Limpag: Cebuano founder shares lessons in building startup

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Sunday, July 27, 2014


CEBU still lacks three key pieces to foster a strong startup ecosystem: a mentorship program, investors and government support. But when it comes to talent, Cebu has an abundance of people who have the knowledge and passion to build startups, said Tudlo founder and Kallfly co-founder Vince Loremia.

Loremia is among the success stories to come out of the Cebu startup scene. During the 2012 #SmartActs Cebu: A Hackathon for Social Good, he pitched an app to teach people how to prepare for disasters and guide them during emergencies. The app is named Tudlo for the Cebuano word that both means “teach” and “point.” Tudlo won the event.

Last year, he quit his work at NextIX to focus on building Tudlo. His team then worked with the Albay Provincial Government to deploy Pindot, a disaster management app tailored for the province.

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Last week, the next iteration of Tudlo was launched. Batingaw, which is Tagalog for “siren,” is a nationwide disaster management application deployed in partnership with Smart Communications, Inc. and government agencies dealing with disaster management.

Loremia said the next phase for Tudlo will be its incorporation in the US later this year. He said he wants “cross-pollination” with Silicon Valley in making the app a global service. The company also intends to apply for patents there as well as raise funds and market the product.

Apart from Tudlo, Loremia co-founded another startup with fellow NextIX alum Mark Lapuz called Kallfly, which is a service that allows companies to quickly setup their own call center on demand. Kallfly recently completed incubation with Singapore-based JFDI or the Joyful Frog Digital Incubator and is now building a portfolio of investors. The company now has nine clients with 25 business leads and 520 sign-ups for home-based call center agents.

But even with these two startups, Loremia said he still depends on freelance work to make a living. Although Tudlo now has revenues, Loremia said these are not recurring and not enough to support him going fulltime into the project. Kallfly, on the other hand, is in its early stage.

Loremia said many think going into a startup is similar to what people do in Silicon Valley and in Singapore, which is to quit their jobs and get investors. That won’t do in Cebu, he cautioned.

“You will just go back to your job,” he said, citing the state of the local startup ecosystem.

He said there’s another way to build a startup that is suited for a place like Cebu where there are still missing components to support tech entrepreneurship: bootstrapping. He said you can continue building your startup while working or freelancing and then go fulltime on your project only “when you already have investments and recurring revenues.”

He said a key lesson he learned while building his startups was the importance for software engineers like him to learn how to be entrepreneurs.

He takes pride in now knowing the business side of building a startup, which is “how to raise funds and run a company.”

“I think more engineers should go into entrepreneurship; it’s easy for an engineer to be a businessman but it’s hard for a businessman to be an engineer,” he said.

Loremia also said tech entrepreneurs should look for specific local problems to solve.

Cloning US-based tech products won’t work in the Philippines because there is “no unique value proposition.”

He also stressed the importance of passion in helping one succeed.

“It’s important to listen to yourself and to do it even if your family will discourage you, your wife will discourage you or the community will discourage you. If you’re passionate about your product and you really want to push through, that’s the important part,” he said.

(max@limpag.com/http://max.limpag.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 28, 2014.

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