by RONALYN BANAKEN
In his speech, Carrascoso dared the newest batch of UB graduates to “question the status quo” and “change the world.”
In the first 10 seconds of his speech, he spoke in pauses and cut sentences. In the seconds that followed, in a regular and continuous manner, he said, “I was a ridiculed stutterer, and speaking to anyone outside my immediate family was a struggle.”
Aldo Carrascoso, co-founder and chief operating officer of the San Francisco-based payment service provider Align Commerce which operates globally, returned to the University of Baguio (UB) on May 28 to grace the baccalaureate rites. (Last February, he delivered a talk before UB students, hammering on entrepreneurship and technology.)
The tech maven detailed how he “grew thick skin” from being a “stutterer” to someone who continues to impact the world profoundly through technology.
“I was born a stutterer... One summer, I picked up a phonebook, and I prank-called hundreds, maybe thousands, of random names until speaking became second nature to me,” he recalled.
Beating stuttering, he went on to finish high school, and then college. During that period, he would dream of moving the world, of bringing and creating something that can radically change the way people live. “I wanted to change the world, and I to do that I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I saw how businesses created jobs, added value to the community and ultimately contributed back to society,” he said.
In 2006, he founded Verego in Boston, Massachusetts, a start-up company focused on business-to-business matchmaking. “When I founded Verego, I was penniless. It was solely fueled by [growing some] thick skin,” he said.
After Verego, in which he served as chief executive officer from 2006 to 2011, he went on to put up five other start-ups, including JukinVideo / Jukin Technologies / JukinMedia which are digital proprietary licensing and syndication platforms that serve, among others, CNN, BBC, NBC, Fox and MTV. Specifically, JukinVideo hosts funny videos – a validation to the site’s founding philosophy which rests on “bringing happiness.”
But the road to greatness is never a smooth one. In his words, “[it] is a lonely road, paved with hardships and problems. [You have to be] mentally, emotionally, physically [and] spiritually prepared for [it is] a road that is long, hard, full of danger [and] littered with failures and despair. Nevertheless, [it] is a road [that], once crossed, leads to mind-blowing possibilities and life-changing privileges. Every strand of hair you lost along the way [becomes] worth it.”
Pounding on the idea of finding one’s purpose, he underscored the “insurmountable power” of the often elusive question, Why?
“Ask why. Or why not. Begin – and end – with the question ‘why’ and you will never again question yourself,” he said, adding, “[It’s] the same question people like Steve Jobs, the Dalai Lama, Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi, and even Jesus Christ asked that eventually changed the world. Had they not asked the question and pursued the answer, you would be living in a different world today.”
‘Decipher your how’
The next thing in the equation is deciphering how you can attain your purpose. Carrascoso calls it your “how” which, he said, is dictated by your ability to be self-aware and self-honest.
“The worst thing you can do right now is to lie to yourself about your capabilities. Throughout this journey, you will have to make certain decisions about your strengths and weaknesses and your passions and abilities. Unfortunately, [other] people can only act as mirrors and they cannot tell you what is truly true but yourself,” he said.
A Psychology graduate, he additionally stressed an equally significant point: Understand others. He said, “When you deal with other people, try to understand their purpose. This is one of my core principles – not necessarily applicable to everybody, but it has brought me to where I am today.”
‘Be an entrepreneur’
Carrascoso, who holds an MBA degree from Babson College in Boston, also put it firmly that one of his motivations for addressing the graduates was his hope that he inspires future entrepreneurs, or at least encourage some to think about becoming one.
“Being an entrepreneur requires fighting constant battles with multiple external and internal assailants, yourself being the most formidable,” he said, returning to the importance of having a strong purpose. “It allows you to brave forward and onward.”
He left the graduates with a handful of rather stirring provocations, some reflectively timeless, some disquietingly rousing: “Dare to change the world. Question everything. Take risks. Fall in love – and it does not have to be with a person. Be relentless. Don’t make excuses – stuttering is not an excuse. Take action. Be humble – be grounded and always remember where you came from.”
During the graduation ceremonies that followed, more than a thousand graduates were conferred degrees – one graduated magna cum laude, 26 cum laude, and 37 honorable mention.
Carrascoso was also conferred the honorary degree Doctor of Humanities, to which he humbly replied, “My contributions to the advancements of global business and technology are really modest.”
“I dedicate this to my fellow foreign workers, those that have relentlessly and tirelessly given their lives to enrich those of us that remain in the motherland; my family; everyone that I have ever worked with throughout the years and those I continue to work with. And, finally, I thank God for indulging me in my blind pursuits to change the world,” he said.
UB president Prof. Dhanna Kerina Rodas hands Carrascoso a certificate of appreciation after his speech.
Teary-eyed parents and graduates embracing each other has become a familiar scene at the UB commencement.