Dspite being raised and educated overseas, Roland Ros understands the Filipino psyche. Rather than take advantage of a lucrative career outside the Philippines, the former student activist is building a community for Filipinos from the ground up. He is the founder of Kumu, the country’s fastest-growing social entertainment network.
A live-streaming app “proudly made by Pinoys”, Kumu was partly envisioned by the founder’s dedication to social change. After becoming frustrated with the seeming stagnancy of student protests, Ros discovered the concept of social entrepreneurship. “I was fascinated by the ability to track measurable results through data ... how concepts like microfinance and education empowered mothers to increase their savings and lift millions of people out of poverty using a sustainable business model,” he says. “Learning about this community- centred approach to social impact, together with the growth of Facebook, would form an important backbone for my interest in tech and social media.”
Ros directed his altruism and patriotism into creating Kumu. The platform, which has done well in partnerships with local TV shows such as Pinoy Big Brother and Eat Bulaga, has millions of registered users worldwide, champions Filipino voices and makes a point of maintaining a positive atmosphere for all users. “We have core values built on positivity, safety and acceptance,” say Ros. “We’re not trying to be a platform for everyone—we’re trying to be a platform for people who value safety, positivity and an inclusive community that accepts your imperfect self.”
Kumu allows for this by its very nature of being a live streaming app, rather than focusing on posting. It’s less filtered and less curated than most social media platforms, meaning it’s also more carefree. “We’ve created a platform that rewards creators for being themselves,” explains Ros. “There’s no societal pressure to use filters and pretend your life is perfect [like] on other platforms. You don’t edit to be the best version of yourself; you go live and be accepted as you are.” The app also lacks the familiar beauty filters so often seen on Instagram and Tiktok which have been shown to be detrimental to mental health.
This sense of community has not only resonated with locals in the Philippines, it has also aligned itself with values that relate to the diaspora. In fact, the idea of Kumu came about as an attempt to connect with Filipinos abroad. “The birth of Kumu came from a desire to engage the Filipino diaspora for the betterment of the motherland,” explains Ros. “For us, the only way to really cope with these geographical complexities were to connect everyone through a social platform that prioritised this living and breathing spirit that means to be Filipino.”
The social entertainment platform has plenty of space for every kind of niche imaginable. Ros reveals that two particularly successful ones include the fanbases for female volleyball players and even OPM hiphop. But growth doesn’t end there. “We need to ask ourselves, how many other communities can we build on live video entertainment?,” Ros ponders. “We’re excited about Philippine pop music, anime and comics, and other adjacent fanbases we can build.”