This Software Engineer and Founder Left The UK To Build Startups in the Philippines

The story of how Phil Smithson went from an accountant in the UK to a software engineer, to building successful start-up companies in the Philippines.


For years, Phil Smithson lived in the UK. He grew up in Kirkbride, a small town in the UK with a population of 480 people. Never did he think that in a few years, he’s be living in a country halfway across the world, being the founder of a few successful startup companies.

He first came to the Philippines back in 2009 as an intern for a software engineering company. He was enticed by the culture and the friendly people who “go out of their way to make you feel you belong”. This made him come back after graduation and work for the same company. Later on he moved to digital advertising, SEO, analytics and web development. Soon, he got dissatisfied with his job at a company that had no User Experience team and worked backwards to the conventional business model. “We got sick of working like that,” said Smithson. “We weren’t the boss you know so we didn’t have the full say of how we could do things…Those were the frustrations. So we wanted to set up our own company which had UX at the heart of it to solve real problems for real people”.

Source: Security Bank

Source: Security Bank

And that’s when he and his friends founded UXMNL, a human-centered design company that focused on User Experience, which would then become part of On-Off group, with Smithson as the Director.

At first, he was terrified of resigning from his stable-paying job and starting his own company. “As soon as you resign, you go from having guaranteed money coming in to guaranteed money going out.” Smithson recalls. “The first few months were really scary and painful… well, you learn a lot”. Little did he know of the success that would come to be.

Source: Twitter, On-Off Group

On-Off group is a “service design consultancy which uses Human-Centered Design to help organizations thrive”. “[Human-centered design] is using empathy to create solutions to problems that people have in the world. So those problems can be anything. It can be “I want to get something from a bank” or it could be “I want to involve myself more with the locals” or “I want to get some earphones replaced.” Smithson explains. This company helps a lot of other companies and organizations with their User Experience sector, especially in the Philippines, where a lot of companies lack proper UX teams and have really bad customer service. It’s no wonder this company became so successful. “Empathizing is a big part of our process,” he says.

Smithson is also the CEO of “Learn Tagalog Fast”, a company that aims to help foreigners speak conversational Tagalog in practical, everyday settings.

Source: Security Bank

When asked about whether being into service design was part of his plan, he responds with “No, not at all. I wanted to be a programmer”. It’s really surprising where life can take you.

 

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Cielo Santos

Engineer. Writer. Artist. Gamer. Musician. She dreams of building a time machine and help kittens take over the world. Is secretly the pink power ranger in real life.

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This Software Engineer and Founder Left The UK To Build Startups in the Philippines

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