Start-ups supporter looks forward to robust ecosystem


TANAUAN, Batangas-based Kezar Innovations Pte. Ltd. is a
believer in the Filipino talent. It is also bullish that one day a local
start-up can make waves in the global market.

Its CEO, Rey Edward V. Solicito, told the BusinessMirror
that developing start-ups is one way to build the economy. Doing so would not
only strengthen start-ups in the country but, at the same time, enhance
inclusivity in an economy where 22 million Filipinos, a fifth of the
population, live below the poverty line.

Members of the Kezar Team pose for posterity (from left) Director of Sales Jo Anne Paril, Cofounder and CEO Edward Solicito, Chief Marketing Officer Sean Lacar, Cofounder and Chief Financial Officer Paul Galacan and Chief Operating Officer Kat Chua.

Solicito said one of Kezar’s “amazing characters” is they
don’t believe in demographics. They want to harness the talent brought not only
by millennials but Baby Boomers, as well.

Solicito said that, unlike typical millennials, the people
in Kezar are not uber-eager to rush things to achieve success. Although Kezar
achieved its targets in a shorter span, he said it was accomplished because of
thorough planning and implementation of strategies to the letter.

What follows are Solicito’s views in response to questions
sent through electronic mail by the BusinessMirror.

BUSINESSMIRROR (BM): What motivates you to develop start-ups?

EDWARD SOLICITO (ES): What we are doing is for the Filipino.

Kezar Innovations, since the moment of its ideation and
conception, aims to be a pioneer in the upcoming Filipino technology
renaissance. Our business development firm fully believes that we are part of
something bigger and that we have a responsibility to prove to the world that
we can produce innovative and profitable start-ups.

Kezar believes that if we develop more successful
businesses, then the nation will start noticing and other Filipinos might be
inspired to go into technopreneurship, as well.

Moreover, Kezar tapped the right people who have the
competence and passion to work with them.

BM: Do you think it’s a millennial thing, of having such passion to
build start-ups?

ES: We believe that the start-up scene is never bounded
by demographics. Though Kezar as a company is mostly composed of technopreneurs
in their early twenties, we have mentors and investors [who] are Baby Boomers
and they are very engaged with what we are doing in all of our start-ups.

That being said, we also believe that passion itself is not
enough to build a start-up. A strong enthusiasm would definitely help you start
but without proper training, research and a strong team, your idea will never
achieve its highest potential.

BM: Is it right to say that millennials want to start young so they
can have enough room to bounce back immediately in case they experience
failure?

ES: We
believe that most millennial start-up founders use this mindset just to
convince themselves to finally step their foot past the door and start doing their
start-ups. This mentality is what pushes millennials to pursue their own
businesses because the idea of starting something from the ground up is
terrifying.

The distinction now happens because the successful founders
stop thinking about this immediately after foundation and they start focusing
on developing their businesses, all while the others will stick with that
mindset and will be performing half-heartedly, resulting to failure.

BM: Is it right to say that millennials are always in a hurry to get
to the top? In your case, do you want to rush things to achieve success?

ES: Not
always. We believe that every single person moves [at an] individual pace and
that there is no standard timeline for success. Someone might be a start-up
founder at 45, while one can be a CEO of a company at 23, but both are very
successful. We believe millennials have this “brand” because information moves
exponentially faster than what we have during the previous generations.
Oftentimes, millennials have this innate need to compare themselves with
others.

But rushing things often results to quality being
proportionally deteriorated. Therefore, it is really important to have
everything planned and organized.

In the case of Kezar Innovations, we were able to reach our
milestones within a very short amount of time, not because we rushed it but
because we have a very specific plan and we executed it to the letter.
Everything we do is well thought-out because we know that rushing will only
blur our vision and cloud our minds.

At Kezar Innovations, we’ve never missed any deadlines and
that, in return, rewarded us with the trust and confidence of our clients, our
stakeholders and the Filipino investment community.

BM: How did you build up the team? How did you motivate your former
interns to work for the company upon their graduation?

ES: The
Kezar team was built with a simple mindset: get people with the competence we
need and get people who share the same values. We all work with our own
specific skillsets, talents and interests. Thankfully, we all do our roles and
work efficiently. It takes a special type of work and personal dynamic to be
able to work as we do.

