Unleashing Innovation: How the Philippines Is Crafting a New Wave of Software Excellence

The Philippines - A Software Development Powerhouse

The Philippines, a gem in Southeast Asia, is emerging as a significant player in the global software development arena. With a staggering 200% increase in software exports over the last five years, this nation is not just a powerhouse but a beacon of innovation and expertise in the technology sector. Historically recognized for its robust call center industry, the Philippines is now expanding, leveraging its strong English language proficiency and technical education system to carve a niche in software development.

Fostering a Silicon Valley Culture

At the heart of this transformation is a cultural evolution. The Filipino work culture, traditionally seen as deferential and compliance-driven, is undergoing a metamorphosis. Software companies, drawn by low costs and strong work ethic, are transplanting the Silicon Valley startup culture into a handful of companies in the Philippines. We believe that by unlocking the inherent entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative spirit of the Filipino workforce, they can unleash great innovation and economic opportunity for the country.

This is an oft repeated story about the Asian culture: If you tell an Asian individual to water the garden every day at noon, they will be out in the garden watering at noon, even if it is pouring rain. Individually, the people of the Philippines are very smart and innovative, but only if you empower them to act independently and do what they think is best. Reducing their inherent deference to authority is critical to unleashing their amazing potential. One need only look at their homegrown entrepreneurial transportation system of Jeepneys and trikes to see how innovative the Filipinos can be.

Strategies for Building a Culture of Innovation

We have adopted several key strategies to cultivate a culture of ownership, innovation, and creativity:

  • Recruitment and Culture Building: Partnering with local universities allows us to recruit and nurture a work culture from the ground up, emphasizing innovation and ownership. Hiring directly from school enables you to infuse employees with the company culture quickly and efficiently. 
  • Knowledge Sharing: Brown bag lunch seminars and regular discussions about ownership mentality push technical knowledge and foster a culture of learning.
  • Empowerment and Equity: Offering company equity and performance bonuses, and deferring to the Philippine team as experts encourages a sense of ownership and responsibility.
  • Agile and High-Velocity Product Pipelines: Implementing Agile methodologies ensures rapid and efficient product development, allowing them to deliver software swiftly.
  • Encourage Risk-Taking: Nobody likes to fail, yet failure is an important part of the learning process. It is critical to enable people to take risks and fail, as long as they learn from their mistakes. 
  • Socializing: Using tools like Zoom, GMeet, or Teams, you can reinforce your cultural goals by rewarding risk-taking, ownership, innovation and more.
  • Break the Top-Down Command-and-Control Model: Instead of telling employees what to do, tell them the goal and let them figure out how to achieve it. You can provide guidance but don’t issue commands. For example, in the garden story above, simply tell the employee that you don’t want the garden to get too dry. They are so innovative, they may build an irrigation system that shuts off during the rainy times.

I started an oil & gas software company with my two long-time partners, both Filipino. We built our company in the Philippines and we unconsciously emulated the Silicon Valley startup culture. When advising other startups, I would often recommend that they too leverage the amazing talents of the Filipino people. But they weren’t getting great results. It turns out that building a company culture that emulates the Silicon Valley startup culture is critical, and it takes a long time and a lot of effort. It was at that point that we decided to scale our business and start building software for other companies. 

The Stars are Aligned for the Philippines

The world has adopted a work-from-home culture, which makes offshoring easier and more accepted. Software tools for project management, collaboration, and communications make geographic and time zone issues far less daunting. Their strong technical educational system makes the Philippines an ideal location to source plentiful talent. The next phase of its development will see an increasing number of homegrown software startups.

The Future of Software Development in the Philippines

The journey of transforming the Philippines into a hub of software innovation and excellence is ongoing. Companies like ours are infusing pockets of software professionals with a Silicon Valley culture. This has created amazing opportunities in offshoring software design, development and test. It also provides the seeds for creating a wave of amazing software startups that will have a huge impact on the rest of the world.

Conclusion: The Path Forward

By embracing the principles of the Silicon Valley startup culture, fostering a culture of ownership and innovation, and leveraging the skilled and competitive workforce, the Philippines are not just participating in the global software development arena; they are poised to play a leading role. Learn how you can ride the wave of software innovation in the Philippines to deliver amazing software while cutting your costs and increasing product quality and velocity.

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Mike Hogan

Mike Hogan

My team and I build amazing web & mobile apps for our companies and for our clients. With over $2B in value built among our various companies including an IPO and 3 acquisitions, we've turned company building into a science.

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