Year 2015 saw the Philippines entrepreneurial ecosystem buzzing with activity and headline-making startups. Whether they locked in funding or not, these startups hogged the spotlight by winning fiercely-contested competitions or getting prestigious clients or by sharing the stage with the world’s most powerful.
DEALSTREETASIA cherry-picks 14 startups who made a big impression and will be watched with interest in the coming year. These startups are in the health-tech, fintech, agriculture, realty, ecommerce, energy, and transportation space.
mClinica bags Hack Osaka 2015 award
In early February, co-founders and members of health tech startup mClinica won the gold prize at the Hack Osaka Award 2015, a global innovation conference held in Osaka City, Japan. They bested nine other startups from different parts of the world to receive ¥500,000 ($4,200) and kindle fire. Although mClinica at the time was already the largest pharmacy network in the Philippines, they did not expect to win the competition. mClinica sole founder Farouk Meralli said, one of the judges might have appreciated the fact that they are trying to solve a massive problem that is often overlooked ― the highly-fragmented status of independent pharmacies, and data scarcity. mClinica is actually a Singapore company, nevertheless it started in the Philippines and now has an operation center here. Now also present in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, mClinica continues to build digital networks of pharmacies, physicians and patients in emerging markets.
Pawnhero nails Judges’ Choice award at Echelon Asia Summit 2015
On June 25, 2015, fintech startup PawnHero, the first online pawnshop in Southeast Asia, beat nine other finalists at the Echelon Asia Summit 2015, a startup pitching contest at the Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre. PawnHero co-founder David Margendorff did the pitching for the company and won the Judges’ Choice Award. PawnHero was among the original 500 startups from around Asia that applied in the contest. Margendorff said, PawnHero made a disruption in the SEA pawnshop industry — creating options for the unbanked by charging half the interest rates that most pawnshops charge. Prior to the competition, PawnHero partenered with LoanSolutions, a local loan service startup that allows people to apply for different types of loans online.
‘Clueless’ Ayannah tops Rising Expo 2015 contest in Indonesia
A day after PawnHero’s victory in Singapore, another Philippine fintech startup Ayannah won the main award at the Rising Expo SEA 2015 startup pitching competition in Jakarta. Ayannah founder and CEO Mikko Perez confessed that he didn’t knew the event was a competition and thought all along that it was just “a conference”. He said he only went there to accept the kind invitation of Kim Ngo of 500 Durians, Taka-san of CyberAgent Ventures and Yasu-san of IMJ to participate in the upcoming Rising Asia Expo. Nevertheless, Ayannah beat tech startups from Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, among others. The Philippine-based digital commerce and payment services firm received a cash prize and a free trip to the Rising Expo 2015 event that took place last August 7 in Tokyo.
Government taps Galileo Software, OneWatt
In two separate news developments, the Philippine government tapped both Galileo Software, and OneWatt for their mobile innovations that address issues in the transportation and energy sectors, respectively. Owned and operated by local public figure Jun Lozada, Galileo Software is the creator of smartphone app called PARAK, a “police accident report kit” that enables real-time reporting of road incidents. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) disclosed plans of partnering with the tech startup to provide the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) with smartphones embedded with the PARAK app. The app can also be used to instantly file for life insurance claims right after a road accident.
OneWatt, meanwhile, has gotten the support of the country’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Germany’s international cooperation firm Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), for the development and commercialization of its OneWatt app. The concept is to help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to save up to 40 per cent on their monthly power bills. The app also promises to help in evading power outages. The backing from DTI and GIZ came a few days after OneWatt won the grand prize in the “GreenOvation” contest held last October 3 under the DTI-GIZ project Promotion of Green Economic Development (ProGED), which was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It was the search for the best “green” mobile app that can make MSMEs more competitive and environment-friendly. OneWatt was created by Filipino IT professionals from the University of the Philippines-Diliman and De La Salle University, led by Kristine Quirante.
YouPoundit, Qwikwire bag Rice Bowl ASEAN Startup Awards
Ecommerce site YouPoundit and fintech startup Qwikwire won awards at the 2015 Rice Bowl Startup Awards in Kuala Lumpur on November 22, 2015. YouPoundit won the Retail Startup Award for being a consumer electronics retailer that curates brands, creates compelling content and focuses on customer service. Qwikwire, meanwhile was declared as Fintech Startup of the Year for its international bill payment platform that allows users to pay their bills in the Philippines using credit and debit cards, US ACH, or Bitcoin. YouPoundit was founded by Kristian Salvo in 2014, while Ray Refundo founded Qwikwire in 2013. It was Malaysian-based startup NeonRunner who won the top prize or Golden Rice Bowl Award, nailing the title ASEAN Startup of the Year, besting 32 other finalists. It provides a same-day on-demand delivery service in Malaysia.
SkyEye, Food Planner, Wave win Impact Hub awards
A week later on November 28, three Filipino startups SkyEye, Food Planner, and Wave, won in the finals of the Innovation in Mobility programme by startup accelerator Impact Hub Manila and logistics giant LBC Express Inc in Makati City. They emerged as winners for their ideas and solutions that attempt to address the current challenges in logistics and mobility. The teams received P200,000 each and an intensive three-month Cohort phase, which includes living stipend, training and mentorship, skill development, access to quality work space, and other valuable start-up support. Impact Hub Manila co-founder LizAn Kuster said a grand prize winner will be chosen among them in March 2016 and will be awarded with a unique opportunity to further scale and propagate its enterprise. Wave is a community-based ridesharing service, Food Planner is a post-harvest food processing initiative, and SkyEye offers alternative solutions in surveying various land and properties.
1Export, Wattsmart & Croo to compete for Mobile Challenge Asia-Pac awards
On December 9, 1Export, Wattsmart, and Croo won the Mobile Challenge Asia Pacific (MCAP) Philippines 2015 and have advanced to the regional finals in Hawaii in 2016. Wattsmart provides a mobile energy monitoring system meant to help households on energy management, while Croo serves as a safety product composed of day-to-day accessories which enable users to trigger an application that will inform their loved ones via SMS if they are in emergency situations. The MCAP is a regional competition organised and launched by J-Seed Ventures, IE Business School, and Applied Innovation Institute last September 2015. It brings together entrepreneurs from nine Asian countries, including Hawaii, to meet and compete in order to qualify for three places at the GSMA Barcelona Conference World Finals every year. The challenge is to design the best mobile-related applications, software and hardware.
SALt founder shares stage with Obama, Jack Ma at APEC summit
Also last December, Aisa Mijeno, founder of the multi-awarded startup Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt), took center stage with US president Barack Obama and Chinese internet billionaire Jack Ma at a dialogue session during the Asia Pacific Economic (APEC) Summit 2015 forum in Manila, where Obama served as moderator. Obama and Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, marveled at SALt’s electro-chemical LED lamp that runs on saltwater and can charge low-power mobile devices. The product uses the science behind the galvanic cell, the basis for battery-making, changing the electrolytes to a non-toxic, saline solution. They sell the product at around $20 and could provide light at about eight hours a day in six months, before replacing a consumable anode inside which they sell for around $3. Mijeno said a support system is highly needed in the entrepreneurship space in the Philippines, noting Filipinos have the passion, talent, and technology ideas that can help solve relevant issues in different industries.