Thursday, September 27, 2007

How do you fund FUN?

Someone asked; How do you fund fun if you don’t want to work?

My response was, as Tito Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga likes to say;

"When you choose a spouse or lifetime partner, choose someone who shares your vision and can FUND the vision!"

Seriously, there are ways at looking at the funding issue.

In the economically "developed" world, their post-industrial, high tech, service oriented economy has generated tremendous wealth and enormous needs. By wealth, there is so much lying around that a talk I recently attended noted that American philanthropy amounts to 2.6% of GDP and that is for the US alone. Planned investments in cause oriented programs/investments are on the rise. How do you tap into the Gates and Buffet donations of $80B???

In terms of enormous needs, two aspects readily come up. The first is the aging and retiring boomer population with still some purchasing power. Counting in the tens of millions in the next few decades, they will have health, medical, and recreation needs and demands, which a creative and innovative service provider can profit from. Can the Philippines become an ideal retirement haven for the world? How about short-term medical services or as an offsite medical education center for American and European medical students? Can we entice American and European doctors to set up office, part-time, in the Philippines? Can we offer BPO services to the medical field in terms of imaging analysis, telemedicince (a booming field), and more enhanced medical transcription services?

The second aspect relates to philanthropy again. Those who have achieved the so called American Dream dream of giving back and leaving a legacy. They are looking at noteworthy programs from education to the arts to space exploration to medical research to inner city revival to adopting kids from Africa. You name the interest and there is someone willing to fund it.

Thus, Gawad Kalinga has sent Dylan and Anna Wilk to spend six months in the US to tap into this reservoir of goodwill and bulging wallets. BTW, there are an estimated 300,000 Am-Fils that will be of retirable age in the next few years. Where will they want to retire? What will they want to do? What kind of legacy do they want to leave behind?

For example, in a recent Township Developing Summit hosted by UP, Ateneo, and GK, an Am-Fil, Robert Sanchez, walked up the stage during lunch and expressed his support for GK. Robert is a San Diego techpreneur who recently sold his company for $50M. He now heads another tech company. During that lunch, he told the Mayors in attendance that if they provide the land for a GK village, facilitate permitting, and shoulder the horizontal site development, he will pay for the construction of the village homes (from 50-100 homes per village).

And he was willing to shoulder up to 100 villages ( a home costs $1,200).

Next year he is working on organizing an Am-Fil Networking Conference in the Philippines in the hope of bringing up to 1,000 of them to look at the Philippines and hopefully support GK. He expects to get a commitment from each one of them to build a GK village.

I think there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people who enjoy making money and enjoy more giving it away. They are looking for worthwhile projects and partners.

In GK Towerville, Bulacan, expat alumni UST doctors have funded hundreds homes there that they are now looking at setting up a hospital for the GK beneficiaries.

What do you think is the economic multiplier effect here?

A techpreneur partners with Gawad Kalinga beneficiaries and Rotary to set up a for-profit Internet cafe and business center franchise in GK Poveda, Taguig, Metro manila.

The second aspect is that for us who are in the Philippines (or who are returning), we are lucky if we have a good paying job. If not, there is no other way but either migrate or go into business. Entrepreneurship is what Gokongwei recommended in his speech. That is what many Chinoys are doing. That is what the Concepcions are promoting in their NegosyoPinoy movement. That is what Almonte is saying in his new book and in his previous articles. Let the market be the agent of social revolution.

Li Lu, one of the famous Chinese student dissidents of the Tienanmen Square massacre, who eventually went on to Columbia University and is now a partner in Himalaya Capital, once said that it is business that will engender change and reform in China. A burgeoning middle class will start to demand reform and democracy.

And so it is with the Philippines. If you are currently working now and not earning enough, turn your hobby into a sideline. If you like writing, try selling your articles to newspapers and magazines. If you support a cause, start a foundation or volunteer and increase your social network. At the very least plant vegetables and grow fruit trees at home so you can save, eat, and possibly sell nutritious fruits and vegetables. You can even grow vegetables in pots and in mini-hydroponic packages (retails for $150). An agripreneur from Negros Occidental said recently that you can earn up to 1M Pesos a year from an integrated organic farm operation using just 3,000 sqm. Check out GK’s first organic urban farm of that size in GK Selecta within the Cainta Munisipiyo.

With business outsourcing many of the work they do, consulting and part-time jobs especially for business, environment, and training studies and assessments are available in Manila.

The cousin of my wife is into alternative fuels. He bought a conversion kit from the US that runs on used cooking oil (SVO). He reversed engineered it and has been experimenting on this for the last year on two old diesel Mercedes Benz. He has driven to Zambales without any hassle. He hopes to get a local engineering firm to manufacture his conversion kit (no need for a factory, share the opportunity).

Metro Manila is a 12M, possibly 20M (daytime pop), market. In the provinces, adventure tourism and basic infrastructure provide exciting business opportunities. We need to focus more on business and business ethics, rather than on politics. We can achieve more reform if we can afford to pay for talent that will “confront” the corrupt and the powerful.

I asked a Pinoy entrepreneur why he was still gung-ho about the Philippine economy. Aside from the economic good news lately, he said that even when there are problems, these problems offer quite a number of business opportunities. Indeed, there are profitable solutions to any problem.

In Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, the mayor saw the need for an alternative road that would bypass the congested provincial highway. He also wanted a boulevard that would rival Dumaguete’s famed Rizal Boulevard. The only thing was he had 750 squatter families on the seashore by the planned boulevard. He partnered up with GK and relocated all of them. He now has a six-lane boulevard with a nearly white-sand seashore that is four-barangays long (like Roxas Blvd). He got a GTZ loan (German aid agency) to pay for a P10M wastewater treatment system that uses bamboo reeds. The cleaned wastewater goes to an overhead tank which is also the welcome arch and is used for irrigation and firefighting. Expect this area to become something like Waikiki Beach in the coming years (which means there are business opportunities here, right now).

We need to dream big and we need to have passion. The world should be our playground- and market. Having fun is great, but “doing” fun, as Burt Rutan of Spaceship One noted, can lead to exciting discoveries and practical applications.

No comments: