Innovation

Maintaining Relevant in the 21st Century

I was the outlier in a program designed for STEAM graduates. I fought for my slot because I believe that this is where the world is going and I want to remain relevant in a world that will be shaped by AI, blockchain, CRISPR, etc.

AIM’s Master of Science in Innovation and Business transforms students from STEAM professionals into value-creating innovators by building on their technical knowledge. By the end of the program, students will have the business acumen they need to market their products, solve real-world problems, and make sound business decisions. Apply now and be part of MSIB Class of 2019.

aim.edu

 

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Finance, Innovation

KayaCredit – The First AI-Powered Credit Scoring Service for the Unbanked

“Raise a glass for (financial) freedom”

On Philippine Independence Day, we formally launch KayaCredit (http://kayacredit.com), the first AI-powered credit scoring service for the vast majority of Filipinos who remain unbanked but are economically active.

Together with Bayad Center and our other partners, we have access to the alternative data of 32 million Filipinos who perform regular transactions like paying their bills, loading their phones, sending and accepting remittance, and performing other financial transactions that can tell us about their credit worthiness. Using machine learning, we generate a credit score that is indicative of the borrower’s repayment behavior.

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With this, hard working Filipinos who do not have credit history can access cheaper credit and can choose the best offer from our trusted partner lenders through our loans marketplace.Our team is working with some of the biggest lenders locally and abroad to spur financial inclusion. We will reach 1 million users and lend out 15 billion pesos by the end of the year.

And we are just getting started. We have other projects in the pipeline which we’ll launch in “VIP” — Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines – home to 500 million people with median age below 30 and fast rising incomes. Through finance and technology, we aim to meet the needs and aspirations of the world’s emerging middle class.

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Innovation

Dr. Strange, Thanos and Disruptive Innovation

During a meeting with a partner earlier, I felt like Dr. Strange when he had no choice but to give up the time stone to Thanos. When the news was dropped, it felt like the air is being sucked out of me and chain smoking a pack of cigarettes was the only way to survive. Signed a non-disclosure agreement so I can’t speak any of it, but all I can say is that a critical “time stone” that gave us advantage over our behemoth of a competitor – Thanos – has been shared to them. It was originally exclusive to us.

On my way home, I was trying to think of a way to manoeuvre our product and outsmart our competitor. “Thanos” has more money, bigger team, has been ahead of us for 3 years, and has built enough traction to claim billions in their portfolio. A normal hero would easily back down, but not Dr. Strange. After eight seconds of meditation to foresee the million ways of how this battle will end, with only one scenario of us rising as the winner (kidding), I realized that we were exactly built for moments like this. This is where my MSc in Innovation and Business will come in handy. Had to put on another face of a superhero. Dr. Strange is out, and Captain Marvel is in.

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I remembered some lessons that we had from our Disruptive Innovation class by Prof Toby Canto. He gave us a reading from Harvard Business Review where Clayton Christensen, the original guy who coined disruptive innovation, explained why it is important to define what kind of innovation you are pursuing, where you are now and how to combat incumbent behemoths like “Thanos.”

“Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Specifically, as incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding (and usually most profitable) customers, they exceed the needs of some segments and ignore the needs of others. Entrants that prove disruptive begin by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality—frequently at a lower price. Incumbents, chasing higher profitability in more-demanding segments, tend not to respond vigorously. Entrants then move upmarket, delivering the performance that incumbents’ mainstream customers require, while preserving the advantages that drove their early success. When mainstream customers start adopting the entrants’ offerings in volume, disruption has occurred. [Click here for the full article at HBR]

When you hear disruptive innovation, you may think of Airbnb, Spotify or Netflix, but innovation does not always involve the technologies that we are familiar today. You can also include community colleges, retail medical clinics and discount retailers as entrants that disrupted the education, hospital and department store industries.

Right now, we are that small entrant to a market dominated by “Thanos”. Disruption is inevitable, like the rise of Captain Marvel in Avengers 4. I guess for the weekend, I need to get back to the drawing board and restrategize to find a way to knock the gloves out of Thanos. I only wish we had more superheroes in the team. That meeting lit the fire under my ass and work just got more exciting.

