Entrepreneurship as Socially Transformative

[Welcome Address: JCI JuaNegosyante Pitching Competition at ADDU, Finster Hall, 15 September 2018]

In the name of the Ateneo de Davao University it is first of all my pleasure to welcome the Junior Chamber International (JCI) to the Ateneo de Davao University in its sponsorship of the national pitching competition entitled JuaNegosyante.

I am delighted that Mr. Aldwin Dumago is back from his exile in Manila to his home Davao and his home campus to promote entrepreneurship throughout Mindanao. Mr. Dumago is a graduate of entrepreneurship at ADDU and former President of the tertiary –level student council of ADDU, the Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral sa ADDU.

He has meanwhile involved himself in promoting entrepreneurship in Mindanao. One of his activities has been getting his alma mater and his School of Business and Governance through its Dean, Dr. Jenner Chan, and the ADDU Young Entrepreneurs to partner with the JCI in hosting this pitching competition at the Ateneo de Davao.

I warmly welcome the distinguished speakers who have come to enrich this occasion with their experience, expertise and involvement in JuaNegosyante:

  • Atty Juaquin Esquivias, Founder and Co-Owner, Sinag Consulting Group, and 2018 President, JCI, Manila.
  • Ms. Cecile Dominguez Yujuico, CEO of Evident Communications
  • Engr. John Naranjo, President and CEO, Ingenuity Global Consulting Group
  • Mr. Rolan Marco Garcia, Founder and CEO, Project VII (a Filipino grassroots company for entrepreneurship development) and current Commissioner for JuaNegosyante.

The world has changed. And with a changing world, language has changed. There was a time when awful ment full of something fearsome or dreadful. Eventually, awe referred to something solemn or wonderful, so awful had a similar meaning that awesome has today. But today awful means something terrible. An awful decsion is a bad decision.

Gay is a similar word. In Westside Story, Maria sang: “I feel pretty, Oh, so pretty. I feel pretty and witty and gay.” But today, if one would sing, “I feel gay,” it means quite something else.

There was a time when pitch was a musical term, indicating how high or how low a note is. Pitch is also a viscoelastic polymer like tar, so something could be pitch black. In football, the pitch is where the contending teams battle it out to victory or defeat. But in baseball, a pitch is the act of a pitcher throwing a ball within a certain area for a batter to hit or not hit a ball. A good pitch, interestingly enough, is when the batter can’t hit the ball. A bad pitch is when the batter hits the ball to Timbuktoo and makes a home run with the bases loaded.

Entrepreneurship education used to be simple. Get the students to learn the theory of business conceptually, and get the students to run their own business practically. Usually this was done by students dealing with food, which they were easily able to capitalize: selling a cupcake (cake in a cup) or, today, a cupmeal (a meal in a cup), sometimes with food that they had produced and cooked themselves, at other times with food that they’d bought in a mall for re-sale in Rodriguez Hall. Once the students could show that they’d made money, they would close their business for a final report at the end of the school year, and then they would get an A.

But I’d always been disturbed by this. Why train an entrepreneur to set up a business only to require him to close it down at the end of the academic year? And why glory in students not being able to think of any other businesses than cupcakes and cupmeals they could afford?

Thankfully, entrepreneurship education has gotten more sophisticated. Not just “the activity of setting up a business in the hope of private profit.”

But the activity of setting up a business in response to perceived needs in society where risks are clearly understood but mitigated by an evidenced understanding of the need being responded to, a good business plan, an emphatically competent marketing plan, and its proponents having the personality, the credibility, the leadership, the creativity, the courage, and the grit to make it work. Today the entrepreneur does not only deal with fellow businessmen; he or she deals with psychologists, economists, sociologists, statisticians, big data scientists, engineers, technicians, factory workers, market vendors and jeepney drivers even at the level of trying to understand need in society, or formulating an entrepreneureal response to it.

Today the entrepreneureal student is not in a purely theoretical world of academe that is separated from the real world of entrepreneureal ventures. The business world long lamented the mismatch between eduction and the needs of business. So there is much more coordination and interaction today between industry and academe. The student craves the recognition and success in the business world. The real entrepreneureal world is crucially interested in the thinking, projects, idiocyncrasies and genius of the student entrepreneur; for this may be a gateway of new investment and new wealth. The student entrepreneur is not afraid of conceptualizing projects he can’t personally fund; the venture capitalists have access to fresh ideas and boundless energy. To make this truly work intellectual property is recognized, respected and protected, in order that creative young entrepreneurs may thrive and new ventures flourish in fairness and justice

I guess that’s why we are celebrating JuaNegosyante today.

Interesting is that in the discernment of social needs that student entrepreneurs can respond to leaves much room for choice to the entrepreneur. What problems in society does one respond to? Not necessarily the ones that respond to the darkest of human needs; quite possibly the ones that are vitally urgent. Not neessarily the ones that bring most revenue; quite possibly the ones that make society more humane.   GS learners don’t have enough good but affordable shoes. There is perpetual flooding in our streets. Children are dying of dengue. In times of catastrophe lights go out and celphones can’t be charged. People don’t have jobs. Repetitive work is boring and pure drudgery. People are hungry because rice is too expensive People do not have access to the internet. People do not have access to one another. When student entrepreneurs choose to respond to these problems they commit themselves to find ways of making human society more humane.

What they find is not left in a theoretical vacuum. Today, at events like JuaNegosyante, they can pitch. They can pitch like the greatest of baseball pitches, winding up, then throwing their ideas out there, then making a home run. The baseball metaphor may be skewed. But that’s what happens in pitching, correct?. Pitching is an expression of upgraded entrepreneurship education transformed into enrepreneurship itself. It is not merely play acting. It is actual pitching. Not just a contest in a game format. But the game of entrepreneurship actually being played between budding geniuses and experienced entrepreneurs with access to real venture capital. In successful pitching, not only the entreprenereal students win, the veteran entrepreneurs win.

And, I guess, when the entrepreneurs choose to address the pressing needs of poverty, hunger, lack of education and injustice in society, and not just needs of lust and luxury and libido, and when creativity and innovation emerge from the private sector and not just from the over-burdened and over-rated government sector, and when people begin to be convinced that through the entrepreneureal mindset and through entrepreneural collaboration problems can really be solved that pay for themselves, all are winners. And the common good is served.

That is where entrepreneurship shows its socially transformative power. Entrepreneurship is not awful. It is awesome.

It is in this context, and with this hope, that I welcome JuaNegosyante to ADDU, and I congratulate the ADDU Young Entrepreneurs and the ADDU SBG for its collaboration with JCI on this. I welcome you with all the other groups promoting this kind of entrepreneurship throughout the country! Above all, I congratulate those students and their teacher-coaches from all over Mindanao who have prepared pitches for the competition this afternoon. I am delighted that we have an ADDU team that is pitching. In your pitching, may we all be winners!



About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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