Monthly Archives: September 2014

Notes, Insights and Takeaways of an aspiring college entrepreneur from CS 183: How to start a Startup by Sam Altman

Everything that you’ll be reading in this document are notes taken down from CS183 which is a Stanford course being taught by the President of YCombinator Sam Altman. Moreover, I will be injecting a few of my own insights and insights of other people from my discussion group.

The first UPenn class session was held at the First Round Capital

The first UPenn class session was held at the First Round Capital

As an aspiring entrepreneur and avid journalist, I’ve decided to take notes, write about the experience and the different discussions points from this class and publish it to the public. I hope that people can find these notes and insights as a way to either learn more about the class and entrepreneurship (some people might not have enough time to watch the lecture) or as a way to start discussions about this growing startup culture.

I will be starting out all my posts with 4-6 key takeaways, the overall experience and then the full notes along with discussion points raised in my group.

The lectures for this course are being recorded and are posted on Youtube. You can find the lectures here:

You can read more about the reason behind the class here:

Interestingly, a lot of Universities from all over the world (even all the way back in the Philippines! Shout-out to Jaime Young who is leading the ASES Philippines discussion group for this class!) have decided to start discussion groups and turn it into an actual class where students discuss the content of what is taught afterwards. The University of Pennsylvania recently had its first class lecture video showing on September 25, 2014.

6 Key takeaways:

  1. “You should never start a startup for the sake of doing so.”
  2. “The best companies are always mission oriented.”
  3. “Build something that a few users really really love.”
  4. “Recruit your first set of users by hand/manually and ask for feedback.”
  5. “The life of an entrepreneur isn’t as easy and glamorous as what media portrays it to be.”
  6. “The best reason to start a startup is because YOU CAN’T NOT DO IT.

The Overall Experience

More than the lecture, which I could’ve just watched online in my dorm room, what I really enjoyed from the first session was the community participating in this class. Everyone was just so passionate about startups and entrepreneurship and was eager to learn more. Everyone was really looking deep into the ideas discussed and questioning whether one practice is better than the other. It was honestly really refreshing being in this environment, bouncing off ideas and opinions with one another and simply meeting new people with similar interests and new insights. Definitely can’t wait for the next session! Continue reading


Hello World

Hello World

Entering college, I had not realized that I would be saying “Hello” to a whole new world. But yes, “Hello World” is a phrase that represents a lot of new things for me. More than just all the new experiences of adjusting to college life and to a whole new culture, college for me has been about learning new things, stepping out of my comfort zone and answering my curiosities.

My first program :) "Hello World" Pikachu edition

My first program 🙂 “Hello World” Pikachu edition

Having said this, I’ve always wanted to learn how to code. Running my own blog, media startup and starting a couple of other few projects, I’ve seen how powerful knowing how to navigate the web and create products using the web can be.

Yes, I’ve tried learning before. In fact, I even dabbled trying to figure things out through tutorials in Udacity and Codecademy but with the lack of time and patience, I ended up with just sticking to my basic working knowledge of HTML and WordPress from my blogging experience.

Then I got to Penn. And I quickly realized that I should just “Do it Choco” and try learning to code one more time. I was skeptical before. I mean, how could people spend hours and hours typing down lines of code?

Enter me taking CIS 110 (Introduction to Computer Science and Programming) and attending the codeweekend hosted by the Dining Philosophers (Penn’s Computer Science club) and PennApps. Before I knew it, I saw firsthand the magic in those colorful lines of code. Although it takes time, and effort, it can be extremely rewarding. You get to see your code come alive with your very two eyes.

These colorful lines of code can actually be so powerful :)

These colorful lines of code can actually be so powerful 🙂

Seeing my first few lines of code come alive into “Hello World” and then later on a Pikachu drawing was just so fulfilling and exhilarating for me. I was actually creating cool things (well, at least cool from my perspective) that I never would’ve imagined; simply put, I was hooked.

The next few days and even up to now, I’ve been going on pouring over tutorial after tutorial and trying to learn as much as I can. There’s honestly just so much to learn, but I guess I have to start somewhere, sometime, and I think NOW is the perfect time.

After codeweekend and a few codecademy tutorials, I've learned how to create landing pages and simple websites :D

After codeweekend and a few codecademy tutorials, I’ve learned how to create landing pages and simple websites 😀

The Beauty in Programming

I guess the fulfillment of seeing lines of code actually turn into something is what continues to motivate me to learn more about programming and computer science. It’s just this amazing feeling of being able to create something out of nothing that has really piqued my interest. I’m really looking forward to creating more sophisticated stuff through programming, and hopefully, in the long run, create products and services that people all around the world can use.

