Saturday, July 13, 2024

Mindset Over Place: DigiCon Valley and the Meaning of Start-Ups

Mindset Over Place: DigiCon Valley and the Meaning of Start-Ups

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Key Insights From Digicon 2022

The place to be if interested in marketing, advertising, and digital industries is The Internet & Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP)’s DigiCon. This year, the theme was DigiCon Valley, which ran from October 10 to 14 on the virtual conference platform ViVYD.

Discussions regarding innovation, problem-solving, and the entrepreneurial spirit were the main points of interest. With an increase in investments for Philippine firms in the next three years (a much higher rate when compared to the past five years combined), there is set to be a tipping point in the country’s start-up scene.

When asked about the focus on start-ups for this year’s theme (DigiCon Valley being, of course, reminiscent of Silicon Valley), QAIROS CEO and DigiCon co-chair Denise Haak said “We realized there is a perception of start-ups that is very pigeonholed. People seem to think that start-ups are separate things from enterprises or institutionalized organizations. But a start-up is a mindset, it’s a practice.”

The goal was to “Break down the walls of ‘we are not a start-up’ vs. ‘we are an institution,’ and show them that it’s a practice, a methodology, it’s attitude and it’s not merely a place. That’s why we have DigiCon Valley, which is not a place. It is a state of mind,” said Haak,

The idea of start-ups being a state of mind resonated with both actual start-ups and stable companies, said fellow co-chair and General Manager of FutureProof PH Trish Elamparo-Esteban. “From 2020 onwards, we all had to be agile and apply these problem-solving skills that start-ups do. We all had to be a start-up in one way or another.”


The opening keynote for DigiCon Valley went to Jake Knapp, New York Times Bestselling Author and inventor of Design Sprint, a process that uses design when bringing new products to market in five days. Credits to his name include Google Meets, Gmail, and Microsoft.

Knapp discussed Design Sprint, which is centered on the belief that solution planning can be condensed into one week, rather than a drawn-out timetable. “Focus on the key moment,” he said.


This was followed by Angkas CEO George Royeca, who discussed his company’s method of disruptive innovation. According to Royeca, there was an obvious problem of traffic and congestion and their effects, and an even more obvious opportunity to solve them. “Think of how to identify a real problem and the steps needed to solve it,” he said.

Disruptive innovation, said Royeca, is nothing more than disrupting the status quo. There can be pushback, which Royeca illustrated using the example of Elvis Presley, and which he then compared with the early days of Angkas. “I felt like Elvis,” he said, especially when they experienced market acceptance.

Like Elvis, he also experienced the naysayers from the establishment. “We were shut down, and our office was raided. Our bikes were impounded,” he said. At the government hearings, Royeca heard the testimonials of those helped by Angkas. “I never realized you could be an OFW in your city,” he said. It made him more determined to fight.


Over the next couple of days, other keynote speakers shared their tidbits of advice. Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive and founder of the Huffington Post talked about what she termed “collective delusion”: that to succeed, we must burn out and power through exhaustion.

For Huffington, her moment of realization happened after what could be called a series of unfortunate events. She hit her head on her desk and broke her cheekbone after a tiring day. “It helped me realize that burnout was not just my problem but a global epidemic.”

Rather than resting on her laurels and promoting her new mantra of rest and restoration through her eponymous media company, Huffington decided that the way to go was to build a “behavior change technology company.” The aim was to help people adopt healthier practices and to make them believe it was possible to go from awareness to action.

She also cautioned against completely leaving your chosen field, as it could lead to giving up on jobs or goals you truly want for yourself. “It’s not necessary,” she said. “It’s a choice between burnout and having a job with great boundaries where you do great work but where you are not defined by your job.”

Rather than work-life balance, Huffington proposed that “work-life integration” is the better prospect, due to its flexible nature. “There will be days when you need to work extra hard because you have a deadline to meet, you have a client presentation and there will be days when you may have a sick child or when you may have something at home that requires your full attention.”


Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa cautioned that misinformation is damaging to humanity. Social media’s power in influencing credibility is a double-edged sword that has repercussions in both personal and public life.

She named an MIT study that said that lies spread six times faster than truth. “When you hear the lie from so many different places and you hear it repeatedly, it’s kind of like Pavlov’s dogs, you become conditioned,” she said. “So, social media became a behavior modification system and we have seen this in many countries around the world. If you don’t have the integrity of facts, we don’t have the integrity of elections.”

How do we combat this? Ressa called on laws to protect, among others, free speech, online content moderation, user safety, and data privacy. She also believes that data privacy must be protected from those trying to profit from it.

Above all, being courageous and believing in the intrinsic good of people is needed, despite the current climate. “To be good, you have to believe it is good in the world,” she said. “Ask yourself: what will you sacrifice for the truth because your courage determines the fate of humanity?”

IMMAP DigiCon VALLEY 2022 would like to thank its Co-Presenter Angkas. Platinum sponsors Manulife Philippines, Share Treats, and TikTok. Gold sponsors GrabAds, Investing in Women, an initiative of the Australian Government, Kroma Entertainment, Maya Philippines, McDonald’s, Meta, MetaverseGo!, and Smart. Silver Sponsors Digital Turbine, Hepmil Philippines, and Metrobank.

IMMAP DigiCon VALLEY 2022 would also like to thank Platinum Media Partners GMA New Media, Inc., Manila Broadcasting Company, and Rappler.  Gold Media Partners ABS-CBN, CNN Philippines, Manila Bulletin, One Mega Group Inc., Podcast Network Asia, The Asian Parent, and The New Channel. Silver Media Partners adobo magazine, BusinessWorld,, Kroma Entertainment, Manila Times, and Philippine Star

Finally, IMMAP DigiCon VALLEY 2022 would like to thank Event Partners CICP, Endeavor, Eventscape Manila, and Kickstart Venture