Jumpstarting small businesses

A GROUP of three 19-year-old information technology (IT) students has ambitions to help the country’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through digital crowdfunding.

Originally intended as their thesis at the University of San Jose-Recolletos (USJ-R), Mary KC Arante, Junvir Gabison and Ralph Tumulak want to take a step further and pursue the idea.

With 18 other startups, the group, accompanied by their thesis adviser Mark Cedric Antonino, attended the pre-launch of Launchpad Cebu yesterday and pitched Jumpstart to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Spring.ph, hoping to get a spot in the mentorship program.

In a country where access to finance is a hurdle for business, Jumpstart aims to become the go-to mobile application for MSMEs in need of funding of up to P100,000 to expand their existing businesses. Likewise, it also envisions to become a platform for those looking for other ways to earn passive income.

According to Gabison, the app’s interface is similar to dating app Tinder, where instead of persons, the app user or the investor swipes the screen left or right to see the business profile of the enterprise, including the nature of business, the amount that it intends to raise and its financial statements.

When the enterprise earns, Tumulak said investors will also get a portion of the revenues. Presently, however, this has yet to be agreed upon.

They presented an example of an Internet cafe seeking to add 10 more computers that would cost P100,000.

Needed support

An entrepreneur signs up his expansion project at Jumpstart for free. Interested investors who see his project can contribute P1,000 through online payment channels and get back their investments plus interest once the Internet cafe earns a return on investment.

“The MSMEs, they are the backbone of our economy, which comprise 99.5 percent of our businesses, but yet they are not getting enough support,” Arante said, who pitched the idea to the panel.

With Jumpstart, they hope MSMEs in the country get the needed financial support they require to expand and compete.

For now, the idea remains just that--an idea. But Arante and her team want to pursue it after graduation. None came from a family of entrepreneurs, but they want to become entrepreneurs themselves.

Asked how the team earns from such an endeavor, they said Jumpstart may collect premiums through the subsequent project postings of the entrepreneur, or get a small percentage of the investor’s contribution. They can also tap advertisements as a revenue stream.

The team was named a semi-finalist in Accenture’s Program the Future competition in July this year. They hope to become part of Launchpad to help them advance their advocacy for MSMEs.

Launchpad is a mentorship program organized by DTI and the Philippine Software Industry Association’s (PSIA) Spring.ph.

Planning ahead

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industy (DTI) Cebu said it will come up with a Cebu Startup Ecosystem Development Plan by the end of the year.

In an interiew at the sidelines of the pre-launching of Launchpad Cebu yesterday, DTI Cebu Director Maria Elena Arbon said the Cebu startup plan will be patterned after the existing National Startup Roadmap of the Department of Science and Technology.

Presently, the local trade chief said DTI Cebu has a preliminary database of local startups, and this will be further developed as the agency meets with more Cebu-based players.

The Cebu startup plan will be in consultation with the local startup community, which consists of industry players, government agencies, and the academe.

Mentors

After the completion of the Cebu startup plan, Arbon said DTI and stakeholders will create the Cebu Innovation Circle, which will consist of the Cebu business owners, the academe, industry experts, and local startups.

Cebu, according to Arbon, has the biggest number of startups after Metro Manila. With better support for startups, Arbon believes this will encourage more people to start their own endeavors.

Launchpad Cebu is DTI’s effort to foster digital entrepreneurship in the province in partnership with the Philippine Software Industry Association’s (PSIA) Spring.ph.

During the pre-launching yesterday, 19 startup groups pitched their ideas to DTI and Spring.ph and solicited advice from the mentors. The Launchpad event started in Manila four years ago, but this its first leg in Cebu.

The event will be formally launched in Cebu on Sept. 28 and 29 where the final list of startups will be announced. These startups will receive a six-month mentorship program with Spring.ph. As these startups progress, Spring.ph co-founder Joey Gurango said they will find potential angel investors for them.

The Philippine government, in its National Digital startup Roadmap, targets to have 500 startups in the country with total funding of $200 million and valuation of $2 billion by 2020.
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