The greatest entrepreneurs and programmers started as beginners so here I am starting my coding journey as well, all I can say to the CS community is “Hello World.” 🙂

A Table of Really Good Desserts, COLLEGE!

Over 24,000 students from 70  countries, with 4,000 professors and 16,000 workers make up the University of Pennsylvania. Yes, it’s a whole different world in itself, one global institution of students, professors and employees.

The first week honestly didn’t feel like college just yet. We started with a weeklong welcoming party of countless  events, some of which I’d never experienced. Simply put, it seemed just like a dream.

Scavenger hunts followed by group lunches and dinners with presentations and parties in between—everyone celebrated the fact that we made it to college.

Here in college, there are so many new people, events to go to and places to explore. I suddenly felt like a child again, exploring a whole new territory, trying out things, getting lost and learning more about different cultures. In the process, I even learned more about my own culture and beliefs.

I was meeting students from incredibly diverse backgrounds. There were students who could speak more than five languages, students who went on gap years to serve different communities and explore new countries, students who started their own businesses, and countless other students, each with a unique story to tell.

Experiencing a toga and museum party, movie nights with my college house, social events, Nerf wars, students’ activities fair with hundreds of clubs barely scratch the surface of what college is like here in the US. 

Adjusting to college life

When classes finally started, everything slowly became more real.

You think about homework, your grades, your future and your career path. Sitting in different classes felt like a whirlwind. One moment I was in a Cognitive Science class, the next I was signing up for a Sociology class.

Then you find out that there are those super cool classes such as Globalization, Product Design, Artificial Intelligence, Game Theory and what not.

More than just the vast number of classes, I suddenly also had to think about the little things I took for granted back home. I was now washing my own laundry, planning my meals and

making sure my schedule was up to date.

Then came the activities fair.  This blew me away as I was exposed to a myriad clubs and organizations, ranging from volunteer groups to athletic teams,  from Greek life to consulting, from  finance to entrepreneurship and technology. After observing some of the sessions, I even considered joining the salsa dance club.

It was overwhelming. Before I knew it, I was going to interviews for different clubs, receiving acceptances and rejections, and going through one application after another, in the hope of finding the right group for me.

To top everything off, I even  attended my first career fair where Bain & Company, Accenture, Dropbox, LinkedIn, and hundreds of other established companies were recruiting. Suddenly, I faced the bridge to the working world.

With all this going on, I felt like a speck in a humongous university city. You can’t help but feel lost in all the madness going on. You have that fear of  missing out on something, and wanting to experience everything. You also fear not knowing what you will become four years from now. Many times, I sat in my room staring at the screen of my laptop, overwhelmed.

I quickly came to realize that I have only so much time. Just like how the first two weeks of college quickly flew by, the next four years will go even faster.

One of the best pieces of advice I got came from Christina, a sophomore we met during the NSO week. “College is just like a table of desserts. You have the strawberry-covered chocolate, the chocolate chip cookies, the brownies, the cakes and all the other mouthwatering treats. Yet you have to choose and pick which ones you’ll eat or else you’ll end up with a really bad tummy ache.”

I’m honestly not sure what the future holds. There are simply too many possibilities and things that can happen. Who knows? One year from now, I could major in something totally different. But then again, everything happens for a reason.

Rest, play, renew

University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann said it best during the welcoming convocation for the class of 2018: “Stay present. The time you spend here will go by fast. Stay balanced. Give yourself time to rest, play and renew. This will give you a foundation that will help you move forward. And finally, be generous, engage to do good, and show the world the difference a Penn education can make.”

Honestly, college abroad comes with a scary but exciting type of freedom. But at the end of the day, college is simply what you make of it, and I plan to make the most out of every sweet second of the next four years here at the University of Pennsylvania, where the biggest toga parties are held.

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Words of Wisdom from the Warren Buffett of the Philippines

Taken from my Philppine Daily Inquirer column post dated August 8, 2014:

With Mr. Wilson Sy, president of Wealth Securities Inc.

With Mr. Wilson Sy, president of Wealth Securities Inc.

Dubbed as the Warren Buffett of the Philippines, Wealth Securities and Philequity Fund founder Wilson Sy wasn’t always the stock investment virtuoso he is known to be today.

Sy remembers fondly his days at Xavier School and his education under the Jesuit priests. He credits Xavier School and the Ateneo De Manila University for the values these two schools inculcated in him.

Through the rigorous English lessons, theology classes and liberal arts education, he learned the importance of focus, discipline and hard work.

Working even on holidays and during Christmas break when everyone else was on vacation, Sy would wake up at 8:30 a.m. to help out in the family store, selling such products as soap and toothpaste. At a young age he learned the value of money. Continue reading

My Priceless Investment

Taken from my PDI column post dated July 18, 2014:

At the Philippine Stock Exchange trading floor

At the Philippine Stock Exchange trading floor

I’ve always been interested in the stock market, and how to invest and grow my money. Movies like “Wall Street,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Boiler Room” have brought trading and stock brokerage into the limelight. However, they only scratch the surface.

It’s completely different when you’re sitting beside an actual trader, learning from researchers and analysts, and actually monitoring your own portfolio and investing your own money in real time.

All these I was able to do during my internship at Wealth Securities Inc., the number one stock brokerage in the Philippines in terms of volume traded. It was an invaluable experience that gave me a chance to fully immerse myself in the stock market world.

The world is constantly changing, and there is always something new everyday. This is all the more evident in the stock market, where stock prices can change so drastically in a matter of minutes.

There are many different catalysts and factors to consider when engaging in the practice of stock trading. A single event can drive the price of a stock down or up in one shot. Continue reading

Are you the next Steve Jobs?

Taken from my column post dated June 27, 2014:

I’ve always been inspired by Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and other visionaries who, at an early age, transformed their ideas into realities.

These past few months, after graduating from high school, I’ve been immersing myself in the one field I’ve always been interested in: entrepreneurship.

Last May 1, I got to attend the Wharton Business Plan Competition Venture Finals. Not only did I get to watch the different finalists present their startup business plans, but I also got to talk to them and hear about their entrepreneurial adventures.

I came out of the event knowing that there are numerous students out there starting their own ventures early, and I asked myself once more: “Why can’t I do it, too?”


Returning to the Philippines, I pursued my ideas by seeking advice, attending business conferences, and delving deeper on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

My first real exposure to the Philippine startup business scene was at the Ripplrz Tech Startup Conference, where I got to hear from entrepreneurial thought-leaders and interact with other people.

It was a completely different environment, with everyone excited about his or her ideas in various fields including e-commerce, tourism, technology, real estate, telecommunications and media.

My group ended up proposing to create a social networking website with focus on tourism. With one of my group mates involved in the hostel industry, we wanted to think of a way to expand the business while promoting Philippine tourism.

A month later, I got to attend the DreamExpo Manila hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which showcased several Filipino innovators, social entrepreneurs and game-changers in the Philippines.

“There’s no dream greater than a dream for the country,” said Prim Paypon, founder of the Dream Project PH and organizer of  Dream Expo Manila 2014.


Known as the “social entrepreneur senator,” Bam Aquino talked about how Filipinos should tackle age-old problems with creative and innovative solutions.

Agreeing that we need to encourage social entrepreneurship, Patch Dulay, the founder and CEO of Spark Project, talked about unlocking the untapped potential of Filipinos. Through Spark Project (, he said he was urging Filipinos to use social media and crowd funding to turn their business ideas into reality.

Works of Heart ( founder Roxy Navarro also challenged the delegates to ask themselves, “What does the world need? Who am I? What keeps me up at night and wakes me up in the morning?”

These same lines continue to inspire me to wake up each day to work on my different projects, and to explore new ventures.

More than just listening to motivational speakers, the beauty in going to all these events was the network I was able to build. I was able to meet individuals from different organizations, working in a myriad of sectors.

Age doesn’t matter

Although I have just graduated from high school, attending all these events showed me that age doesn’t really matter when it comes to starting your own projects. Sometimes, all it takes to make a difference is the courage to do it.

Having said that, I’d like to invite all high schoolers out there to attend the first high school technopreneurship challenge, YouthHack Manila 2014.

(Applications are available on For more updates, check out

On the first day of YouthHack Manila 2014, students will learn how to turn their ideas into actual products and business plans. They’ll be hearing from renowned Filipino entrepreneurs and innovators like IdeaSpace Foundation co-founder and president Earl Valencia, regional director Jojy Auzrin, and Kalibrr CEO Paul Rivera.

On the second day, the students will be given time to develop their ideas and business plans, as they will be given the opportunity to present to real CEOs and investors. They will have a chance to win P10,000 cash, P50,000 worth of scholarships, mentorship and acceleration sessions from IdeaSpace Foundation, and lots of other amazing prizes from our various sponsors.

We want to encourage the youth to explore the ways we can utilize technology in solving real world problems. We want to inspire them to come up with innovative ideas and turn them into real world products.

And there’s no better way to do this than putting them in a Silicon Valley-type of environment that encourages a culture of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

It’s an exciting time right now to be a Filipino, and you never know—the next Mark Zuckerburg, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates success story might just be that of a Filipino.

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