PH startup Hiraya mulls regional expansion

Winning a local startup competition and gaining recognition in the region, Philippine-based startup Hiraya Water Solutions Inc is looking at expanding abroad, even as it continues to draw interest from investors. In an interaction with DEALSTREETASIA, Hiraya Water CEO Stephen Larcia explains their new-found solutions which he claims can address man serious problems that has been hounding water utilities for decades. Edited excerpts:

What is it about your company and what led to its founding? 

We call our company Hiraya Water. We provide smart water management solutions to water utilities. Our first product is called R-TAP (Real-time Adjusting Pump System), a pressure management tool that helps water utilities reduce their water loss due to leakage and their power consumption, among others. All of the founders are from Maynilad, the biggest water company in the Philippines. The idea started with Mark Stanley Cleto, our COO and one of the founders. His capacity as the head of Electro-mechanical Design of Maynilad included being in-charge of evaluating all equipment purchases of the company. He was aware of what the current technology and what the market offered. He was able to identify a gap and from that gap came about the concept of R-TAP.

How was your startup’s journey?

Everything started when we won in IdeaSpace. We had a successful proof of concept of R-TAP in one of the small villages in Muntinlupa, where we recovered 25% of water lost due to leakage. Right now, we have two demo installations, with promising prospect of significant savings for the two water utilities. Within just a few months of operation, we have already clinched agreements for demo installation with seven different water utilities. Aside from winning IdeaSpace, we were also fortunate to have been selected by IBM as one of the top six startups in Southeast Asia which were invited to participate in the IBM SmartCamp ASEAN in October 2014 in Singapore. There we met several potential investors, mentors and connectors, some of whom have been helping us even after the camp. We have also caught the attention of a number of potential partners, both local and foreign.

What is your company’s status right now?

At present, we are working on the installations for the initial group of water utilities who have agreed for a demo. We are also talking to several investors and partners to help us with the demos in the coming months and fuel our marketing and sales moving forward.  We’re discussing with two potential partners and we cannot disclose the names of the companies until agreements are forged. One is an automation company that offers a technology for automating water and waste water treatment and the other one offers water filtration products. Locally, we are looking at partnering with three system integrators that may help us in case we pursue distribution through intermediaries.”

What are your future plans for business expansion?

We wish to serve other markets outside the Philippines in two years’ time. We also expect by then to develop our second product in the pipeline.

What do you expect of the startup space in the Philippines this year and beyond?

A few years ago, no one was talking about startups in the Philippines. Now everyone seems to have an interest in starting their own. A lot of my friends have been asking me for advice as they are to start developing their startup idea. And I see this interest growing more in the coming years. The average age of Filipinos is 23.The youth comprise a big part of the population and technology adoption here has been accelerating in the recent years.

What’s the effective pitching strategy for you?

I always think of two things: vision and execution. I should first get across our motivation of why we are here: to solve a problem that we believe we can solve or can contribute to solving. Then I lay out how exactly we are doing that. And this should be done explained with a certain level of detail and clarity.

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.