino Viber. We learned that you have to leave enough room for the community to define what your app is. We noticed that the users enjoyed and used the livestreaming function of the app a lot so six months later we decided to pivot and relaunch Kumu as a live streaming app and the rest is history.
What is the entrepreneurial landscape like in the Philippines?
Roland: There are three key things that make a startup ecosystem fertile: internet, affordable smartphones, and a young population. You’ve got those three things present in the Philippines, but you also have 11 million people overseas sending billions back home.
You have to recognize where the waves are hitting. In Southeast Asia you have hundreds of millions of people joining the middle class. And just capturing a small percentage of that digital GDP growth could result in massive business opportunities.
You could hit two birds with one stone. One, you can help the country and two, it could be the biggest business opportunity of your life.
What do you think are the qualities that an entrepreneur should possess in order to be successful especially in the Philippine setting?
Rexy: It’s important that entrepreneurs do what they are able to do without compromising their work. A lot of them say, “Okay so here’s the big vision and this is what I want to do” but they realize that they can’t get funding fast enough so they end up doing side gigs that detract their focus from growing the business.
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you should push relentlessly for what you know needs to happen. Also, you’re dead if you don’t have some kind of backup for tough times. Always keep the lights on.
Roland: It’s important to manage what’s happening between your ears. You have to be mentally prepared. There’s a huge psychological price in building something and always hearing “No. No. No.” What I do every morning is I wake up with gratitude, say a prayer, and do 50 push ups. Clarity is important for you to be in a strong headspace. Finally, you also have to have a strong support system.
How has VC helped Kumu?
Roland: In our experience, local VCs tend to be more like strategic investors. Local VCs know how to execute in the local scene.
For example, Franco from Foxmont was able to help us from the operations standpoint with his experiences from Grab. Summit Media helped us in advertising and promotions by teaching us how to utilize content.
Kumu is a pinoy live-streaming app that hones authentic connections built by authentic communities. It is a platform that prioritizes creating a safe atmosphere that embraces all types of individuals, topics, and talents. With this environment, livestreamers are able to create real and raw content that are enjoyed by viewers. In return, viewers give the live streamers virtual gifts which sparks authentic connections. Kumu also has other functions like e-commerce and live game shows. Currently, Kumu is the fastest growing social app in the Philippines.
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