Monday, November 19, 2012

Dado Bonatao: Filipino Billionaire in the U.S.

That computer or phone or tablet which you are now looking at, 30% of that is made of a Filipino invention.

Just in case that wasn’t clear enough, I’ll rephrase it. Thirty percent of every computer’s make up - whether it was made Apple, IBM, Samsung, Neo, or whatever  -ever manufactured in the whole damn world was invented by a Filipino, Dado Bonatao.

Dado Bonatao’s dominance is Silicon Valley actually started before Silicon Valley started. He shook the computer world so hard with his chip inventions, the intergalactic God of all computer hardware puked his intestines out and still hasn’t quite recovered to this day. Dado Bonatao is the man responsible for making the graphics on your computer look good.

Before we get into the details of his brilliance that catapulted him to being a legitimate billionaire complete with his own jet and brushing elbows with the likes of Bill Gates, let’s first get to know the amount of badassery he needed to show just to get to where he is now.

I am going to start by saying I hate walking inside my house without slippers. Hold on, I swear this has a point. I really hate it. I feel naked and I can hardly stand the site of myself naked let alone other people. So, when I walk inside my house without slippers, I feel like I, with the rest of the world, will puke. I also feel dirty. My house is fairly clean but I still feel dirty. When I don’t have slippers, I refuse to walk.

I’m a pretentious piece of slob.

Well, Dado didn’t have any slippers inside his home. In fact, he didn’t have slippers to go any fuckin’ where. If you want to know how difficult that is, remember that this was several decades ago. To this day, there are provinces in the Philippines where schools, markets, and churches are at least 10 kilometers away from the residential areas. He was living in Cagayan and this was several decades ago, roads were so rocky, the moon can’t hold a candle against it.

You know what Dado did? He freakin’ walked barefoot from his house to his school every fuckin’ day. He didn’t mind the dirt and the bruises. He just kept on doing it until he developed callouses so thick, Nike and Adidas didn’t have anything on him.

He was in Grade 1 at 5 years old and he finished high school at 15 but it wasn’t that easy. Apparently, life wasn’t done with Dado. Life wanted to fuck him up so bad, they would have done it twice at the same time if it had two dicks. Anyway, it had one so it decided to fuck him up consecutively. After making him face the daily danger of contracting tetanus, leptospirosis, and other unidentified life threatening bacteria that could decapitate him, comatose him, or turn him into a brainless single cell life form, it decided to make him poor that Dado had to regularly go to the Principal’s office and make a promise that he’ll somehow pay his tuition fee some time in the near future. He was in the office so often, he wanted to set camp.

Somehow, thanks to the kindness of the Jesuits, he made it through. He graduated and got into Mapua where he finished a 5-year-degree in four years.

Right out of college, he got a job offer from Meralco. Normally, when you come from the kind of poverty like he did, you’d grab the first opportunity that comes your way. Times are so hard, that graduates accept jobs even if they have no clue how to do it but not Dado.

Dado was scared of no freakin’ poverty. Why the fuck would he be? He already walked 10 kilometers for more than six years from his home to his school bare effin’ foot, guddamit. You think not having money will concern him? He looked at Meralco, saw hundreds of desk occupied by people wearing ties and cheap shirt and decided, this ain’t the life he envisioned for himself. He didn’t risk limbs and sanity so he could sit behind a desk and rot his brains processing papers, looking and P & L reports everyday for the rest of his life. No. He already got fucked once, he ain’t gonna get fucked again.

He wanted adventure. When he heard about Philippine Airlines looking for people to train as pilots, it sounded more attractive to him. He prepared a resume and applied. He got in.

It was way off what he studied to do but it turned out to be the best decision he ever made because it was where Boeing met him. They pirated him to do something more related to his college degree, some electronics stuff. Boeing brought him to the U.S. where he got a chance to pursue higher studies and eventually work for different companies.

It was in Seeq Technology where he made the greatest observation he did in his life.

