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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.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 10, 2019
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