Kezar’s management committee consists of graduates of the
Asian Institute of Management’s Master of Science in Innovation and Business
program, while the programmers are Computer Science graduates from the First
Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities.

Our interns saw for themselves the potential of Kezar.
According to them, they loved being able to create new technologies for some of
the biggest corporations in the Philippines, as well as being involved in
creating new and exciting products for start-ups.

BM: Please trace the path toward the development of your portfolio.
Did it require a long deliberation to develop these applications?

ES: Kezar Atlas’s app process usually starts with an
ideation meeting with our clients where they discuss with the team all of their
technology requirements. Since we are building each and every technology from
the ground up, it allows us to offer them exactly what they want and need.

The ideation stage usually takes 20 days of back and forth
that includes three to four iterations of the proposal. Once the contract has
been signed, the 60-day development process starts. After 60 days, the
application is launched and is continuously maintained by the team.

BM: It says in your material that Trakaro advocates sustainable
travel. Does this mean Kezar is promoting sustainable tourism? Can you expound
on this aspect?

ES: With Trakaro, Kezar promotes sustainable tourism.
Trakaro: Sustainable Travels apps is a sustainability rating platform for
hotels, restaurants and other hospitality establishments. We have an
established number of metrics to measure sustainability, called the “Fylla
Rating.” With our platform, users can check, review and compare which
establishments are complying with metrics for sustainability.

Natural resources are a prime necessity in most, if not all,
industries. We are at the point wherein these resources are deteriorating,
barely meeting present needs and compromising the quality of environment and,
in totality, life. We are currently partnered with the Philippine Center for
Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Inc. and various projects
of the World Wildlife Fund. The food and hospitality industry are major players
in this. Thus, by promoting sustainability metrics and ratings, we can make a
large contribution in our communities. That said, the significance and
importance of sustainability metrics, ratings and practices can never be
overstated.

BM: What is the road map for Kezar3D printing? Are there plans of
scaling up operations of Kezar3D printing?

 ES:
Kezar3D’s objective is simple but noble: make 3D printing accessible to all
Filipinos. We aim to democratize 3D [three-dimensional] printing, accessibility
and awareness have always been a problem for most countries like ours. Imagine
a future when you just go to any mall, and you can have your prototype made by
Kezar3D, that is our goal, to have a rollout of 3D-printing stores and vendors
in malls and schools.

Having been able to hit the 120-percent ROI [return of
investment] within seven months, Kezar3D is now in preparation for expansion.
The goal is to be nationwide by Q3 [third quarter] of 2019.

BM: What are the plans for the Kezar Atlas?

ES: Our goal is to be one of the most notable mobile
application developers in the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]
region by 2019 and be able to provide technology for all industries in the
Philippines by 2021.

With Kezar Atlas, we want it to be the lead mobile app
development company that will support the fellow start-up community here in the
Philippines by creating their apps and proof of concepts.

As of today, we are already in the process of creating tech
for the following industries and sectors: agriculture, cosmetics, death care,
automotive, human resource management, artificial intelligence, and transportation.
Digital transformation is huge and the Philippines is lagging behind; here at
Kezar, we aim to provide that boost we need to catch up with other countries. 

BM: How much money is Kezar Atlas planning to raise in 2019?

ES: As of the moment, we cannot disclose any specific
plans regarding our funding rounds, albeit we can confirm that there is a
planned funding round within this year.

BM: Is frugality a vital characteristic of a start-up?

ES: In Kezar Innovations, it’s not necessarily being frugal,
but more on being wise with how we use our money. We have a saying that we
always repeat to the team and it’s “Spend money to make money.” We always have
to look forward, and see the use of every purchase. This way of thinking is the
same as making an investment or creating a new product. You ask yourself “How
can this help the business or the team? Will this aid or boost us to reach our
goal? Can we achieve one thing without another?”

We’re mostly engineers and this cost-benefit-analysis way of
thinking is what helps us make most of our monetary decision.

Image Credits: Kezar Innovations PTE. LTD.

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Rizal Raoul Reyes

Rizal Raoul S. Reyes has covered technology, science, business, property and special reports. He had working stints with the Business Star, Manila Bulletin and Independent Daily News.

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