Launching a Startup with Chief Strategy Officer Mikee Canaman
The pandemic has changed a lot of things and sped up some surprising events. The traditional 9 to 5 grind, for instance, is now being replaced with a hybrid work environment. More and more students are taking online side hustles. And a rising number of millennials are becoming their own bosses.
Indeed, the youth is taking over the landscape as fast as their feet and dreams can take them. No longer will the young minds of today go unnoticed.
Their diverse voices can be heard at the 4th Edition of the World Youth Forum (WYF) held from January 8 to 13, 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, under the auspices of his Excellency, President Abdelfattah El-Sisi. What began as an initiative by a group of young Egyptians in 2017 has since become a platform for engaging the youth around the world. Attended by influential figures, policymakers, heads of state, and young people representing various sectors, it’s a chance to talk about peace, innovation, and creativity.
Photo by: World Youth Forum
After being postponed for a year due to pandemic restrictions, the World Youth Forum returns with the theme ‘Back Together: The World After COVID-19’. They have selected 30 startups from 196 countries to showcase how they can help their communities on the road to recovery. And GooZam was lucky enough to have been nominated to take part.
A wordplay on ‘Good Samaritan’, GooZam is a community-driven call-for-help platform that aims to provide rapid first response action to emergencies, as well as on-demand services. Together with volunteers, partner organizations, and trained responders, it aspires to build compassionate, effective cities for the future.
How did the GooZam team prepare for such an important event?
Their Chief Strategy Officer, Mikee Canaman, shares the intimidating, unexpected, but amazing journey from start to finish.
Being Fearless But Not Reckless
Having met with Mikee a couple of times, perhaps the best word to describe her would be: busy. She admits to being fully booked most days. If she’s not in a meeting, she’s preparing decks, jotting down ideas, having coffee with friends, or outlining their next business strategy.
Mikee loves planning; so it came as a surprise to find out that they were hardly prepared for the WYF.
“…the short amount of time [from the date of application up to the flight] plus the challenges along the way didn’t allow us to prepare a lot. But we knew we were ready to embrace this opportunity. I wanted to take two key people from the team with me [Angelica and Jean], but their passports didn’t arrive on time…”
With only two weeks to organize her thoughts (and her travel bag), Mikee was realistic but positive.
“Three nights before my assumed departure, I still do not have my flight details. But I packed nonetheless. It’s not just manifesting. I always want to be ready even before the opportunity comes in.”
With the threat of the Omicron variant, sure enough, there were folks who tried to warn her against traveling. But she was thankful for those who supported her and gave her strength. Mikee recognized that the overall experience will benefit her and the team. Having set aside her fears, she hopped on that plane with travel insurance, good shoes, and an open mind.
“When others were so fearful, the people around me encouraged me to be fearless but not reckless.”
Mikee admits that the World Youth Forum in Egypt was the farthest she has traveled to (so far). Though overwhelming, she wanted to soak in everything – the new places, tastes, people, and information. The agenda was indeed filled with different sessions, tackling varying topics from post-pandemic solutions, climate change, human rights, to healthcare, financial markets, as well as culture.
As a Chief Strategy Officer, Mikee was also invited to speak about developing a social mission for a startup.
“At GooZam, we have always been about providing quality services; but we’re also interested in developing a social mission. Launching a startup, like all other ventures, has a learning curve. Our journey is longer than others…”
From the beginning, she and her team have had to confront issues with limited time and resources, the same issues plaguing similar startups in their industry. Still, Mikee believed in encouraging more impact investors, those who are after creating a better future, not just wealth.
“…for a social impact-driven startup like ours, the return of investment isn’t always about the big money or the huge cheques. It’s about change - change that the world really needs. However, good intentions aren’t enough. An impact-driven startup should be backed by data, fueled by society’s pressing problems, and anchored to a sustainable business model in order to succeed.”
Mikee was able to have a roundtable discussion regarding the strengths and opportunities for GooZam. She was overjoyed to have had the chance for investors and veteran entrepreneurs to give their feedback, even though some were difficult to hear.
“Vulnerability and humility are important. I was surprised that people were rooting for us to succeed. Those who have a lot of experience with startups were somewhat overwhelmed with the platform, but they still supported us by giving us advice on how it worked for them…”
Her skills at handling events certainly came in handy when they set up their booths. Attendants were curious and wanted to know more about what GooZam was all about.
Aside from active mornings and informative afternoons, Mikee had the chance to visit the city and even ‘dive’ into her fears. One of the highlights of her trip was a free skydiving with Skydive Pharaohs. She signed up at the last minute, despite her fear of heights.
The verdict? She’d probably do it again.
“It was so liberating! It opened the world to me. At first, it was scary and you wanted to keep your eyes closed; but finally seeing the sky, the sea, and the land below, I said, Lord, this is so beautiful. I want to see more of it. After that, my perspective changed. The world deserves to be seen.”
On Philippine Startups, Breaking Barriers, and the Long Road Ahead
To date, GooZam has been in service for six (6) years and has partnered with about 190 organizations. It has over 100 local volunteers and has done dozens of social good initiatives in four (4) cities. The journey to making a difference is a long one. Thanks to the World Youth Forum though, the team has proven that good things come to those who wait.
“I hope people get to hear more of us [Philippine Startups]. Kaya nating makipagsabayan with First World countries. We have a lot of potential as startups in the Philippines. We may not have all the resources or support, we may not get it right away, but we can find it ourselves.”
Her experience at the WYF made her think about her childhood and how it has affected how she is now as a community manager.
“We have reservations. I’m not sure if it’s us as Filipinos or it’s just my upbringing. I grew up limiting myself and what I’m capable of… Tayo lang nag-iisip na maliit tayo. That we’re not meant for these big things or great opportunities.”
The good news is that more and more Filipinos are choosing the path to entrepreneurship. According to a 2017 survey by PwC Philippines, the number of startups has been steadily increasing since 2014. Today, there are about 900,000 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country – and growing fast.
Mikee’s advice to young entrepreneurs?
“If you have a good idea, especially if it solves problems, the world deserves to hear it. Talk more about challenges, how to solve them; the kind of support that you need. Be vulnerable and have humility; also plans may change, but the goal should remain the same.”
Words fail to describe all the feelings, thoughts, and realizations that Mikee has had in the past several days. One of the first things she does after getting back is to echo the recommendations and learnings she has gathered to the GooZam team. Young, fearless, and female, she’s her usual busy self. I can’t help but smile as I hear her enthusiasm.
“…It pays to show up, even when it’s difficult. It always translates to something good if you decide to show up.”
Interested in serving your community? Curious about GooZam? Join CSO Mikee Canaman on a short webinar titled “BTS: Building Teams to Serve”. Together, let’s learn how we can build a city of Good Samaritans using the power of technology.
Sign up today at: bit.ly/BTSwithMikee