“You know when you go to a carnival, and you sign-up for the roller coaster ride — that’s going to be a series of ups and downs. But somewhere in there, you’re gonna think, ‘why, why did I get on this ride?’ And sometimes, you’re going to be in some places on track where you think it’s exhilarating and exciting, and you’re absolutely freakishly happy to be there. Well, that’s kinda what we all signed up for – the highs and the lows, for the moments where we are in abject terror because we have no control nor idea about what’s going to happen next.” #startupPH #kickstartPH
Squadzip, a mobile-first software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for productivity and collaboration that applies the ease of use and familiarity of popular social media platforms to a sales and project management context, received an undisclosed amount of funding from corporate venture capital firm Kickstart Ventures and Silicon Valley-based seed-stage investor and innovation platform Plug and Play Tech Center.
Squadzip is the first co-investment between Kickstart Ventures and Plug and Play Tech Center. This also marks the first investment of Plug and Play Tech Center in the Philippines.
Squadzip was inspired by CEO and co-founder Roman Mercado’s own frustrations in using productivity solutions while he was working in enterprise sales for medical, banking, and digital media industries.
In his corporate life, Mercado saw many corporations sink huge amounts of money into enterprise solutions, the implementation of which meant high upfront fees, hardware cost, complex user trainings, and time delays. These solutions ranged from the free to typically expensive legacy enterprise platforms. The situation prompted Mercado to tap colleague and now CTO and co-founder Joaquin Barandino to help build Squadzip, a productivity tool for businesses that allows teams to communicate in real-time and share data without having to endure lengthy forms.
“For our enterprise customers, Squadzip is like their own private company social media platform and wiki. Activities are posted in real time on a live feed which are time- and location-stamped, while business intelligence is captured from each post to be classified and organized easily and in real time into Intel Pages. Also, sales teams involved in specific deals can collaborate and access data from anywhere in the world,” said Mercado.
Mercado and Barandino capitalized on the Filipinos’ proclivity for social media apps in a bid to ensure easy adoption by those assigned to use Squadzip. Instead the traditional task- and form-based paradigm commonly seen in other solutions, they created a hashtagging system called “ziptags” based on natural reporting behavior which allows users to quickly categorize, search, and retrieve data on customer histories, competitors, and service issues as well as added powerful geolocation and timestamp features that allow businesses to know what is going on and where it is happening.
Mercado further shared: “We make it a point to work closely with each client to make sure we remain responsive to actual needs and pain points they go through in their day-to-day operations. Our customers today use Squadzip to locate, monitor, and track sales teams remotely; capture and organize valuable customer data, service issues, and leads seamlessly; and analyze sales funnels, monitor ongoing projects, and track performance. ”
Since July 2014 when Squadzip was adopted by their first paying enterprise client, it is now in smartphones carried by teams traveling to different parts of the world. Squadzip is being applied in various use cases including sales, customer relationship management, and project management.
Enrique Miguel Valles, Mida Food Distributors president and chief operating officer, is an early user of Squadzip. His company signed up after experiencing unending difficulties in monitoring frontline itineraries resulting to lost opportunities and unanswered leads.
“Squadzip helped us implement a quicker response time: rapid deployment of sales reps as soon as needed by clients, better inter-department communication, and a more strategic approach to itinerary planning, all of these resulting to a record-breaking 2nd half of 2014,” Valles stated. Their use of Squadzip resulted to a year-on-year top line sales increase by 20%.
Another enterprise client, Apo Floors, a local manufacturer of vinyl and luxury resilient flooring, is on its 2nd year using Squadzip. Their vice-president and general manager Alfredo Mamonong shared that Squadzip allows them to save information on customers, companies, competitors, products, opportunities, and projects in real-time which become helpful references for decision-making.
Squadzip is, likewise, a perfect fit for companies with teams working in different parts of the country. Maria Ceres Reano, Broadchem Pharmaceuticals head of product research and development, is able to work with her mobile teams while out in the field dealing with agricultural corporations and farms.
“Using Squadzip has allowed Broadchem to remotely monitor and review activities of our territory managers and the status of their on-going promotions and projects,” said Reano.
Kickstart Ventures, Plug and Play Tech Center co-invest
In just 18 months since they started, Squadzip has already gained a portfolio of enterprise users across multiple industries. The funding from Kickstart Ventures and Plug and Play will enable the founders to further improve their product and scale distribution here and abroad.
“CRM remains to be an interesting space for Plug and Play. Particularly those with very creative solutions in enhancing the user experience and interphase, like Squadzip. Its approach to ease of use and intuitive tagging of information I believe is key to its success. Squadzip is the first investment of Plug and Play in the Philippines so we’re excited to work with Roman and his team and we hope to accelerate Squadzip’s potential globalization, possibly to become the next Salesforce or Sugar,” said Jojo Flores, Co-Founder and Vice-President. Plug and Play engages over 300 corporations in Silicon Valley.
