Last week, at the Asia-Pacific Student Entrepreneurship (ASES) Manila Summit, I was very fortunate to hear from one of the greatest entrepreneurs not only in the Philippines, not only in Silicon Valley but in the entire world. Dado Banatao has successfully listed two of his companies, and sold them to bigger companies. The “Dado Banatao” microchip is present in over 30% of the world’s computers. Not to mention that he was part of the Silicon Valley meet-up group (the Homebrew Computer Club) which composed of the likes of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Add to the fact that he’s been in meetings and conversation with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and you’re just left in awe.
Dado Banatao is a legend, someone a lot of us Filipinos look up to. From his humble farm beginnings to his journey to becoming one of the most successful entrepreneurs ever, I was eager to listen and learn from such an accomplished man speak. And so here are a few key takeaways and lessons from his talk.
On what it takes to be an entrepreneur
Dado talked about the commitment that being an entrepreneur requires. It is a very lonely task that you have to be totally committed to because every day is always a new day with new problems popping up. Sometimes, the design doesn’t turn out well so you have to look back at what happened.
Early on you need a customer to say yes and yet they end up saying no. And you have to continue this cycle the next day then do it again and again. So you have to have the people around you to support you and stick with it.
He also talked about how he was lucky his wife understood him and what he was trying to do. “Sometimes you’re just so tired, you run out of solutions, you run out of money but you have to go over these things. You have to have a very supportive ecosystem or in this case a wife or husband to push you.”
On his desire to solve problems
Dado talked went as far back as engineering school and when he still had technical courses. There were always sample problems, and he talked about how he was crazy and paranoid enough to solve all the practice problems in those books, TWICE.
It was his “insecurity” that led him to solve all the problems in his math book in order to make sure he understood every single theory. This is the same attitude he brings with him up to today as he continues to enter new ventures and tackle different problems.
On his first company
The first funding he got came from his family and friends; it was so small that he had to use his knowledge in design and architecture such that he didn’t have to raise lots of money. This is where he saw the importance of designing a solution that doesn’t need a lot of money. Here he was forced to move things around, to mix and match until he found the right design.
“It’s either you innovate and create a new product with the best engineers, or you out-design your competitors.”
Dado also constantly talked about the importance of timing and entering the market at the right time. He talked about his famous microchips and how design played an integral role to its success. And true enough, it was the Dado design that really put his micro-chips over the top, even beating the Intel, the company that later on would buy Dado’s microchip company
But at the same time, Dado wasn’t afraid to admit that all this wouldn’t have been possible without luck. Yet at the same time, he emphasized the importance of creating our own luck and putting ourselves in the position to succeed by working hard, analyzing the market and out designing the competition.
On the future of tech
When Dado was asked what he thought was the next big wave in tech, he answered with a simple, ‘mathematics.’ He even went as far as to say, “We can stop innovating in Silicon Valley in semiconductors and computing infrastructures, and we can still create a lot of products today. It’s really more a matter of coming up with applications of math and algorithms to simply data into small data.”
He continued to emphasize the importance of math, data and analytics to our future. He talked about how all our data right now is very unstructured, and how mobile is causing all the mess, and why deep mathematics is required to solve all this.
But more than just the math, he also highlighted the importance of psychology because if you think about it, data comes from people. The intent of every person may be different for every data, so this is where psychology and understanding humans come in.
On what else he has left to accomplish
Despite all his success already, Dado still has a much bigger dream—a dream for his home country.
“I hope I’m still alive when the Philippines can be classified using world standards as no longer a poor country.”
Through the Philippine Development Foundation, the foundation he started, he hopes to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, and institutionalize it in the university system. He believes that Filipinos have so much potential, and that education is one of the keys to unlocking this potential. Moreover, he says that his time as an entrepreneur his over, as he now heads his own venture capital fund, “Tallwood Venture Capital.” He is now looking into investing in others, and helping their dreams come true.
Why can’t we?
It’s not often that you get to hear or even talk to a man as accomplished as Dado Banatao, and I left his talk optimistic about the future. If he could rise all the way to the top, go head to head with a company like Intel, and have conversations with the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, why can’t we?