The Power Within: Roland Ros on Building Kumu, The Social Media Disneyland of Technology

Written by: Leah Cioco | 9 months ago

After spending anywhere from two to six hours on Kumu during the summer, you can say that interviewing one of its founders was like solely winning GKNB’s jackpot or perhaps getting Yamashita’s Gold. Yes–I, a not-even-college graduate, non-professional journalist, or interviewer had the chance to share a conversation with one of Kumu’s co-founders, Roland Ros.

For this interview, Roland Ros and I spoke online, separated by thousands of miles. I started by asking him a ‘burning question’, “Why didn’t you follow me back on Instagram?” He quickly asked when I actually followed him and what my handle was, genuinely concerned about the subject matter. He said he’d follow me back and sure enough, I was notified that Kumu’s Co-founder and CEO had indeed followed me back.

But that’s not all. Roland is an extra-mile walker and a genuine soul. Because of some technical difficulties on my end during the interview, he agreed to reschedule, which is very rare considering his tight calendar, and came through. And when the interview happened, listening to him chronicle his days in Los Angeles taking advanced classes at UCLA while in high school, spending one summer at Stanford, and reading Siddhartha in 7th grade was inspiring. He shared how he got into hip-hop culture to avoid gangs, how he met his other co-founder, Rexy Dorado, and how he found his way back to the Philippines–a place he was always interested in and once he finally arrived, a place he said felt like home. And just like the superstar that he is, he wanted to come home and make an impact. And he sure did that with Kumumedia Technologies, or simply, Kumu–short for ‘Kumusta.’

Kumu started out as a social messaging app that quickly pivoted into a live streaming platform. It was initially released in August 2018, and since then has taken the country and the world by storm after ranking #1 in the Philippines and in the top apps of other nations. Its culture of safety, genuiness and collaboration has inspired millions of Filipinos and organizations to be on the platform, create meaningful content and build connections. I, myself, am a witness to how fun and welcoming Kumu is. Our founding team and I did everything there–from conducting meetings, doing work-outs, to de-stressing by belting out songs to the tune of a random stranger turned friend, playing the keyboard–we’ve done it all.

Kudos indeed to the founding team for making the pivot that has resulted in what is now the Disneyland of Social Media: a safe and fun space for everyone looking for “online” home. When asked where he sees Kumu 5 to 10 years down the road, Roland says he hopes that it’ll be one of the most valuable companies in the Philippines, and eventually the world. He credits his work ethic and growth mindset to his mother: she challenged him, did debates with him, and nourished his “inner entrepreneurial spirit.” He also only ever compares himself to the best version of himself and chases that best version relentlessly.

Outside of Kumu, Roland plans to travel and go off the grid with friends, explore the world and solve more problems in the future. And eventually, he also hopes to write a memoir.