A Batangas-based technology startup, established by young Asian Institute of Management students to propagate three-dimensional printing in the country and develop mobile apps for companies, has obtained a return on investments and turned a profit in less than a year without the support of an incubator.
Kezar Innovations, a Filipino startup incorporated in Singapore, will mark its 12th month of operations in March 2019 with P7.5 million in revenues and contracts. It is a milestone for any startup, as it took other technology ventures, including major internet companies and e-commerce sites in other countries, more than a decade to break even.
Kezar Innovations was incorporated in Singapore with the assistance of resident director Jan Michael Maluyo Leal on March 26, 2018. It was launched in the Philippines on April 7, 2018.
Kezar was incorporated in Singapore because of the country’s good environment for startups, says Edward Solicito, a co-founder and the chief executive of Kezar which operates from Tanauan, Batangas.
“We are doing well. We collected over P6 million in investments in the past year. We have secured P7.5 million in revenues and contracts,” says Solicito, an Industrial Engineering graduate from the First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities or Faith Colleges in Tanauan.
“We are among the few startups that broke even in the first year of operations,” Solicito, 24, says in an interview in Makati City.
Solicito leads a team of 10 young engineers, programmers and mobile app developers with an average age of 23. Most of the team members live in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Quezon and chose the City of Tanauan as their base of operations because of the affordable rent and the less traffic congestion in the area.
Kezar aims to be at the forefront of the renaissance of Filipino technology, he says. Solicito is among the four founding members who met at the Makati-based AIM as a part of the pioneer batch of Master of Science in Innovations and Business program.
The program allows technically skilled and driven individuals to address the world’s demand for technopreneurs and businessmen with innovative and profitable businesses. Solicito says the program equipped them to grow the business without the support of an incubation company.
“Kezar Innovations is a Filipino business development firm that turns innovative ideas into profitable businesses. The founders are graduates of MSIB, one of the newest programs at AIM. The idea is to get technopreneurs or tech-adept entrepreneurs to turn their inventions into businesses or ventures,” says Solicito.
“We graduated on Dec. 10, 2017. A part of the program was to create a startup in one year. One of those startups was StudyPlay, which is now a part of Kezar. We now have four startups under Kezar Innovations. We are fully funded for the next two years and we will be celebrating the first anniversary of the firm on April 6, 2019,” he says.
StudyPlay is an educational toy company which introduces modern educational toys from western countries such as Japan to Filipino kids. Solicito and Jon De Omaña presented StudyPlay during the MsIB Demo Day on Oct. 20, 2017 in front of more than 100 angel investors, venture capitalists, incubators and business executives. After a 15-minute pitch, StudyPlay’s pre-seed amount of P800,000 was secured from two investors. StudyPlay was the first startup under the MsIB program that was fully funded.
StudyPlay offers products such as easy-to-build robotics kits, 3D-printing gadgets and learning software. Its first toy is AirDoodle, a 3D pen designed to help in child development, allowing them to draw and create their own three-dimensional toys with plastics as ink alternatives.
“One of our products is AirDoodle which teaches 3D printing technology to kids. It is now available in Shopee and brick-and-mortar stores. We are expanding our toy lines. Our plan is to release one product every two or three months,” says Solicito.
He says another startup is Kezar 3D, now the largest 3D printing facility in southern Luzon. “The idea is we want to make 3D printing accessible to Filipinos. It is very costly to avail of 3D printing services in Metro Manila at P10,000 to P20,000 per piece. We were able to reduce the cost to one-fourth,” he says.
Kezar 3D was able to raise and secure P350,000 worth of funds in just 24 hours, without giving away equity. “We were able to secure funding for Kezar 3D within 24 hours. We just sent out some PowerPoint presentations. But of course, we studied the model for a long time. The Filipino investing community is just waiting there. If there is an all-Filipino startup idea, these angel investors are more than willing to support it,” says Solicito.
Solicito says Kezar 3D started operating in April 2018 and was able to reach a return on investments in November 2018, within seven months of operations amid high demand for 3D printing services and the rollout of its most popular product—the 3D Memory.
“We are finally making 3D printing accessible to Filipinos. We are trying to expand nationwide in 2019. We will have branches in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. We want to democratize 3D printing,” says Solicito.
The third startup is Trakaro: Sustaintable Travels—the first and only sustainability rating application for hotels and restaurants. Trakaro was actually founded in AIM by Solicito and Paul Galacan and was awarded the winning pitch for the institute-wide competition called the Tourism Challenge by AIM’s Center for Tourism.
The tandem received a cash prize of P150,000 from the Center for Tourism to continue the development of Trakaro, once they had finished their MS program. Trakaro became the first tech startup to be funded by the 50-year-old institute.
Trakaro developed a proprietary technology called the Fylla Algorithm. Through Trakaro, travelers can look for sustainable establishments, contact them and book their services.
“For the first time, we were able to create an algorithm under a partnership with AIM Center for Tourism. Based on their research, we were able to compile it and create an algorithm. We are focusing on hotels and restaurants. As of today, we are doing well with Trakaro,” he says.
The fourth startup is Kezar Atlas, a mobile app development company that creates mobile applications for corporate clients and other startups. “We guarantee that after 60 days, your app will be available on Apple Store or Google Play Store. Usually, a company takes a year or a year and a half to create it,” says Solicito.
Kezar Atlas developed mobile apps for various companies such as St. Peter Life Plan, the biggest deathcare services provider in the country. “We launched it in November. They were so happy and satisfied with the product that they are going to create another app with us,” says Solicito.
Kezar Atlas also offers the Startup Now, Pay Later program. “If you believe you in your startup, and the only thing that hinders you from being a good Filipino startup is funding and development of your tech, we will handle that for you. We will also help you in other business development concerns,” says Solicito.
Kezar Atlas developed Leggo, a scheduling app that syncs calendars and makes coordination easier among friends for plans and other get-togethers. Jesrael Cruz, Christian Casalme and Diether Tapat who are Computer Science graduates from Faith Colleges, are the pioneer programmers of the Kezar Atlas team.
Aside from Solicito, the other core team members of Kezar Innovations are Paul Galacan, a civil engineer from Mapúa Institute of Technology who serves as the chief finance officer; Jon De Omaña, an Information Technology graduate from Mapúa who is the chief technology officer; Sean Lacar, a computer engineering graduate from Ateneo de Manila University who is the chief marketing officer; Katherine Chua, an Industrial Engineering graduate from De La Salle University-Manila who is the chief operating officer; and Jo Anne Paril, a civil engineer from Mapua who is the director of sales.
Solicito says Kezar Innovations, which only started with P150,000 in funding, is among the rare 10 percent of startups that have succeeded within the first year of operations. For 2019, Kezar is targeting to secure at least P15 million in revenue by releasing StudyPlay’s new toy lines, expanding Kezar 3D printing services, activating Trakaro’s monetization, turning over 12 corporate mobile applications and software and selling technology consumables.
“To all Filipino entrepreneurs and innovators out there who want to venture into their own startup, start small. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be big. There hasn’t been a better time to be a tech entrepreneur in our country, may it be in the available technology or investments. If you know that you have an innovative idea, it is your obligation to yourself and to that idea to make something out of it,” says Solicito.
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