Minette Navarrete, president of Kickstart Ventures, a wholly-owned venture capital subsidiary of Globe Telecom also welcomed the addition of Squadzip in their investment portfolio. “Squadzip is an enterprise solution designed to be frontline-focused, and architected to be enterprise-grade. Frontliners and head office management share the goal of growing their business, delivering great quality service to customers, and sharing information in real-time, frequently over multiple locations,” she said.
She added: “Squadzip’s intuitive user interface makes it easy for distributed teams to collaborate and report information; and the back-end keeps it simple for management to make good decisions and communicate these quickly. This balance makes Squadzip a powerful tool in business development in today’s fast-paced environment.”
With the funding we’ve received from Kickstart and Plug and Play, Mercado expressed confidence that they are in an even better position to help more businesses serve their customers better and faster while saving them time and money.
Singtel Innov8 has announced a new program which opens doors for startups to collaborate with Singtel to create innovative solutions for business challenges faced by the Singtel Group, which includes leading Philippine telecommunications company Globe Telecom.
Through Singtel Innov8 Connect, which was launched on January 12, selected startups will receive up to S$75,000 to test and validate their solutions with Singtel. Successful solutions may lead to commercialisation with the Singtel Group, providing startups access to the Group’s customer base which includes both enterprises and consumers and over 575 million mobile customers across Asia, Australia, and Africa. They will also have the opportunity to seek funding from Singtel Innov8 and tap on its network of co-investors and partners across the globe.
The move is a step forward from the existing initiatives across the Singtel Group, where affiliates run programs that actively support startups and entrepreneurship
programs. Globe Telecom in the Philippines, for example, has Kickstart Ventures, a corporate venture capital firm that makes investments in digital startups ranging from Seed to Series “C” stages. Other startup-oriented initiatives are run in affiliate operators AIS in Thailand, Telkomsel in Indonesia, and Optus in Australia.
Kickstart in particular runs two funds: Fund 1 is the original US$5Million seed-to-early-stage investment fund focused on startups that originate in the Philippines with an ambition to expand at least regionally; and Fund 2, announced in March 2015, is its US$50Million growth stage fund focused on strategically-aligned startups anywhere in the world. Demonstrating collaboration across the Singtel group, Kickstart last year invested along with Singtel Innov8 in Teridion, an Israel-based startup focused on network optimization and content acceleration.
“This development not only serves as another opportunity for Philippine startups to penetrate the global market and realize their global growth aspirations but also gives Globe and the rest of the Singtel Group a chance to benefit from the innovations that these startups may bring. Kickstart’s mission is to break down barriers and to build bridges to enable close and relevant engagement between the business community and the startup founders. Working with Singtel on Innov8 Connect will drive that goal forward,” said Minette Navarrete, President of Kickstart.
Kickstart is a founding member of Innov8 Sparks, Singtel’s network of startup support and funding initiatives across Southeast Asia. It currently has 25 portfolio companies with various products and services encompassing SaaS (Software as a Service), e-commerce, social impact, digital lifestyle, FinTech, and HealthTech, several of which have already ventured to other countries.
Edgar Hardless, CEO of Singtel Innov8 said: “Since Innov8’s launch in 2010, we have invested and partnered with many talented startups globally to help them expand their businesses and introduce innovative technologies to the Singtel Group.”
“Entrepreneurs are looking for problems to solve. This programme enables Singtel to share real-world business challenges and invite solutions from startups globally. It is an excellent opportunity for startups to work directly with Singtel’s business units and validate their solutions,” he added.
Mr. Peter Ho, CEO of Hope Technik, a Singtel Innov8 portfolio company said: “The investment and support from Singtel Innov8 have really helped Hope Technik punch above its weight class. Through Singtel, we have a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by large enterprises, which allows us to create more relevant and impactful solutions.”
As the venture arm of the Singtel Group, Singtel Innov8’s mandate is to scout for and provide the Group with insights and early access to emerging technologies, as well as to nurture the innovation ecosystem in Southeast Asia. Innov8 Connect is part of Singtel Innov8’s initiatives to create greater awareness for Singtel’s innovation agenda and engagement with startup ecosystems.
Through the Innov8 Connect portal (innov8connect.com), Singtel Innov8 will publish briefs detailing various business challenges. startups with relevant solutions are welcomed to submit their applications through the portal. Selected startups will then be invited to pitch to a panel of management representatives from the Singtel Group. After a rigorous selection process, one company per brief will be chosen to work with Singtel to trial its solution.
The first set of 10 project briefs are focused on business challenges in areas such as enterprise cloud, smart and safe city and customer experience. The briefs are now open for submission from all startups in the Philippines and across the globe at http://innov8connect.com.
Lifetrack Medical Systems (LTM), a healthtech startup that provides quality interpretation of radiology diagnostic images for hospitals and clinics, recently announced that it had closed a round of funding from strategic investors, including the Philippines’ Kickstart Ventures, Inc.
Radiology readings are increasingly critical in medical diagnosis, especially in the detection of orthopedic and soft tissue conditions. Most hospitals and medical practitioners require data from procedures such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI tests but there are too few experts in the field. This shortage is nowhere more felt than in developing countries like the Philippines and Indonesia, where there is typically a 10- to 30-fold lack of radiologists per capita versus the developed countries, and where experienced radiologists make up 1% or so of the total practitioners.
