This is my 3rd attempt at applying for the Kleiner Perkins Fellowship, and my public responses to their two 250-word prompts.
What impact do you want to have on the world and why?
Like many, technology radically changed my life’s trajectory. From 40 cent/hour computer cafes to make Neopets petpages, designing (while in the closet) for Manila’s Pride Festival, and gathering people to create silly things on the web with me––I’m now the first of my high school’s history to leave the country for an Ivy League where I design and teach other Filipinos at night. Technology’s ability to draw out creation and make it ubiquitous made me, and so I make it.
In a vacuum, this exists. In truth, Silicon Valley casts a shadow on my Philippines and many others. Its exploitation of labor, instigation of political turmoil, rising issues in digital extremism etc. render the third world a testing grounds. Here, there is no ‘investing in people’––there is little tangible trust in my countrymen as builders beyond Fiverr or Accenture. In short, “men in Silicon Valley shape our tools, and then the tools shape us.”
With co-creation and intersectionality, I want to fundamentally restructure how technology is accessed, taught, and discussed culturally. 1. Internationalization, accessibility, intentionality with markets, 2. contextual, indigenous tech drawing from rich histories even if ’emerging’, 3. more role models than Mark Zuckerberg (as I was taught), or their dissolution as a whole. Beyond utility, also exposing people to the poetics and intimacy of the web––this is what drives people to create. In my early career, I’ve defined this as working with tools/platforms for creators. Later, this might look like working with schools or community spaces. Always, it is building with people.
- To see my research/thoughts on digital extremism, check out my interactive essay: The Punishing of the Philippines.
- Great question as always where I have the same answer but an evolving idea of process/how to get there. Longer piece on this in my blog, soon…
Describe your most meaningful experience(s) and why they matter to you.
- Developh (developh.org), the community I founded when I was 16 to just code games with my friends that has now helped bring thousands of young Filipinos into tech and has brought me lifelong friends. What I learnt about programming yes, but moreso politics, operations, equality, systems, etc. The metrics of reaching millions of people through our campaigns, convening thousands in our newsletter helps––but it’s the 1:1 connections and avenue in which I met my closest friends that I especially treasure. It’s been three years since I’ve been to the Philippines and it’s harder to feel ‘useful’ when working on this remotely, but when I wonder why I build or create, I open Discord or scroll through our notes and remember why.
- Finishing a map for my paracosm Etherest, a fictional world I began as a kid-turned-lifelong worldbuilding project that I’m making an encyclopedia out of. I’ve filled over 40 notebooks with drawings, maps. sketches, and outlines of little stories and arcs on it. Imagining, thinking, and reflecting in isolated systems has let me develop frameworks and systems for the world at large.
- Explosions at the Sky at sixteen with my best friend (artists never come to Manila), holding their hand; a seemingly cliche concert moment that drove me to seek how to immortalize and explain what is ineffable. After this, I fell into music writing, working with the DIY scene, and playing with the idea of design in between service and art––teaching me invaluable things about craftsmanship, art, and community.
- Every time I teach.