Three Filipino technopreneurs emerged victorious at the Startups Take a Pitch competition at the recently concluded government-led e-Services Global Sourcing Conference and Exhibition with the goal of providing a venue for Filipino technopreneurs get a their foot in the door of the global information technology (IT) industry.
With over 20 shortlisted Filipino tech startup participants, the competition offered a shot for three winners to accelerate their growth via exposure to the Silicon Valley environment. The contestants were provided a limited time for the presentation of each business pitch that was later judged by a panel of Silicon-Valley based technopreneurs and representatives from venture capital (VC) firms. The winning entries were based upon the market size for the product, the quality of the team, the defensibility of the pitch, the business model used, as well as the product’s fundability. Sponsored by Silicon Valley-based Plug and Play Tech Center, said pioneering competition was held concurrent on the second day of the business event.
The pitch challenge was a collaborative efforts of Josephine Romero, Trade Commissioner of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center to Silicon Valley; Jojo Flores, Co-Founder and VP for Operations for Plug and Play Tech Center; and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM).
Leading the pack of winners was Ayannah, provider of software services for transactions made over online and mobile communication networks. Founded in 2004, it pitched Sendah, a “revolutionary service that will help the [increasingly influential group of expatriate communities] to stay connected and maintain their bond with their friends and family, while improving the economic conditions in the recipient country,” said Miguel Perez, Chief Executive Officer of Ayannah. While sending options for expatriates like overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are few and revolve mostly on remittances, Sendah makes possible “microgifting” opportunities like the sending of prepaid airtime credits, gifts for special occasions, connectivity, and health.
Studies cited by the group revealed that presently, around 9-11 million OFWs remit over US$80M every year.
“We have more than just an idea – we have an existing profitable service,” added Perez. “We want to launch internationally, and broaden the range of products we offer.”
Second place went to Tao Solutions, Inc. (TSI), founded by Managing Director Eric Tomacruz. For over 10 years, TSI has provided technical, marketing, human resources, intellectual property (IP), and customer support to numerous Internet and wireless services. Their product, the Wiki.Alumni.NET and Wikimap system, allows one to access and contribute to high-quality location information (e.g., for a business endeavor) that can be used through the Web or any mobile device.
“TSI has access to information from numerous high traffic websites… that we can leverage for Wiki.Alumni.NET,” said Tomacruz. These websites include Alumni.NET with over 5M members worldwide and JobsCity.NET that has over 800,000 resumes and over 75,000 recruiters, to name a few.
Rounding up the group is Ascendant Technologies, Inc. (ATI), a company founded in 2003 that focuses on delivering comprehensive IT solutions to its clients in the medium-sized industry scale, primarily in the medical sector. Out of the looming demand for US doctors to comply with the upcoming healthcare reform bill and use Electronic Medical Record (EMR) Systems, ATI showcased its EMR system that offers greater efficiency and accuracy for the clinic – and more importantly, a higher standard of patient care. The ATI EMR system’s features include a comprehensive patient personal and medical database; daily or periodic doctor activity reporting system; and a doctor and patient calendaring function and appointment capability; among others.
To date, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), a US non-profit organization that provides global leadership for the betterment of healthcare, cites only 17% of all doctors in the US that use some form of software application. Less than 1% of these qualify as an EMR.
Of winning in the event, ATI President Sergio Arroyo said: “The opportunities are huge, because you can’t just go to Silicon Valley, [let alone] knock on their door [for them to notice you]. [What this has done for us] is to break the barriers and have Plug and Play vouch for us, [and introduce] us to a market ten times, or even a hundred times, bigger.”
The winners will undergo a 3-month VC fund-raising mission where they will be exposed to top-tier venture capitalists; receive mentorship from Plug and Play’s pool of Business Relationship Managers and Executives in Residence; be featured and participate in Plug and Play’s Acceleration and Collaboration Track (PACT) and/or EXPO events; and likewise get a chance to participate in one of Plug and Play’s Entrepreneurship University sessions.
“This competition-event will only be one of many,” said Flores. “To gain credibility, I would like to make it a regular part of e-Services… At the very least, we would have helped in [inspiring Filipinos] to innovate… and be competitive global citizens.”
Prior to the contest proper, the participants underwent the Technopreneur Bootcamp sponsored by the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE)/Go Negosyo, and was conducted by Mr. Federico Gonzales, the President of the Philippine Emerging Startups Open (PESO). Globe Labs, under Telecom giant Globe Business, was also a major sponsor.
Other speakers at the pitch competition were Engr. Nelson P. Beniabon, Chief Science Research Specialist of the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST), who talked about the major research and development (R&D) programs in the country; Denny S. Roja, Esq., the Managing Director of ValuQuest Ventures, a Silicon Valley angel fund, on the ten keys to getting VC funding in today’s tough environment; and Christina Laskowski, a Partner in Alquemie Partners, an advisory services firm focused on emerging growth companies, on making it in Silicon Valley.