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World’s newest tech billionaire was job applicant rejected by Facebook |

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World’s newest tech billionaire was job applicant rejected by Facebook

BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores - The Philippine Star

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek. —Mario Andretti

Dream, work hard, innovate, pray and persevere to achieve your goals. Never think that there are no more modern rags-to-riches stories in this highly competitive 21st century, for the world’s newest tech billionaire Jan Koum is one such example.

Focus on improving customer experience, and profits will follow

Sadly, the global news nowadays reports only about political violence from Ukraine, which is where Jewish immigrant Jan Koum was born 38 years ago. He was a teenager when his poor family moved to the US, where they survived on food stamps. Now he is estimated to have a net worth of US$6.8 billion.

Wall Street is now abuzz with the news of Facebook, led by Mark Zuckerberg, buying Koum’s $19 billion WhatsApp firm, a saga almost like a fairy tale made for novels or movies. In 2008, Koum applied for a job at Facebook but was rejected.  On Feb. 24, 2009 — coincidentally the date of his birthday — former Yahoo employee Koum started his own small business called WhatsApp, Inc. with business partner Brian Acton.

One of the reasons behind the amazing success of WhatsApp is its founder’s vision of not overly commercializing his service with too much advertising and focusing on improving the experience of his target market: we, the users. “We focus a lot on the quality of experience, speed, reliability,” Koum told Britain’s Financial Times. “It’s not sexy from a lot of people’s perspective, it’s not glitzy in the feature set, but it’s what people come to rely on.”

With patience and a long-term perspective of not rushing or being too greedy too soon, Koum told the Wall Street Journal: “We view monetization as five, 10 years down the road. We’re trying to build a sustainable company that’s here for the next 100 years.”

Joey Concepcion hosts dinner for tech tycoon Dado Banatao

One of the most successful GoNegosyo events of RFM boss and Philippine STAR columnist Joey Concepcion was the recent Technopreneurship Summit last Feb. 20, with self-made Filipino tech entrepreneur Diosdado “Dado” Banatao of Silicon Valley as special guest speaker. At the well-attended dinner reception at the Concepcion residence in North Forbes Park, Makati, Banatao shared that he is now investing in the Philippines’ energy sector. He also said that he speaks the same Itawis dialect spoken by Vice President Jojo Binay.

An engineer by training, Banatao used to be a trainee pilot of Philippine Airlines. He said that among his health secrets is running at least five to six miles and drinking coconut juice every morning.

Among the business and government guests at Concepcion’s dinner included Senators Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe and Bam Aquino. A guest popular with the business executives was Gibo C. Teodoro, who said he is enjoying life outside politics now and declined many suggestions that he run for Senator in 2016.

Among the business VIPs at the dinner included PLDT’s Manny V. Pangilinan with top executives Napoleon Nazareno and Eric Alberto, Hyundai Philippines chairman Richard Lee (whose firm generously donated P50 million for typhoon Yolanda victims) and Hyundai president Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, Mercedez-Benz distributor Felix Ang of Cats and restaurateur Rikki Dee (both said they’re opening Hong Kong’s affordable Michelin-star resto Tim Ho Wan here), French Baker founder Johnlu Koa, 31-year-old agriculture businessman Joseph Calata, Pruds Garcia of Mekeni Foods, Ben Liuson of Generics Pharmacy, Tennyson Chen of Bounty Fresh Chicken, and others. 

How to break the three-generation curse of many family businesses

Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. chairman Richard Lee is grandson of the respected pre-war tycoon Li Seng Giap and I asked him how he has been able to maintain success up to the third generation, unlike many family businesses worldwide that are often gone after three generations. Lee replied: “One strategy to make family businesses last beyond three generations is to recruit the best people for your company, good talents like our company president Fe Perez Agudo.”

Success strategies of Puregold’s Lucio Co

One of the phenomenal entrepreneurs in corporate expansions yet personally low-profile is Puregold retail chain boss Lucio Co, whom Philippine STAR subscriber and Oishi/ Liwayway snacks boss Carlos Chan introduced to me a few years ago.

His Puregold chain seems to be a favored strategic partner of the Zobel-Ayala clan’s Ayala Land, first in the Pavilion mall of Biñan, Laguna, then in Harborpoint mall in Subic, and now in Ayala Land’s new Fairview Terraces mall in Quezon City.

Puregold is emerging as the most aggressive competitor of the country’s retail champion SM. In 2003, Puregold had less than 10 stores; now its growing chain has over 200 stores. It bought 19 Parco supermarkets and 10 Unilane supermarkets. Co also has Excelente brandy, which is a direct competitor of Megaworld boss Andrew Tan’s Emperador brandy; he also owns 95 percent of the liquor distribution business that handles popular brands like Johnnie Walker, Chivas and Fundador.

Lucio Co’s publicly listed Cosco Capital, Inc. recently bought the Office Warehouse retail chain of 47 office and school supply stores.  He also owns the listed Puregold Price Club, Inc., which operates Puregold Junior, Puregold Extra and S&R Membership Shopping.

Co has reportedly invested in the Wendy’s fast-food chain of the Pardo family. Not many people know that he also owns the 261-room, five-star Acacia Hotel Manila in Filinvest City, Alabang, Muntinlupa City. 

Recently, I passed by Ayala Land’s new Fairview Terraces mall project in Fairview, Quezon City and saw his Puregold retain chain’s first high-end-style supermarket with surprisingly the same low prices as his other stores. My unsolicited advice to Co is to open more high-end-style Puregold groceries in upscale neighborhoods and to use separate branding, perhaps calling this concept “Puregold Plus”?

What are the factors behind the success of Lucio Co and his Puregold chain? Puregold marketing manager Veronica Valdez listed 10:

Good strategic business sense — Good analysis of business moves.

Hard work — Lucio Co works long hours daily, including weekends.

Knowledge of business — He studies and understands his businesses.

Market-driven — He intimately understands his target markets well.

Fast decision-making — Co decides and implements business moves fast.

Hands-on-management — He knows everything that’s happening.

Long-range vision — He has bold, long-term vision for the growth and development of his businesses. Co only delivered speeches during the opening of his 50th, 100th and 200th stores, but he told his officers that when Puregold reaches 500 stores, he promised he will sing during the inauguration of that 500th store!

Give importance to employees — He takes care of his officers and employees, rewarding those who are loyal and hardworking.

Low-price strategy — Lucio Co seeks to maintain low prices in his stores as a distinct competitive advantage for his businesses.

Compassionate management — Co and Puregold have been doing corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects and donations to civic causes through the years.

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STAR reader and music professor Edna Marcil “Michi” Martinez clarified that she is not a summa cum laude graduate, as erroneously emailed by a former student. She is teaching full-time and is chair of the Strings and Chamber Music Department of the University of the Philippines College of Music and has been co-faculty in charge and conductor of the UP Orchestra and UP String Chamber Orchestra, respectively.

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