“Ideas are viable, but at the end of the day it’s action that matters,” said Jaime Hing III, co-founder and chief technology officer of payment gateway PayMongo, in a recent conference organized by Amazon Web Services (AWS), a cloud computing platform provider.
“You can start small, and you may encounter wrong turns, but I’m pretty sure you’ll learn along the way,” he said.
For Joshua Aragon, chief executive officer of Zagana.com, a platform that delivers fresh produce from farmers to consumers, knowing your purpose is the ingredient necessary for working towards what you want to achieve.
“When I hire people, I always ask what their personal mission is to make sure that it’s aligned with the company’s,” he said. “Build a good company culture. Why are you here? Whatever passes through that is the strategy to execute things in place.”
Zagana, which will launch its app soon, pivoted from a B2B to a B2C company soon after the first national lockdown in March 2020. Mr. Aragon noted the importance of empathy throughout that entire process: “Know what your customers are feeling… How can you help the community survive the pandemic?”
The pandemic has seen the rise of services in key areas like telehealth, fintech, and ecommerce. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in particular, witnessed early-stage funding growth in the first quarter of 2021, shared Digbijoy Shukla, business development lead of AWS’ startup ecosystem in the region. Pre-series A deals were up 64.1% year on year, he said, which AWS sees as an encouraging sign.
“E-commerce, from the backend, also enables a lot of other startups [to thrive], like those in fintech and logistics,” Mr. Shukla said.
Technological shifts have also made it cheaper to launch a startup. In 1999, it cost $5 million to launch one, according to entrepreneur-turned-venture capitalist Mark Suster; from 2010 onwards, the cost whittled down to $50,000. Cloud technology, in particular, has enabled lean startups to leverage technology to launch and scale fast and cost effectively.
Mr. Shukla said it was important for founders to be lifelong learners. “Even with a good mix of skills, [the skillsets needed] will change as the business adapts and pivots.”
Making the right technological choices is also key for a business to succeed. Being secure by design is an imperative, according to Mr. Shukla, and customer data should never be risked. “Customers are a privilege,” he said. “Can this be built securely before you go? If the answer is no, then find another way.”
Added PayMongo’s Mr. Hing: “Understand how a cloud provider can fit your needs. Our topmost priority was security, followed by reliability, ease of use, and cost. Check those factors and weigh the pros and cons.”
The fintech company, Mr. Hing shared, is looking into utilizing machine learning for accurate analysis of risk courses and patterns. “We want to provide a safer ecosystem,” he added.
The Philippines ranks 52nd in the Global Startup Ecosystem Index’s latest global startup ranking. Messrs. Hing and Aragon agreed that ease of doing business, as well as revisiting existing policies, will help spur the growth of the Philippine startup ecosystem.
“Hopefully, we can also create more policies to help build infrastructure like 5G connectivity and road networks [to help bring the produce down to Manila],” Mr. Aragon said. — Patricia B. Mirasol