Meet the 22-year-old Filipina making tech and business news fun and digestible

What’s mind-blowing about Amanda Cua is that she skipped college and started BackScoop out of high school

Tech entrepreneur and writer Amanda Cua is one of this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia honorees. The 22-year-old from Muntinlupa runs BackScoop, a newsletter focused on Southeast Asia’s startup scene. 

Tens of thousands of founders, investors, and tech workers globally trust BackScoop for their daily dose of industry news. On paper, BackScoop seems like a standard business news outlet, delivering bite-sized updates on startups from Southeast Asia. But what sets it apart is its jargon-free writing and friendly tone. Amanda’s talent with language and unique background may have something to do with it. 

Amanda, who regularly posts on LinkedIn to over 30,000 followers, recounts announcing BackScoop on her personal profile:

“This was the first time I’d publicly share that I (a 19-year-old high school grad) was behind BackScoop—not some veteran tech journalist or tech exec.” 

BackScoop’s website | Photo courtesy of Amanda Cua

Breaking into the tech industry

Growing up, Amanda dreamed of going to college abroad and building a career in either finance or consulting. When she received her college admissions letters, her plans fell apart. 

“All the US universities I applied to rejected me—except for one.” Amanda writes in another LinkedIn post. “It was so far from an Ivy League that most people probably wouldn’t have heard of it.”

After this early setback, Amanda decided to take a gap year after graduating high school in 2020. Her new plan? Work on exciting side projects and internships to land her a spot in her dream college the following year. 

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the tech industry boomed. According to Bloomberg, Southeast Asian startups received around $8.2 billion in investments in 2020.

Amanda interned for a Manila-based startup and dipped her toes in sales, marketing, and product development. On top of her day-to-day responsibilities, she had to stay updated on innovations popping up left and right. 

Navigating the startup scene was overwhelming for new entrants—Amanda included. There had to be an easier way to get up to speed on everything happening. 

She learned the ropes of growing a business and eventually got promoted. More importantly, she discovered new interests and strengths. “I fell in love with the Southeast Asian startup ecosystem.”

BackScoop’s email newsletter | Photo courtesy of Amanda Cua

Once Amanda’s gap year was up, she went back to the drawing board. The startup job gave her more than enough bullet points in her résumé to reapply for colleges. But, she also had the opportunity to solve a problem close to her heart: making tech and business news fun and digestible. Why wait till after college? 

On Nov. 12, 2021, Amanda published BackScoop’s first issue, which featured startups tackling food waste and providing accessible healthcare. When she launched the newsletter, she also set a new personal goal. “I’d work hard, so that by the time my friends graduate in 2024, I would have done something worthwhile.” 

From sleepless nights to Forbes 30 Under 30

At 19, Amanda started BackScoop knowing it would be a multi-year, full-time commitment. She worked over 12 hours daily and often slept past two in the morning. Yet, long hours spent alone researching and writing were smaller, more manageable challenges. 

Pursuing one’s dreams came with a host of personal sacrifices. Amanda spent her days working on BackScoop instead of signing up for college classes and attending parties. “When I started working in tech, I felt extremely lonely,” she opened up on LinkedIn. “And when I started my founder journey with BackScoop, it was even lonelier.” 

Running a new publication entailed attending as many events and conferences as possible. To blend in, Amanda dressed simply and didn’t wear makeup. She was usually one of the youngest in the room. “I didn’t know how to drive, was a high school graduate, and just barely old enough to drink.” 

Each event was an opportunity to develop her playbook for navigating the industry. She experimented with her writing and expanded BackScoop’s content to social media platforms, like LinkedIn and Instagram. BackScoop soon attracted interest from founders and investors. Amanda went from covering the fundraising of other startups to getting investors of her own for BackScoop.

Broadcaster Rico Hizon interviews Amanda for CNN Philippines in 2022 | Photo courtesy of Amanda Cua

BackScoop grew into a full-fledged media company. In 2023, the outlet launched a weekly podcast, One More Scoop on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, which hosts interviews with founders and investors in Southeast Asia. The single-person company evolved into a small yet mighty team that handles content and advertising partnerships. 

During the ups and downs of running BackScoop, the young CEO held onto the promise she made to herself in 2021. Eventually, she started leading talks at numerous international conferences and received recognition from CNN, Esquire, and Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia.

Amanda onstage at Wild Digital in Kuala Lumpur with the founder of record company 88Rising, Jaeson Ma | Photo courtesy of Wild Digital 2022

What’s next for Amanda Cua?

Landing on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2024 list is no small feat. It’s easy to regard this honor as a prize after a long journey. But Amanda is focused on what’s ahead. 

In a chat with Preen.ph, she reflects, “As an entrepreneur, you are constantly wanting more. You want more growth and are always facing new challenges… But being listed helped me tell myself, yes, I have a long way to go, but I have done something meaningful.” 

Now, the 22-year-old owns her experiences. Being the youngest in the room wasn’t a disadvantage. Her age was a great conversation starter for industry veterans looking for a fresh point of view. During one conference, she wore a brightly-colored professional attire. Though Amanda loved the outfit, she worried fellow attendees would look down on her because of it. Were her clothes too “young?”

“The bright outfit I was worried about was an advantage that day,” she recounts. “I was extremely easy to find in the room for people who wanted to approach me or for people who were talking about me.” 

Amanda isn’t afraid to make her own rules along the way. Her role at BackScoop shifted from creating content to thinking about the business’s overall strategy. Earlier this year, Amanda took another risk with BackScoop. She launched a Thursday edition of the newsletter, Scoop of Success, which features in-depth business case studies.

“We focus on sharing the origin stories and lessons learned of Southeast Asian companies, both traditional businesses and startups.” Amanda and her team already covered founding stories from regional juggernauts, like Charles & Keith, Red Bull, and Kopiko.

As Amanda progresses as an entrepreneur, she carves out time for hobbies outside work, deeming them as essential to her growth. She’s currently spending her free time with her fur babies, Elmo and Milo. 

Amanda celebrating her 22nd birthday with one of her two dogs | Photo courtesy of Amanda Cua

When asked about what advice Amanda would give to her past self from 2021, she says, “You create your own luck.”

Big breaks often seem as rare and cosmic as the planets aligning. Yet, Amanda attributes luck to a combination of effort, risk-taking, and just showing up compounded over time. She elaborates on this piece of advice:

“Don’t sit still and rely on only what you have and what you currently do. Don’t just limit yourself to the prescribed course material. Go to social events instead of never going. Meet that person your friend wants to introduce even if you’re not sure if you’ll click. Develop a new skill. Do more, and see the opportunities come up in time. I’ve seen it happen many times over the past few years.” 

Read more...