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Dado Banatao inspires working people

/ 12:01 AM November 22, 2015

If you’re a teenage son or daughter of a rice farmer and a housekeeper, and walking barefoot to grade school, don’t lose hope. If you have the ambition, determination, tenacity and high adversity quotient, you can still be a billionaire and help your country.

Early beginnings

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Diosdado Banatao was guest at the joint monthly meeting of AMCHAM’s ICT and Human Capital Committees this week. My committee co-chair, Grace Sorongon, started inviting him in August but because of his busy schedule, Dado agreed to grace the AMCHAM meeting only this week. Without power point presentation, he convinced a sizeable audience that there’s hope for every Filipino and for the Philippines to prosper. He shared his life’s story and how he triumphed against adversities as a pupil, design engineer, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist.

Dado grew up in Malabhac barrio in a farming town called Iguig in Cagayan Valley. As a kid, he walked barefoot to school along dirt roads. He went to Ateneo de Tuguegarao and at 15 took up Electrical Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology, where he graduated cum laude. He turned down a job in Meralco and instead became a pilot trainee at PAL. His interest in design engineering soared when he was asked to join Boeing, the plane manufacturer. While in the USA, he had master’s degree in EE and Computer Sciences at Stanford University. Starting 1972, he worked with technology companies, and designed the first single chip, 16-bit microprocessor-based calculator. At Ethernet, he found a way to put the controller on a single chip, instead of the traditional big boards.

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Dado then decided to set up his company. With seed money of $500,000 from friends, he set up Mostron in 1985. Using spare equipment from another company, he debugged chips on weekends. This allowed him to develop “the first system logic chip set for the PC-XT ad PC-AT”, which lowered the cost of building more powerful PCs. (Until today, his invention is in every personal and laptop computer.)

Then he set up Chips and Technologies and created “enhanced graphics adapter chips set.” C&T’s was the fastest IPO listing in the US stock market. In 1996, Intel bought C&T from Dado for $430 million.

His third company, S3, introduced the first Windows accelerator chip in 1990. S3 was the third most profitable technology company in 1993. In 1998, Dado started his own venture capital firm named Tallwood Venture Capital, where he put in $300 million from his own pocket. Today, Dado continues to manage several other companies. He spends 70 percent of his time in the USA, drives high performance luxury cars, and flies his own jet planes.

Giving back

Despite his success, Dado went back to Iguig town and built a computer center at his grade school. To date, it’s the most modern school computer network in the Philippines.

Dado is both impressive and inspiring, as he gives back to the country through his family foundation, and through the Philippine Development (PhilDev) Foundation. Dado and his wife Maria (nee Cariaga, a Paulinian) have been providing scholarships to deserving kids in his hometown in Cagayan and to Filipino-Americans in California. Like Bill and Melinda Gates, Dado and Maria have a foundation that sends deserving Filipinos to top universities in the USA.

Dado’s desire to do more for the Philippines is evident. Asked which Philippine university can compare with the world’s best in technology, he said, “None.” Dado thinks we are sorely lagging behind in science, technology and engineering. This is why he created PhilDev. I asked how many percent of Filipino graduates should be in science and technology courses, he replied, “At least 50 percent now, because we are on a catch up mode.”

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What about the IT courses offered by Philippine schools? “These aren’t the real technology courses that can make us truly globally competitive. We might be creating false expectations among graduates and their parents.”

Dado explained, “We created PhilDev in 2010 when we embarked on a strategic vision for helping the country in terms of science and technology-based innovation and entrepreneurship to promote economic growth. I was there since the beginning because it was formed by a lot of my research.”

To achieve this mission, PhilDev is working to “strengthen education and training programs for youth in science and engineering and to produce a higher ratio of qualified experts and practitioners; to provide relevant research; to promote a global network of relationships to create and sustain S&T innovation and entrepreneurship in the country; and to help link knowledge generation and enterprise development. One of PhilDev’s projects in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the Innovative Development through Entrepreneurship Acceleration (IDEA), a three-year program that aims to bring entrepreneurial culture and skills into the science and engineering education system in the Philippines. Activities under IDEA are the annual symposium for Philippine universities, entrepreneurship workshop series for science and engineering scholars in the Philippines, and a training mission program for visiting US professors.”

Dado continues to lead other initiatives to help enhance the Filipinos’ competitiveness. He strongly believes that education is where it can all start.

Arresting poverty

Dado knows the adversities faced by the poor Filipinos. Adversity was not a stranger to him. I asked him what solution he can suggest to arrest poverty in the Philippines. His reply is honest and straightforward, “Innovation for economic development.”

I fully agree with Dado – it’s like teaching people to fish, instead of simply giving them their daily fish. Sadly, the people in high places that he had talked to about this solution haven’t listened well. I jokingly said that he should tell us who these are so that we won’t reelect them.

Greg Braden once said, “There can only be one solution to any problem: a change in attitude and in consciousness.”

In education and other pursuits, the Philippines sorely lags behind. Don’t look now, but other Asean countries are overtaking us. Yet, we haven’t seen any dramatic change in our curricula. To produce more competitive graduates, small changes in what we teach are not enough. We need “creative destruction” because more of the same is bad news. The solutions of yesterday can no longer solve the problems of today and tomorrow. If traditional politicians continue to run government, don’t expect massive progress for the majority of the Filipinos.

Innovation tips

We need transformational and innovative leaders. Here are some innovation tips for the dummies, the powers that be, and the pretenders:

  • Forget it. Dee Hock, creator of Visa, said, “The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out.”
  • Be open to new ideas. John Maynard Keynes wrote, “The greatest difficulty in the world is not for people to accept new ideas, but to make them forget about old ideas.”
  • Cannibalize your own. “Cannibalizing existing products is the way to remain the leader,” said Lew Platt, Chairman and CEO, Hewlett-Packard.
  • Forget hesitation. Hockey great, Wayne Gretzky, said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

There are now over 100 million Filipinos. By 2050, we could number 150 million or more. Our natural resources continue to diminish. Our hope lies in our human resources and their ability to innovate and survive.

Like Bob Dylan sang, “You better start swimming, or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changing.”

(Ernie is the 2013 Executive Director and 1999 President of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); Chair of the AMCHAM Human Capital Committee; and Co-Chair of ECOP’s TWG on Labor and Social Policy Issues. He also chairs the Accreditation Council for the PMAP Society of Fellows in People Management. He is President and CEO of EC Business Solutions and Career Center. Contact him at ernie_cecilia@yahoo.com)

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TAGS: Dado Banatao, design engineer, entrepreneur, ICT, information and communication technology, inspiration, Philippine Development (PhilDev) Foundation, Poverty, venture capitalist
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