COUPLE Nico and Terry Tuason’s two-year-old child loves to play on the iPad. This prompted them to look for educational games but they found only English titles meant for children in other countries, none for the Philippines.
Nico, an independent game developer, and Terry decided to make one for Filipino children. The two built Halina’t Bumasa, a startup that will create educational apps to promote early literacy and love for Filipino culture, and pitched it to IdeaSpace, the startup incubator and accelerator of the Manny V. Pangilinan group of companies.
Last Friday, Halina’t Bumasa was named one of 10 startups IdeaSpace will be incubating for 2015. The couple got P500,000 in seed funding and an equivalent grant amount in incubation services to turn Halina’t Bumasa into a sustainable business.
Terry said they will release the first app, which is in Filipino, in two to three months. Nico said they plan to sell it for between $1 and $3 since offering it for free and monetizing through ads is not an option because of privacy issues, especially that the users will be children.
Terry said they will also produce Bisaya, Ilonggo and other versions.
Making it to the top 10 was another education-related startup by another couple: FrontLearners by Leo and Elaine de Velez. FrontLearners is a platform for “blended learning,” where lessons are supplemented by digital resources. The platform still works even in areas without an internet connection, via a Wi-Fi access point that broadcasts the resource within the local area network of a school.
FrontLearners charges a per-student fee for private institutions but is free for public schools. The lessons are K-to-12 compliant, they said.
Leo said the program is also their way of giving back to the country since he and his wife are “iskolar ng bayan,” having graduated from Philippine Science High School and the University of the Philippines, where tuition is subsidized by the government, and getting Department of Science and Technology grants.
Leo used to work for Shell while Elaine was with Johnson and Johnson. They have retired and are working on FrontLearners, which used to be UberLessons, full time. Leo said they had to spend retirement money on it. The IdeaSpace funding will allow them to implement the program in more schools.
The De Velezes have long been working to use technology in education, starting with the use of animated GIFs for Math lessons with math-center.com in 1998 to a portal to share lesson plans and an online review center for Philippine Science High School.
The other startups that made it to the top 10 are Saffron Tech, which creates a wearable device (their prototype is a necklace) that will broadcast the wearer’s location in times of distress and emergencies; Heat Stress Analyzer, a team of students from Davao whose product allows farmers to monitor heat in crops to improve yield; Just Go, a startup that aims to build affordable e-trikes; Flexstrap, a strap that improves connecting customers’ water pipes to the main line; Vinteo, an analytics solution for brick and mortar shops that will monitor customers’ behavior inside the shop and provide analytics; Stream Energy, a device that generates power from a building’s water pipes using a water mill attached to the piping system; Zinergi, a portal that matches brands with events they can sponsor; and Fame, a tracker for aircraft, fishing vessels and small boats.
Pangilinan told the other startups that didn’t make it to the final 10 not to be discouraged. “Every failure is a step toward success,” Pangilinan said.
IdeaSpace co-founder Earl Valencia said the initiative is “another step to creating a Philippine economy powered by Science and Technology.”
Valencia said IdeaSpace was conceptualized to solve problems of the country. In evaluating startups, he said they always ask whether there is a need, a specific technology edge for the team, and a significant market size for the product or service.
IdeaSpace co-founder Marthyn Cuan said that in this year’s batch, they “front-loaded a lot of the support” to startups, making the process the “equivalent to an incubation.” Each team got P50,000 to build a prototype for final judging.
Valencia said that this year, IdeaSpace got more than a thousand applications. There were entries from 15 countries outside the Philippines.
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