Lifetrack addresses the shortage of radiology experts via their unique radiology software platform with a two-fold value proposition: increased efficiency in radiology reporting and more radiology knowledge workers trained.
Lifetrack’s platform complies with global Radiology Information Systems (RIS) and Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) standards used by all leading computer imaging providers like Siemens, Philips, General Electric and thereby, allows interoperability with existing systems and equipment of hospitals.
The company’s unique browser-based radiology software with onsite and cloud-based servers offers hospitals and clinics the ability to leverage their existing radiologists with their efficient approach to radiology reporting while also providing on-demand access to a pool of radiology experts, thereby helping improve patient care at an affordable cost. The platform’s radiology software contains context-sensitive decision support which helps improve existing radiologist’s skill sets while also making the platform perfect for learning institutions’ Continuing Medical Education courses and subspecialty training.
“Part of our advocacy is to reverse the brain drain, which we’ve seen far too long in the country’s healthcare industry. Through Lifetrack’s affordable software and professional services, we can bring in radiology studies from around the world to be read by Filipino radiologists based here. This, in turn, can lead to attracting high-income knowledge-based jobs from overseas to local radiologists. In fact, we have already brought in at least 50 medical jobs from abroad” said Eric Schulze, founder and chief executive officer of Lifetrack.
He further added, “We do struggle in finding people with domain experience in radiology IT but since we engineered our software to meet the needs of our target market, we end up mentoring more people to develop those skills.”
The system is so unique that Duke NUS, a collaboration between Duke University and the National University of Singapore, is using it in partnership with Lifetrack to provide sub-specialty certification and training to radiologists throughout the region. Duke NUS Medical school is also using Lifetrack to train their medical students in interpreting pediatric chest X-rays.
Schulze expressed confidence that with the strong backing from Kickstart, Lifetrack will be much closer to achieving its goals. “The people at Kickstart are wonderful mentors and can draw upon a wide range of experience and resources to help us find new clients, as well as build out our infrastructure and human resource needs. We are always looking for referrals for new hospitals and clinics — clients who want to experience 24/7 coverage and high-quality fast reporting turnaround time.”
Kickstart, in turn affirmed Lifetrack’s vision of improving healthcare services globally. “The world’s healthcare systems have not scaled in step with the world’s demographic development. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a developed or emerging market: the sad truth is, there are not enough resources to offer the quality and speed of diagnosis and treatment that everyone needs. Lifetrack can help improve healthcare systems globally, deploying a concentration of skilled diagnosticians and making them available to hospitals on-demand, reducing patient waiting time, hospital costs, and the risk of misdiagnosis,” said Kickstart president Minette Navarrete.
Lifetrack is based on the experience of building a successful US-based teleradiology company founded by Schulze in 2003, which he subsequently sold in 2011. The undertaking gave Schulze valuable insights on how to do efficient radiology while being freed from the constraints present in existing legacy RIS/PACS systems.
Kickstart Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Globe Telecom, has made 24 investments globally. It is committed to accelerating the growth of new businesses and entrepreneurs in the digital technology space, as well as co-creating a dynamic innovation ecosystem in the country.
Local digital startups under the portfolio of Kickstart Ventures, Inc., a wholly-owned venture capital firm of Globe Telecom, are expected to benefit significantly from the recently announced partnership among the startup innovation arms of Singtel (Singtel Innov8), Orange (Orange Fab), Deutsche Telekom (hub:raum), and Telefónica (Telefónica Open Future).
The four telecom giants have joined forces to bridge the startup ecosystems across Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East with the aim of catalyzing the growth of eligible startups and launching them beyond their respective home markets.
“We are excited over this development since this global mutual support network is especially relevant to our own startups which have global growth aspirations. Singtel, Orange, Deutsche Telecom, and Telefonica are a formidable partnership covering all of the planet. We couldn’t have better telecom partners to start a global journey with,” said Minette Navarrete, President of Kickstart.
She added: “It is Kickstart’s role to build bridges to enable close and relevant engagement between the business community and the startup founders. Thus, working with other incubation and investment companies drives that goal forward, fostering collaboration and creating a startup community that goes not only beyond the Philippines’ borders but even beyond Southeast Asia.”
Kickstart currently has 22 portfolio companies with various products and services encompassing SaaS (Software as a Service), e-commerce, social impact, digital lifestyle, FinTech, and HealthTech, several of which have already ventured to other countries.
The partnership benefits are available to startups supported by hub:raum, Orange Fab, Telefónica Open Future, and Singtel Innov8, as well as all members of Innov8 Sparks – a network of startup support and funding initiatives across Southeast Asia, founded by members of the Singtel Group including Kickstart.
Select startups will have the opportunity to tap the resources and network of the said telecom leaders. This includes market insights, introductions to partners, the use of co-working spaces, and access to the companies’ operating businesses as well as gain access to all operators’ collective mobile customer base of over one billion people across the globe.