Startup Weekend Cebu 2012

I was lucky to have been part of Startup Weekend Cebu that happened over the weekend. Held last May 11, 2012 at University of the Philippines Cebu, me and a few of my team mates came down to explore the startup scene in Cebu. I also helped out the organizers to get some some mentors and a judge for the event.

I’m no stranger to Startup Weekends and I’ve been part of a couple here in Singapore. One thing that I always look forward to is the pitches during the first night. Pitches give me a quick idea of what are the problems that people care about and think of and it’s something worth solving or spending time on.

During SW:Cebu over 40 pitches were given which lasted for over an hour. I love the diversity of crowd pitching. From professionals to students, people from different industries and nationalities. The mixture felt great and more experiences will be shared all throughout the event.

Over 40 participants lined up to pitch

I find that the pitch reflects the problems that the participants face. One thing that I observed was how the expats were trying to solve “first world problems” while most of the locals were pitching solutions for entertainment, solving simple problems, staying in touch with their families and such. Coming from the Philippines, I felt a big difference between the pitches. A couple of pitches that really stood out was one about how he can get the best deals for importing luxury cars to the Philippines and another one about how he can rearrange his DVD collections efficiently. These type of problems just strike me as “non problems” and it was quite interesting to see it being pitched in Cebu. Those type of pitches would’ve had a different reaction elsewhere, but in the Philippines where most of the people can’t afford cars, the pitch would be falling into deaf ears. I guess that’s where knowing your market well comes into play.

As the teams form up, the ideas got polished and everybody starts piling up.I wasn’t able to talk to all of them but I noticed that most of them has a great sense of design. Most of the teams were really prepared and some went there to get mentoring and feedback for their ideas.

Teams formed up and ready

One of the teams I talked to was Codetoki. I love the passion of the founder and how she wants to solve the issue of lack of industry knowledge in fresh IT graduates. Her idea was to provide a platform for students to reach out to IT professionals and bridge the gap between school and the industry. She hopes that students and industry professionals will help each other and increase the competent talent pool of IT professionals in the Philippines.

Can’t help myself take a photo with Swan Hat guy

I also talked to AppsXL. I was really impressed with their design capabilities and it showed through their presentation and product. AppsXL is creating a platform for mobile developers to easily create applications using native code through several ready made templates. A number of apps on the Appstore follow a standard template, so if you are a developer and want to create a quick app for one of your clients, you can just purchase a template from AppsXL, skin the app and you’re ready to go. I can imagine AppsXL being similar to wordpress theme makers like woothemes but for a more niche market. Although their final presentation wasn’t solid, I think there’s a market for the idea. I wasn’t really convinced on how they priced their templates, $100 for a template, as I think it was quite low. Hope to see more from AppsXL as demand for mobile applications is rising.

One of my own personal goals aside from knowing more about the tech scene in Cebu was meeting the community. I have to thank Tina Ampers and Ian Tusil for inviting us and making us feel welcome.

Tina is the founder of techtalks.ph, a technology meetup at Cebu. It’s a great way to meet the tech community in Cebu. Aside from her, I met some awesome guys from PhilDev, DevCon, MorphLabs, Kickstart Ventures by Globe, IdeaSpace by Smart, Microsoft, Google, a few local blogger communities and a lot more to mention.

I was excited to see all the support that everyone put in and I hope the teams that formed will continue building on their projects. From experience, some of the teams in Startup Weekend fizzle out but I hope the winning teams will continue on their projects and ship the products out for the market to try.

The winning teams at the end of the weekend were teams that focused on real problems. The first place winner was team WaitKnowMore. They are trying to solve the problem of waiting in line for common services like paying bills or waiting in line for the doctor. Their system will allow an establishment to inform a customer when it’s their turn in line while allowing advertisers to publicize deals for the customers waiting in line. There are existing systems like this out there, but I haven’t really seen or tried it personally. It’ll be great to see this properly implemented and give relief to waiting customers all over.

Keep yourself updated with the Startup Weekend Cebu team and their follow up events via their site at http://cebu.startupweekend.org/. If you are interested to support technology events in the Philippines, either in Cebu or Manila, feel free to ping me and I’ll try to connect you to the right persons.

P.S. Make sure you stop by Cebu’s natural wonders. We stopped by Matayupan falls and the view was breath taking. You always see waterfalls on TV, but being there in person feeling the breeze of the water in your face is just refreshing. Cebu has a lot more to offer so make sure you explore the wonderful island.

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