California-based Angelo Mendez first fell in love with the Philippines in 2006 when what was supposed to be a holiday turned out to be a six-month love affair with Manila’s underground art and music scenes.
Weaving through Manila’s club scene and spinning at destination spots like Boracay’s Juice Bar, Angelo’s entrepreneurial gears began to turn. Not even his return to San Francisco could stop the roots beginning to set in. “I packed up and left, but my love for the Philippines was already rooted and I knew I’ve always wanted to live here,” he said.
Today, Angelo is at the helm of live streaming platform Kumu, the fastest growing social media app in the country. Following his two-pronged journey as both a tech innovator and professional DJ, it seems it’s a role he was always meant to play.
By 2008, Angelo was reaping success in his own social media startup venture called Imeem which was the fastest growing website in the world in 2007. “We were a top ten site in a lot of Southeast Asian countries, but at that time there was no way to monetize these regions. I was sent out to Singapore to work with a few digital ad agencies. But in 2008 the market crashed and I decided to move back to Philippines full-time to build hotels and night clubs.”
From then on, Angelo’s journey as a marketing specialist, and eventually towards his role as a huge contributor to the growth of Kumu, had begun.
Angelo Over Pressure
Angelo is no stranger in building great things from scratch. Aside from his big roles in Sound in Color and Imeem, Angelo also developed the first 3D printed hotel room for Lewis Grand Hotel in Pampanga (which he also co-founded in 2008); created clubbing brand Black Market Manila in 2013; all leading to his role as head of programming in Kumu.
“Whether it’s throwing parties, building hotels, or DJing, I’ve always enjoyed creating. Coming up with concepts with my team and best friends and executing our ideas is exciting for me,” he said.
Aside from the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, what Angelo also learned from all his successful ventures is how to deal with pressure moments and how to find fun in everything he does. “You’re going to face a lot of pressure moments,” he shared. “How you deal with them can make or break you. I’ve always been a passionate person so learning to separate the passion from emotion and stay level-headed help a lot when venturing into the unknown,” he adds.
When asked how he exactly deals with work’s entailing pressure, he advises: “Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s ok to mess up. Keep experimenting because eventually, something will stick.”
“Our office is loud and obnoxious to other people. But what I love most about being part of the KUMU team is that you can tell we’re having fun. It’s like a nightclub at the office,” he said.
Engaging a Fast and Loyal Following
As head of Kumu’s programming, Angelo is tasked to find new and exciting ways to make users feel welcome and extend loyalty to the brand. Angelo says it’s not too dissimilar to a previous project of his, Bad Decisions Wednesdays.
“When we started Bad Decisions in 2013, the entire Manila nightlife scene was entirely electronic dance music (EDM), and EDM copy cats that were generic and corny,” he said. “Black Market was trying to be an alternative venue. I asked my partners there to give me the worst night and let me do whatever I wanted, which ended up becoming Bad Decisions Wednesday. The whole point was: with everyone who goes out, there were a few outcasts who didn’t want to be part of that EDM scene and we were there to provide a venue where they could express themselves while listening to really dirty rap music. It was different and authentic and it showed especially in those early years,” he said.
Six years later, Bad Decision Wednesdays is still going strong.
“When we started KUMU, we knew that we were going up against companies where the perception was to have your photos faked to get ‘likes’,” he said. “Social media apps like that were everywhere at that time. We wanted to build a platform for Filipinos who wanted to have real conversations and be themselves- where they didn’t have to fake having a perfect life.”
And as time and again, Angelo succeeds in not only creating loyalty and excitement among its users, but also in providing them a welcoming community (or as they style it: kumunity) that supports each other and engages in campaigns, contents, and conversations. “Today, with over 1.5 million users in just over a year from launch, Kumu has become the safe space where Pinoys can be authentic, tambay and livestream to their hearts content.”