From Mechanical Engineer to Technopreneur by RJ David


Published on Co-Founder and Technopreneur RJ David shared his experience and lessons learned transitioning from mechanical engineer, developer, software lead tester, freelancer to Technopreneur. This is the second webinar organized under the DigitalFilipino Start-Up 100 Project that aims to mentor, encourage, give advice to aspiring technopreneurs. More information about the project can be found at

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From Mechanical Engineer to Technopreneur by RJ David

  1. 1. From  Mechanical  Engineer  to  Technopreneur     RJ  David  
  2. 2. Who  is  RJ  David?  —  31  years  old  —  Co-­‐founder  and  Managing  Director  of  —  Married  to  Arianne  David  who  is  the  other  co-­‐founder   of  Sulit  —  Netrepreneur  (Internet  Entrepreneur)  
  3. 3. Who  was  RJ  David?  —  Chairperson  of  the  Philippine  Society  of  Mechanical   Engineers  –  UP  Student  Unit  —  Instructor  at  the  Department  of  Mechanical   Engineering  of  UP  Diliman  —  Licensed  Mechanical  Engineer  —  Software  Test  Engineer  —  Freelance  web  developer  —  Custom  T-­‐shirt  seller  (almost)  
  4. 4. Achievements  —  Go  Negosyo  Inspiring  Young  Filipino  Entrepreneur   Award  –  September  2010  —  Business  Excellence  Award  from  BPI  Family  Savings   Bank  –  September  2010  —  Featured  in  Go  Negosyo’s  7th  Book  –  50  Inspiring   Stories  of  Young  Entrepreneurs  –  October  2011  —  PLDT  MVP  Bossing  Award  for  2012  –  November  2011  
  5. 5. College  —  Started  reading  programming  books  (Turbo  Pascal)  when  I   was  in  4th  year  high  school  but  I  did  not  take  Computer   Science  in  College  —  Took  up  Mechanical  Engineering  (ME)  because  my  uncle   who  was  a  successful  engineer  working  abroad  promised   me  a  good  and  high-­‐paying  job  if  I  graduated  as  a   Mechanical  Engineer  —  In  college,  I  took  up  Mechanical  Engineering  but  studied   programming  during  my  spare  time  in  the  library  —  Since  ME  was  really  not  my  interest,  I  ended  up  joining  a   student  organization  to  which  I  focused  much  of  my  time   during  my  last  semester  —  But  ME,  or  engineering  in  general,  taught  me  to  become  a   problem  solver  
  6. 6. Lessons  Learned  from  College  —  Money  as  a  motivation  is  fine  but  passion  on  what  you   are  doing  can  result  to  even  greater  things  —  Things  I  learned  from  a  student  organization  in   college  are  worth  more  than  the  sum  of  everything  I   learned  inside  the  classroom  
  7. 7. My  Dream  Job  —  As  a  kid,  I  always  dream  of  creating  or  inventing  something  that  many   people  will  use.  —  Became  one  of  only  few  biomechanical  engineers  here  in  Philippines  —  Research  and  development  which  involves  designing  and  creating   prosthesis  and  instruments  used  during  orthopedic  surgeries  —  It  was  my  dream  job  and  it  was  a  privilege  to  be  part  of  a  rare-­‐breed  of   engineers  in  the  country  —  But  my  passion  was  in  programming  which  my  boss  caught  me  doing   at  work  —  I  resigned  from  my  dream  job  and  accepted  that  programming  was   what  I  was  meant  to  do  
  8. 8. Lessons  Learned  from  My  Dream  Job  —  It  won’t  be  your  dream  job  if  your  passion  is  not   aligned  with  it  —  Accepting  that  you  are  in  the  wrong  field  is  a  tough   pill  to  swallow  because  you  are  going  to  admit  that   you  made  the  wrong  decision  all  these  years  
  9. 9. Changing  Career  /  Industry  —  In  2003,  I  decided  to  shift  from   Engineering  to  the  IT  industry  —  It  was  tough  because  of  2  things:   —  I  have  to  start  at  an  entry  position  again   —  I  cannot  even  get  an  interview  for  a   programming  job  because  I  was  a   Mechanical  Engineer  —  I  know  how  to  program  and  relatively   good  at  it  but  I  have  nothing  to  prove  it   other  than  my  skills  
  10. 10. Lessons  Learned  in  Changing  Career  /  Industry  —  In  any  career  or  industry,  you  always  have  to  start  at   the  bottom  and  move  your  way  up  —  It  is  always  easy  to  say  that  you  are  good  at  something   but  it  is  difficult  to  prove  it  especially  if  you  do  not   have  the  background  and  experience  to  show  —  The  difficulty  of  changing  industry  should  not  be  a  big   hurdle  that  you  cannot  surpass  
  11. 11. SoBware  Test  Engineer  —  In  2003,  I  became  a  software  test  engineer  at  Azeus  Philippines,  a   CMMi  Level  5  company  —  Testing  involves  a  different  type  of  mind  set  from  development.   Developers  think  how  to  create  and  accomplish  a  task  while  testers   think  how  it  can  fail.  —  As  a  test  engineer  who  has  knowledge  in  programming,  I  have  the   uncanny  ability  to  predict  where  and  how  a  software  can  fail.  —  After  1  year,  I  was  already  conducting  the  one-­‐month  training  for  new   hires  about  software  testing  —  After  1  1/2  years,  I  was  already  a  lead  tester  of  a  major  project  —  I  also  became  involved  in  setting  up  development  processes  within  the   company  
  12. 12. Lessons  Learned  as  a  SoBware  Test  Engineer  —  Software  testing  improved  my   development  skills  as  I  become   more  aware  on  how  my  application   can  fail.  Software  testing  made  me   a  better  developer  producing  high   quality  application  —  I  learned  a  lot  about  development   processes  and  how  a  process   should  adjust  to  the  needs  of  your   team  and  not  the  other  way  around  
  13. 13. Open  Source  Developer  —  In  2003,  I  started  playing  with  phpBB,  a  popular  open  source  forum   application.  —  Created  modifications  and  templates  and  submitted  it  to  be  used  for   free  by  the  community  —  Created  a  portal  modification  called  IM  Portal  for  phpBB  which  is  a   content  management  system  (CMS)  using  the  forum  engine  —  Created  IntegraMod  which  is  phpBB  with  all  the  best  modifications   already  installed  with  IM  Portal  as  the  main  feature  —  Downloaded  and  used  thousands  of  times  until  I  gave  up  development   to  the  community  in  2006  —  Competed  with  top  phpBB  mod  developers  for  the  best  portal   modification  available  
  14. 14. Lessons  Learned  as  an  Open  Source  Developer  —  One  way  to  showcase  your  skills  or  work  is  to  do   something  for  free.  In  case  of  development,  open   source  development  is  a  good  option  —  Joining  an  open  source  community  of  developers  is  a   way  to  hone  and  improve  your  skills  —  Competition  is  healthy.  It  kept  me  outdoing  myself  a   lot  of  times  even  for  something  that  was  free  —  There  is  a  lot  of  high  quality  open  source  applications   out  there  that  you  can  literally  run  an  internet   operations  using  open  source  software  
  15. 15. Freelance  Web  Developer  —  In  late  2003,  I  started  receiving  simple  development   projects  for  phpBB  due  to  my  simple  mods  —  When  I  released  IM  Portal  and  IntegraMod,  I  started   to  receive  bigger  projects  —  I  was  a  software  test  engineer  during  the  day  and  a   developer  during  the  night  —  Referrals  from  previous  projects  came  and  projects   became  full-­‐blown  websites  that  I  started  earning  up   to  more  than  three  times  of  the  salary  of  my  day  job  
  16. 16. Lessons  Learned  as  a  Freelance  Web  Developer  —  Previous  work  is  very  important  for  freelance  gigs  to   create  your  portfolio  —  One  of  the  best  way  to  enhance  your  portfolio  is  by   releasing  or  joining  an  open  source  project  —  Referral  from  previous  projects  is  a  way  to  increase   your  client  base  —  Freelancing  requires  marketing,  time  management,   discipline  and  negotiation  skills  
  17. 17. Resigning  from  my  day  job  —  In  2005,  I  came  across  this  book  titled  “Rich  Dad,   Poor  Dad”  by  Robert  Kiyosaki  which  changed  my   thinking  ever  since  —  I  did  not  take  the  stories  and  samples  in  the   book  literally  but  it  opened  my  mind  to  new   possibilities  —  I  resigned  from  my  job  a  few  weeks  after  reading   the  book  —  I  was  completely  convinced  that  I  could  do  it  on   my  own  —  My  side  projects  were  already  affecting  the   quality  of  my  work  in  my  day  job  
  18. 18. Lessons  Learned  from  resigning  from  my  day  job  —  The  fact  that  I  had  my  freelancing  gigs  on  the   sidelines  that  were  earning  more  than  my  day  job   made  it  easier  for  me  to  resign  from  my  day  job  —  Sometimes  the  best  decision  that  you  can  have  is  the   most  unpopular  one  —  When  your  side  projects  started  to  affect  your   performance  at  your  day  job,  be  a  professional  and   choose  one  and  drop  the  other  
  19. 19. Planning  to  Sell  T-­‐Shirts  —  Until  in  2006,  an  opportunity  presented  itself  in  the  form  of  selling   custom-­‐made  T-­‐shirts  —  Target  market:  the  exponentially  growing  Friendster  member  base  in   the  Philippines  —  After  months  of  planning  and  putting  the  pieces  together,  I  made  a   pitch  to  the  country  manager  of  Friendster  to  become  the  official   custom  shirt  partner  —  The  pitch  did  not  go  well  and  I  was  suddenly  faced  by  a  harsh  reality:   —  I  was  a  newbie  entrepreneur   —  Custom  T-­‐shirts  were  nowhere  near  my  core  skills  or  passion   —  I  did  not  have  the  capital  to  support  the  requirements  of  the  business   for  my  target  market  
  20. 20. Lessons  Learned  from  my  T-­‐shirt  Gig  —  Passion  and  skills  are  very  important  for  1st  time   entrepreneurs  —  Your  startup  capital  must  be  able  to  support  your  pre-­‐ profit  market  —  You  must  do  your  homework  before  pitching  your   business  —  A  good  idea  is  nothing  without  a  capable  team   supporting  it  
  21. 21.  —  Success  stories  of  Kevin  Rose  starting  Digg  and  Mark   Zuckerberg  starting  Facebook  gave  inspiration  to  Arianne   and  I  to  create  our  own  website.  —  Since  resigning  from  Azeus,  I  began  porting  my  IM  Portal   project  to  a  stand-­‐alone  CMS  and  web  framework  without   the  requirement  of  phpBB  —  In  May  2006,  Arianne  came  up  with  the  idea  of  a   classifieds  website  as  an  experiment  —  I  started  working  on  the  website  while  doing  freelance   work  and  launched  on  September  11,  2006  
  22. 22. IniMal  Years  of  Sulit  —  As  an  experiment,  Sulit  had  no  marketing  budget  and   no  marketing  plan  in  place  —  By  the  end  of  November  2006,  traffic  started  to   increase  across  all  categories  and  the  experiment   became  a  full-­‐blown  online  classifieds  startup  —  By  August  2007,  Sulit  was  more  than  “ramen   profitable”  so  Arianne  resigned  from  her  work  and   help  maintain  the  website  —  In  January  2008,  we  incorporated  the  company  —  In  2008,  Sulit  became  the  top  local  website  in  Alexa  
  23. 23. Lessons  Learned  when  starMng  up  —  It  is  possible  to  create  an  internet  startup  without  requiring  too   much  capital  —  Formula  to  a  successful  website:  release  fast,  release  often,  get   feedback  and  iterate  —  When  requiring  human  input,  crowdsource  to  scale  —  Search  Engine  Optimization  was  (and  still  is)  the  best  source  of   free  organic  traffic  to  the  website  —  Bootstrapping  an  internet  startup  to  profitability  is  possible  —  Technical  expertise  is  very  important  in  an  internet  startup  —  Get  a  co-­‐founder  for  newbie  entrepreneurs  
  24. 24.  Investors  —  In  2008,  Sulit  started  to  appeal  to  other  companies   and  VCs  and  we  received  a  number  of  investment   offers,  partnerships  and  buyout  offers,  yet  we  were   not  actively  looking  for  any  investments  —  Late  2008  and  early  2009,  competitors  backed  by  big   companies  started  to  show  serious  interest  in  the  local   ecommerce  market  —  In  2009,  Sulit  received  a  Series  A  funding  from  MIH  
  25. 25. Lessons  Learned  in  accepMng  investments  —  Know  what  you  really  need  from   investors:  funds,  knowledge,   network,  advisors,  human   resources,  etc.  —  Know  the  goal  of  the  investors  in   investing  to  your  company  and  see   to  it  that  it  is  aligned  to  your   personal  goal  —  Valuation  of  a  startup  is  an   estimation  of  the  future   performance  of  the  business  
  26. 26. What  characterizes  an  entrepreneur?  —  Risk  taker  –  willingness  to  take  huge  risks  in  order  to   get  huge  returns  —  Leader  –  the  ability  to  make  others  follow  your  vision  —  Creates  value  –  the  ability  to  create  actual  value  from   your  idea  —  Problem  solver  –  the  ability  to  provide  solutions  to   the  problems  of  many  potential  customers  —  Tolerance  to  failure  –  entrepreneurs  are  bound  to  fail   in  order  to  succeed  
  27. 27. Advice  to  young  people  wanMng  to  become  technopreneurs  —  Start  now  while  you  are  young  —  It  requires  technical  expertise  to  become  a   technopreneur  so  either  you  are  a  technical  person  or   you  find  a  technical  co-­‐founder  —  For  those  who  cannot  risk  their  9-­‐5  salary,  start  small   with  a  sideline  project  —  Start  with  something  that  you  are  passionate  about;   something  you  love  doing  —  Do  not  be  afraid  sharing  your  idea;  the  team   executing  the  idea  makes  the  difference  
  28. 28. How  can  I  prepare  to  become  a  technopreneur?  —  The  internet  is  a  fast-­‐paced  industry;   you  must  be  ready  to  continuously   learn  something  new  —  Be  ready  to  learn  how  to  filter   information  and  read  —  Expect  sleepless  nights  —  Be  prepared  for  failures  —  Learn  to  say  no  —  Be  ready  to  come  out  of  your  comfort   zone  —  Be  ready  to  wear  many  hats  
  29. 29. What  to  watch  out  for  in  running  a  start  up?  —  The  tendency  to  make  quick  money  —  Partnerships,  as  much  as  you  can,  avoid  it;  unless  it  is   really  necessary  to  achieve  your  vision  —  Tendency  to  raise  more  money  than  what  is  really   needed  —  Tendency  to  spend  so  much  in  marketing  before  the   product  is  ready  —  Tendency  to  copy  an  established  competitor  
  30. 30. Suggested  Resources  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —