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Growth Hacking


With the rate in which technology is advancing, and with the Internet exceeding its prime and reaching new heights each day, it gets easier and easier to realize whatever the mind desires. There is no doubt that this is the golden era for dreamers who are also doers.

With this potential comes oversaturated and hypercompetitive markets, no matter what industry you join. This means that for a brand new venture to attain breakthrough status and ensure survival, rapid development of businesses and ideas, as well as agile marketing on top of a minimum viable product, is necessary to keep up.

This reality can make achieving success truly daunting to think about, so what’s an entrepreneur to do? The answer is one of the hottest buzzwords making its rounds in Silicon Valley today: growth hacking.

What in the world is growth hacking?

For a general idea, let’s break it down word for word.

Growth, in entrepreneurial terms, is an umbrella term for the process of improving various parts of a business, whether it be business growth by improved revenue through product sales, or market growth by an increased demand for a product or service, among others.

What is essential to grasping the concept of growth hacking, though, is understanding the word ‘hack’.

To the layperson, the word itself initially has negative connotations. Throughout modern history, hacking has been commonly associated with security breaches, so most people take the word as gaining access to information you’re not supposed to through unconventional and oftentimes illegal means.

These days, though, millennial colloquialism has attached a more positive undertone to the word. Common uses, such as in the expression “life hacks”, has made hacking synonymous with DIYs and unconventional shortcuts—which is exactly the very essence of growth hacking.

Growth hacking is simply manipulating variables to encourage internal and external growth for the business, most of the time focusing more on sustainability over swift or exponential growth. Growth hackers oftentimes shun traditional marketing tactics in lieu of atypical methods because, as with the spirit of hacking, what’s important is getting things done and not how you do it.

How do you hack growth?

Let’s take Facebook as an example. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who has never had a Facebook account at any point of their lives. Not only that, but Facebook has also found a way to transcend from being a mere social media platform to being a somewhat valid form of online identification. Want to use Spotify? Collect inspiration on Pinterest? Get an Uber? Order donuts? No need to create new accounts for every service because you can simply log in with a single Facebook account.

Many web developers also use the ability to connect with Facebook for security reasons. Dating apps require a Facebook profile to guarantee no robots and less fake accounts. Also, say you decide to try and rent a house from Airbnb; linking a Facebook account is one of their requirements, alongside scanning your government IDs, to prove your legitimacy.

Speaking of Airbnb, they are also one of the most famous examples of successful and ingenious growth hacking. They reverse-engineered Craigslist, a website with an enormous user base despite being notorious for fake untrustworthy listings, by offering Airbnb users the ability to cross post their listings to Craigslist. The only problem was that Craigslist didn’t have an option for automatic cross posting. To work around this complication, they built a bot to work around Craigslist’s lack of an open API, which was no easy task. Suffice it to say, with their out-of-the-box thinking and hard work, Airbnb managed to successfully attract and retain their target market. They no longer cross post on Craigslist.

One other famous example is Dropbox, thanks to Sean Ellis, the very person who coined the term growth hacking. He introduced a referral program that promised users an additional 500 megabytes of space for free for every friend they invited to sign up. This hack instantly increased their users by 60%, and has since been adapted by many other companies for its virality and success rate. Other companies that make use of this referral hack are Groupon, which offers users incentives for every share on social media, and Uber, which provides ride discounts for every successful friend invite.

With these examples, it’s easy to see that the most popular and effective method being utilized by growth hackers is by engineering virality. If the main goal is to grow the number of users and ensure long term use, then the best way to achieve your objective is to make your product or service indispensable or habit-forming—make the market see the product as a life essential. After all, according to Alex Schultz, Vice President of Growth for Facebook, “Retention is the single most important thing for growth.”

Do you have what it takes to be a growth hacker?

“My best ideas come from seeing what is working from other companies and then adding a twist based on unique characteristics of my product and target users,” shares Sean Ellis, CEO of Growth Hackers. Ever curious, growth hackers know to find ideas and inspiration from anything and everything under the sun. They are creative individuals; they’re not afraid to deviate from convention to find multiple solutions to address a single problem.

Relentless and resilient, growth hackers are always dissecting and analyzing data to ensure repeat sales and customer activation. They understand that the key to growth is by knowing the customers’ wants and needs, and delivering these wants and needs in a way that makes the market see the product or service as a necessity for day to day living.

On top of these characteristics, they also possess good intuitiveness about the industry they are in and are fearless. They are not afraid of failure and never hesitate to act on hunches that they feel will benefit the business in any way.

And, most importantly, they are resourceful. As with the very essence of hacking, it’s not about the process; nothing is more important than fulfilling the objective. If there are no doors towards the goal, expect growth hackers to tear walls down and create not just one, but infinite possibilities towards a company’s growth and survival.

Meet the PhilDev Team

Jessica Manipon

Jessica Manipon.jpg

At PhilDev, the goal is to eradicate poverty by strengthening the Philippines’ existing education systems, while fostering innovation and building an entrepreneurial ecosystem. A historically gargantuan task, work of this nature has and will always be made possible by and because of the many brilliant and noble people lending their time, expertise and talents to the organization. At its core, PhilDev is about people and cultivating their potential for success.

As such is the case with Jessica Manipon, who worked as PhilDev’s IDEA Program Officer from November 2015 to September 2017. During this time, Jessica helped look after the development of many of the organization’s projects, alongside other responsibilities such as monitoring finances, and forming and ensuring good relationships with partner organizations and external contacts through constant communication.

Prior to joining PhilDev, Jessica admitted to not having seen herself being a part of the world of tech startups, much less sharing the same passion the industry manifests. After a little over a year working at PhilDev, she couldn’t help but share that she had “gained a new perspective in life.”

As startup tech continues to permeate worldwide-- crossing borders and intersecting industries, it is encouraging to find that not only can ideas spread; but so do talented individuals. With Jessica for instance, it was no different. After almost two years at PhilDev comes a bittersweet departure as she embarks on a journey as a co-founder of her own fin-tech startup. We wish her success and look forward to what comes next.

What did you love about working at PhilDev?

There are many things to love about working at PhilDev, but the most for me is how PhilDev has influenced my life more than I could imagine. While I worked at PhilDev, I got to listen and learn from local and foreign startup entrepreneurs and immersed myself in the culture.

Have these opportunities impacted your personal life in any way?

All this and more ignited my appreciation for entrepreneurs and changed my mindset about starting a business, especially a technology-based startup. Before joining PhilDev, I never would have imagined myself co-founding a startup as this was a world alien to me.

What’s a typical work day at PhilDev like for you?

Because we were constantly working on projects, my typical day involved making sure we were on time and on budget executing these projects. So, depending on the stage of the project, I may have been communicating with other organizations and companies on logistics and preparation, answering queries and talking to our participants and stakeholders, or working in the field delivering these projects.

Reporting and updating my Program Director was also a crucial part of my day. Sprinkled throughout the day are random and silly interactions with my colleagues, which, for some reason, mostly revolve around food. Haha!

Who inspires you and why?

PhilDev's beneficiaries inspire me—not just the scholars, but also the professors, entrepreneurs and members of the government who work passionately to make a difference, to make their dreams and others' come true. It's their selflessness, compassion and hard work...and I strive to be the same. I don't know if that's cliche but it's true.

PhilDev Meets: QBO

Brought to you by PhilDev - The first in a series featuring individuals, organizations and programs intent on growing and supporting the Philippine startup community and ecosystem.

Teamwork makes the dream work. With the essence of bayanihan at its core, QBO, a public-private sector initiative between the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), IdeaSpace Foundation, and JP Morgan Chase Foundation, was launched earlier this year to provide a space where collaborations within the country’s startup ecosystem can thrive.

Many major business hubs worldwide have witnessed a freelance revolution with the Philippines up to speed. Over a million people comprised the local freelance workforce by 2015 with the numbers steadily rising, especially with the increase in coworking spaces and iterations of the concept within the Philippines—a trend that is picking up traction as more and more Filipinos trade the traditional office job for independent entrepreneurial projects.

QBO, named after the humble bahay kubo, aims to encapsulate the innovative and collaborative spirit behind the famous and inspirational tale of the little garage in Palo Alto, California where Bill Hewlett and David Packard birthed what is now the world's most powerful PC manufacturing company with QBO’s three Q’s: ‘QLLABORATION among diverse stakeholders, empowering and developing the startup QMMUNITY and providing business INQBATION from ideation to exit.’

More than just a space, QBO provides a variety of programs and services to help bridge the gap between vision and success, such as consultations and mentoring sessions with experts, introductory classes to startups, and networking events to further fortify the community’s collaborative culture.

“It's really about making connections,” says Katrina R. Chan, QBO’s Director. “We're also [...] doing some human translating between the more 'startup-y' people that we see and meet, and our other partners including of course, the government, which is probably the most challenging of all to translate for.”

“We make it accessible for everyone. Everyone has an opportunity because everything we do so far is free,” shares Adria Villaroya Vinas, QBO’s Program Coordinator.

QBO also houses the JP Morgan InQbation Program, where the most promising, innovative and scalable ventures will be able to experience dedicated mentorship; be exposed to curated workshops; have access to professional services from government agencies, the Philippine Stock Exchange, and major investors; and receive assistance to exiting. “What we're trying to do is offer services across the different stages [of startup entrepreneurship],” says Chan.

"We hope to inspire Filipinos to come and join and be part of this ecosystem, and we want to bring their dreams to reality,” says Rene Meily, QBO’s President. “In the end, it's going to help [them help] themselves, help their employees, and help this country."

To learn more about QBO, click here, or visit their space at 1209, 375 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Ave, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines

PhilDev aims to grow a community of fellow groups and individuals who align with our goals and share our great vision of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Philippines.


Meet the PhilDev Team


PhilDev’s core is all about helping the Philippines eradicate poverty through the education of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. This mission would be impossible to carry out if not for the many brilliant and noble people lending their time and talents to run PhilDev at peak performance.

To get to know more about the humans behind the mission, we talked to various members of the organization and asked about themselves and their experiences working at PhilDev.

Today, meet Emil Tapnio, one of PhilDev’s Program Directors and one of the organization’s longest serving members. As Program Director, he is tasked with managing PhilDev’s ongoing programs—such as the entrepreneurship workshops and the Visiting Professors Program, among others—from planning to organizing to execution, all while handling the different personalities that help him actualize PhilDev’s goals.

When taking off his Program Director shoes, Emil likes to connect with the soul of Manila by taking photographs of the city and its people for his Instagram account. He also has a penchant for science fiction, sharing that he recently enjoyed watching Sense8, a TV show from the same people behind The Matrix. “It's amazing to watch the mental and emotional links among these 8 individuals,” he says, still somewhat thinking with the mindset of a Program Director. “I just find the interconnection and virtual interaction of 8 people from different parts of the world fascinating. It strengthens my belief that indeed there are parallel universes. Blame my mom for having this odd belief which I still carry up to this day! Haha!”

When did you start working at PhilDev?

At present, I'm one of the two most senior staff members at PhilDev, having been on board since November 2013 when PhilDev was still holding office at a one-room office with no windows. Haha! I was with PhilDev ever since we were literally a startup NGO.

What is it about PhilDev that makes you love it?

PhilDev is more like a family than an office. The PhilDev staff is a group of diverse and highly motivated people. Dado and Maria Banatao (PhilDev Chairman and Trustee, respectively) are super parents who oversee the welfare of the organization and the staff alike. They're my inspiration and #RelationshipGoals. Jones Castro (Executive Vice Chairman) is like a dad that drives excellence. Ronna Reyes-Sieh and Paco Sandejas (Trustees) are like elder siblings that you emulate because they're cool and do amazing things. The rest of the Trustees are equally passionate.

I learned and continuously learn a lot from them—foremost is compassion and excellence in work.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

My day starts with a cup of brewed coffee. I can't function without it. While having coffee, I check my potted plants while I let my work emails load on my mobile phone—I skim everything first before answering them.

While on the road going to the office, my teammates will receive calls for instructions and clarifications. I've mastered shooting emails in the moving car such that it’s become an alarm to them that I'm already on the road to the office. Haha!

Depending on the schedule, I either head to meetings with our government and university partners or I head to the office. I like our new office now because of the open layout and my post directly opens to a huge window with trees outside. Lunch is filled with endless banter with the rest of the PhilDev staff; those who are still living with their folks usually bring lunch for everyone. Music coming from my laptop powers everyone the whole afternoon, punctuated with regular phone calls from partners. My day ends with the golden sunlight streaming by the office window—I always feel melancholic during this time of the day but I know another great one will start tomorrow.

Who inspires you to do what you do and why?

I get inspired by regular people I meet on the streets. On the side, I take photos, talk to random people, and post them on my personal Instagram account with the hashtags #HumansOfMetroManila, #Taumbayan and #TaoSaKanto.

As a development worker, my lens is through the eyes of the people and not what the government or the elite prescribes them to do. The regular Filipino has colorful aspirations and dreams, devoid of complications, unlike those who are in power. That fuels me for what I do at work and my regular dealings because ultimately, the beneficiary of any development program are and always will be the Filipino people.

The PhilDev Berkeley Study Visit

PhilDev Berkeley Study Visit: Updates From Alumni, Matthew Escobido



There's nothing quite like the innovation culture of Silicon Valley, birthplace of Google, Apple, HP, Intel and Facebook, among hundreds of tech powerhouses and innovations that have transformed the world. The numbers are staggering, with the startup community ceaselessly growing by the day, and it makes one wonder: what is it about Silicon Valley culture that gives it the ability to constantly produce revolutionary services and products--a culture that many attempt to replicate?

Last year, PhilDev, in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (SCET), sent AIM Professor Matthew Escobido to Berkeley, California to participate in the SCET Faculty Bootcamp along with four other professors from esteemed Filipino institutes. There, he was trained under the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship with the hopes of cascading and institutionalizing their Technopreneurship practices to many engineering disciplines around the Philippines.

A member of the AIM faculty since 2009, and has since been a core member of the Institute's Washington SyCip Graduate School of Business, Matthew Escobido specializes in technology and innovation strategies, operations management, managerial analytics, and product design and development. Prior to joining AIM, Prof. Escobido's experiences include completing a master's degree in engineering and management from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston, as well as working for Intel Solution Services in Australia as a consultant and project manager.

Getting the Silicon Valley experience

Talking about his time at Berkeley, Escobido is quick to share his admiration of its ecosystem. “That was very inspiring, when they showed that Berkeley alone is producing hundreds of startups,” he says, comparing it to the Philippines’ own startup statistics. “If you take a look at our startup history...probably work backwards five years ago and a decade, we only have about 300. That's the whole Philippines, while they have one university that can produce it in a year.”

“Even though [many of] those companies may not be successful in the long term,” he says honestly, “just going through the process of identifying what the problems are and finding solutions to those problems, presenting those solutions to, the market may not agree with them, but going through the process, they have a better understanding of what the problem is and what it would take to solve the problem.”

“The most memorable thing for me [being part of the program] is that somehow, for the longest time I've been working on this area, I now have a little model I can sort of play with.” Despite having years of experience behind him, being a part of the SCET program was refreshing.

With the exposure he got to the ecosystem that many people only dream about experiencing, Matthew Escobido quickly got to work as soon as he stepped  foot back in his motherland. “As a Filipino, I really wanted to do something that can help the Philippines--something that we can add value to for the development of the Philippines. And when you have these people [in Berkeley] who have been there and done that, I now want to share how they were able to do it, share their ecosystem.”

From Berkeley to AIM

With his life experience combined with his learned Silicon Valley methodology, he was able to help establish a brand new program for AIM’s academic offerings: the Master of Science in Innovation and Business (MIB).

“Basically, it's for those aspiring to be technology entrepreneurs. We have two tracks: set up your own technology startup or be a technology product manager in your organization,” he shares as he points out that a number of AIM’s students are sponsored by companies seeking to have innovative additions to their product and service lines.

“They have basically 10 months to make their idea a reality. The funny thing is that many of them, in terms of background, are STEM graduates. From their backgrounds, they don't talk about their customers. [They're more focused on] the specifications needed for building, but now [they have to think] from where does specification come from? What's going to happen if we make some changes, and from these there's going to be a conflict? One wants it fast but also cost effective. Which one are you going to prioritize? And the answer might not come from you but from your customer,” he says, echoing Dado Banatao’s belief in the importance of market analysis and validation, one of PhilDev’s Five Success Factors for startups.

“They have to learn about marketing. They have to learn about finance and operations,” Escobido says of success in innovative technology, which is where the MIB critically steps in as many people from STEM backgrounds lack the entrepreneurial skills to truly make their ideas advance in the competitive industry. He acknowledges that the path to success in tech innovation will never be the path of least resistance. “There's so many things about [innovation] that you don't have control of. With the policies, and from where you are trying to be of value, to be a productive can feel lost.”

“It's not just building something and everything is going to follow,” he says succinctly. But with the creation of MIB with its principles rooted in Silicon Valley practices, the country’s innovative tech and startup future looks brighter than ever.


To know more about the SCET Program and how to join, email