Back when powerful computers had to be as big as a house to accommodate the hardware, RAM and other chips it needs to operate efficiently, Bonatao wasn’t down with it. He couldn’t imagine living the next decade buying lots just as so he could do some kickass stuff on his computer. ‘This shit has to go down,’ he thought. He wanted those computer monitors to produce graphics that are as nice as those professionally-taken photos and still be small.

It seemed impossible and that’s why he decided to do it.

He started looking at the chips that was primarily in charge of producing graphics. The problem was that this was that the 80s. Zuckerberg was still peeing on diapers. For anything he does to work, he needed to manually turn nobs following a certain sequence and following a specific beat just to be able to talk with the computers. But you know that someone is a badass when he encounters a hurdle that even the might Thor would have rejected. I mean, this is not about intelligence or strength. It’s about some gaddam patience.

Imagine turning those wheels and nobs day and night? And it’s not like there is an “undo” button in the whole process. When they turn a nob out of beat or turn a wrong nob at the right time, they needed to start all over again.

Instead of getting discouraged, Dado rolled up his sleeves and turn the holy hell out of those nobs he would have put Vanna White to shame.

It wasn’t long until he finally got it right. He was able to invent a chip that improved the quality of the graphics on computers. He knew he was on to something. He decided to set up a company. He failed. Yes, you heard that right. He failed, big time. He lost the little money he had and the word about the technology he developed is already out. Anyone can snatch the idea from him, get funding and earn billions.

There’s one thing about Dado you have to realize, though. The guy is obsessive compulsive. When he sets out to do something, he really won’t be able to let it go until it is done. So, instead of losing hope, taking drugs, or turning into illegal activities to score some money, he decided to go back to his technology and simplify it without sacrificing the quality.

Yes, that’s right. He turned more nobs and didn’t stop until he got it right. When he finally got it right, he went to look at the company set up and simplified it so he wouldn’t need as much funding as he needed in his first company. He developed the first single chip instead of big boards. That was then the first 10-Mbit Ethernet CMOS with silicon coupler data-link control and transreceiver chip.

the computer chip Dado developed

Let me say that in English. He made it possible for computers to become powerful without making it expensive by developing more powerful chips. That’s when he set up Mostron i. It was 1985. To further cut cost, he borrowed equipment from other companies during the weekends to work. He eventually refined his product and came up with PC-XT and PC-AT.

Within 18 months of incorporation, they went public and became the fastest growing company.

Intel set out to destroy them. They developed their own technology. You know what happened? Mostron stumped them into submission. Intel realized that no amount of money can buy them someone who is as brilliant as Dado. So, they decided to buy the company of Dado.

That was Dado’s first step towards becoming a billionaire.

He then set up another company, Chips and Technologies (C&T). Hecontinued developing chips, making it smaller cheaper and more capable of processing bigger information, faster. His technology made it possible for modern computers to be capable of doing some badass graphics. Yes, if it wasn’t for him, Photoshop wouldn’t have been possible, not even Paint. His sales went up to $12 Million in the first year. He quickly went public, and by 1996, he was almost half a billion richer.

As if that is not enough, he set up a third company called S3 which also developed chips. They were able to make Windows faster. It also went public for an additional $30 Effin’ million.

Yes, Dado was so effin’ badass that he was able to make life give up on trying to fuck him up.

With his kids all grown up and his wife still married to him, he decided to take thing a little slow and just dedicate his life to helping other start ups. He is involved with Cielo Communications, a company that is trying to speed up the transmission of data by using optic fibers. He is also enhancing GPS technologies to allow people to use it to find missing stuff. That has the potential to curb selling of stolen goods. He has built and sold so many companies he could practically be the 711 of multi-million companies.

He has two houses in the US, countless cars, and his own jet which he personally flies occasionally. The most badass thing about him, however, is the fact that he remains a Pinoy at heart. In fact, he has set up a computer center in Cagayan, worsk with Ayala Foundation US to fund education of students who want to pursue a career in engineering and computer technology.

We just need to check if he walks barefoot in his house.

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