Google for Startups lead advises leaders to have strong localization

Filipino psychology of startup teams expert advises PH leaders to have ‘strong localization’

/ 11:12 AM April 15, 2024

The world is undergoing a rapid transformation due to artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies. Those who can adapt to these innovations could boost their economies significantly.

In response, Filipino startups have emerged to take advantage of the growing trends. However, the psychology of startup teams expert Martin Gonzalez believes PH businesses could improve further. 

READ: AI Regulations Proposed By OpenAI Leaders

ADVERTISEMENT spoke with the “Google for Startups” lead to learn more insights that could help Philippine businesses adapt to the shifting global market.


What inspired you to start the Effective Founders Project?

I said there were two things, really. About nine years ago, I was teaching a workshop in San Francisco with some founders from all around the world. We were talking about culture. 

And I was talking about, you know, how Google thinks about culture and all that. And then a founder from the back of this back room raised his hand. He said, “Okay, it’s great to hear what Google does. But that’s not going to work in my startup. So what’s your best advice for me?” 

I remember I answered the question, but I remember after that session, it haunted me for a few days thinking, “Did I give the right advice?”

Much of what we do at Google may not scale or may not be applicable to any other places. We should be better about answering these questions.

And that took me down a path of saying there isn’t a lot of good data around how do we you know, how do founders actually lead well and succeed in this space? 

If you go to a lot of startup conferences, it’s very common for like a successful startup founder to stand up and say, “Here are the five things I’ve learned.”


Another founder will say, here are the three things I’ve learned when you line up those learnings together across all these founders, you’ll quickly realize that some of them contradict each other. 

And so that’s why I think I wanted to approach the vision of the fact that Founders Project is can we put science and data behind giving our best advice to founders and that was really the ethos of launching into that global research project.

What are the strengths of Filipino startups over global competitors?

The way you win in a market like the Philippines is… to really have really strong localization. Right, like how do we take some of the interesting things being built in Silicon Valley or Israel or wherever else? 

And how do you really make it work in the Philippines setting with all the constraints, and you know, whether it’s cultural or structural constraints in the Philippines? 

This represents Filipino leaders competing in the global market.
Free stock photo from Pexels

I think that the Filipino people that I think have the deep kind of compassionate culture we have in the Philippines.

I think that deep compassionate culture, I think is going to go a long way for the Filipino people as a you know, as a strength as they bring it into the process of product development. 

The other thing too, I’ll say, is Paulo Campos was one of the founders of Kaya founders ventures. You know, he has a big mission of calling back what he calls “sea turtles,” which is the Filipinos who have either experienced what it’s like to live abroad and these more developed countries or have been educated abroad to come back to the Philippines and build.

I think that is an untapped opportunity that the Philippines needs to grab because that it’s sitting there a lot of people are you know, have left the Philippines, but if a good founder or the government kind of really puts our minds together and how do we attract back a lot of the Filipino talent back to the Philippines. 

I think that could really be you know, a huge upside for the Filipino startup ecosystem.

How can Filipinos adapt to AI and emerging technologies?

I think we all need to start with the assumption that there is no AI expert out there. If someone comes in and claims, “Let me with my expertise teach you,” I would be very skeptical. [There’s] so much we’re still trying to really truly understand, and there are now so many. 

This represents Filipino leaders competing in the global market.
Free stock photo from Pexels

I love seeing a lot of players that are coming in and building you know, different tools. I would encourage every Filipino leader to use some form of generative AI in their work. That could really become the first step in just getting familiar with the technology. 

READ: G7 Leaders Call For AI Regulations

The Philippines is open to these kinds of studies. I think just being really close to understanding what this means for productivity. What does it mean for you know, replacing certain tasks? How people can augment their work with these tools?

I think is a really important step we should all take. 

What should Filipino businesses improve to remain competitive globally?

I’ve worked quite a bit with a few of the founders who’ve been building in the Philippines and the one thing that comes up time and time again, is this unfortunate part of our culture, around deference to authority.

I want to approach this in a thoughtful way. I don’t think our culture where we defer to authority is entirely bad. But in a product development process, when a junior engineer is deferring to a senior engineer or to the CEO who’s not even an engineer. 

This represents Filipino leaders competing in the global market.
Free stock photo from Pexels

There’s also a lot of deference to foreigners. I left the Philippines about 15 years ago now, and one thing I struggled with when I first came to the US, the first time around, was I grew up always looking to the US as surely everything is better there. 

I’ve had to remind myself that Filipinos are so incredibly talented. If I don’t level with this person and speak my mind and approach the argument with, you know, good evidence and good argumentation, then they will never know that we’re brilliant.

What should Filipino leaders improve in managing people?

I think a lot of Filipino leaders confuse being authoritative with being authoritarian. I think someone authoritative is someone who can be clear about the direction of the group, create boundaries to operate, and then give the group trust and space to get it done that’s authoritative. 

This represents Filipino leaders competing in the global market.
Free stock photo from Pexels

Authoritarian is when the leader [demands] to make every decision or requires every decision get funneled through them, where their opinions are implicitly superior to anyone else’s opinions, who are not ready to bend to good data and change their point of view based on good data. 

I think a lot of Filipino leaders think, in this position of power, they need to become this kind of “big” type of leader who’s charismatic and confident and all that. 

The research shows that the confident leader tends to do better than the humble leader. 

But the leader who has this humble confidence does even better than the hyper-confident leader. And humble confidence means someone who understands their strengths and can lead the team with those strengths, but also is open about their weakness and defers to their team, on things that they are not experts at.

READ: Graphene oxide improves 3D-printed concrete

When you have power bad news will come to you slower. And so how do you create the conditions where the team is, is ready to bring bad news and not just always the good news? 

The other thing I see in the Filipino corporate culture is there’s a very big culture of inner circles and very relationship-based networks. It’s a very relationship-based system. 

What is your message to modern Filipino leaders?

The number one message is how I start the book on the Bonfire Moment. I start with this quote by Bill Kern who is a Sequoia Capital partner.

He says, “Engineering is easy; people are hard.”

The main message I really want to drive home to any leader around the world and especially leaders in the Philippines is our data shows that the number one thing that will kill a promising startup or a promising tech idea is not running out of cash, a poor strategy, or a poor product. 

This represents Filipino leaders competing in the global market.
Free stock photo from Pexels

It’s actually the people issues that the data show are the number one reason why startups fail. 

So don’t take that for granted. Like that is important it’s a subtle issue of the early stages. It’s easy to forget and to postpone to the future but it actually the number one killer of startups.

The thing about people issues is that’s not something you can easily delegate. A big part of the problems we see have to do with business partners not having a strong muscle in resolving conflict. 

Co-founder conflict is one of the top reasons why businesses fall apart. But then also beyond that is how you recruit really good people.

That comes down to how you talk about what you’re trying to achieve here. How do you connect that with the motivations of the people that are in your team? 

How do you make sure that as they’re growing your business, you’re also during their careers, and they feel cared for? 

I believe we can compete and thrive in this new digital economy. We just have to have a different mindset and look forward through a different lens and see that we have a choice.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

We have strengths; we just have to leverage them in order to succeed.

TOPICS: localization, technology
TAGS: localization, technology

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.