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Innovation

Easier to Apologize Than Ask For Permission

One of the first things that we learned in grad school was that it is easier to apologize than ask for permission. Before you raise your eyebrows, you have to understand the context.  This idea was shared to us during our design thinking class, sparked by a video from Ideo – a design and innovation company.

Are Ideo employees allowed to bring bicycles inside the office and hang it at the ceiling? There were no rules against it so someone just did it, and the rest started following. Were we allowed to drink alcohol inside class? Well, one professor didn’t mind cause it gets our creative juice flowing. Just do it.

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Our class has always been encourage to think of wild ideas, and that sometimes entails going outside of the usual conventions to create something novel. Having stringent rules will just stifle innovation.

I remembered this idea because during my talk for Shirtly, someone asked if we are allowed to make designs inspired by foreign series or movies like Infinity War. Half of the crowd were graphic designers, so this is a sensitive topic for them. I have my own store where the designs are inspired by Stranger Things, and I didn’t ask any permission from anyone. I gave the usual answer in business school – it depends.

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It depends on the risk that you are willing to take. And yes, it is easier to apologize than ask for permission. If Stranger Things asks us to shut our store down, then I would gladly do it. I remember one Shirtly store that was threatened with a law suit by a university because they violated copyright laws. The owner shut down his store, and no one was brought to court. At the end of the day, that guy earned because he took a risk.

Then someone asked if we’re allowed to use the lyrics of local bands in our shirts? Now I think that will be more risky since it is easier for them to sue you, but on the other hand, you might doing the band a favor by promoting their song. Maybe they can get a cut from every shirt sold? It depends.

Last week, I started wearing shorts in the office because it is summer and the weather can be unbearable. I asked permission from our CEO and he’s cool with it, but I’m not so sure if my outfit will pass the stringent building policy. Well, I am on the edge of getting a heat stroke so you just have to do it and apologize if needed.

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Innovation

Hard Lessons from Not Prototyping

Despite several exercises and reminders in grad school about the need to prototype, I somehow went ahead with a project and allowed our engineers to develop it without validating the workflow to our institutional clients.

The development team worked on the website for months. I was confident to go ahead with it because the concept was received warmly by our clients during initial meetings.  I thought to myself that prototyping might be a waste of type because they want our product. I was dead wrong. When we showed the full website, there were a lot of issues that they want to be rectified if they want to sign up as a partner.

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We could have saved a lot of time, effort and money if we first created a prototype that clearly shows how the website will flow. From that prototype, we receive feedbacks, iterate, show it again, iterate, until it fits the needs of the market. Then you develop.

I was blindsided because of the excitement that we got from the clients when we pitched the idea. They were lining up to use the website, until they saw how it flowed. Clearly, words are not enough to convey an idea.

So earlier, I worked from home to finish our prototype via the Marvel App. It’s very easy to use. My classmates used this often for our projects, so I was somehow familiar with it. You just need to layout the pages, for me I did ours in Photoshop, then through the app, you create the links.

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If you’re not good with rendering the layout on your computer, you can use the app Prototyping on Paper. Draw out how the pages will look like, take pictures of it, then create the links with the pictures you took.

Aside from validating the product with your customers, you can also use the prototype as a guide for the engineers and QA when they are developing the site. The communication process will certainly be faster because your team gets to experience the instructions.

I take full responsibility of delay. We have another upcoming project related to what we’re building, and a mobile app for both projects are also somewhere in the roadmap. I’m definitely making a Marvel version first before we go head with the development to save tremendous amount of time and effort. It’s a good learning experience though.

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Innovation, Personal

Of Camels and Space Travels

I’m excited for the next few days! We’ll be in Doha for about a week and I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that I can ride a camel in the desert. I might even watch Sex and the City 2 just to get myself in the mood. Cause it was shot in Dubai and they were riding camels and having picnics in the desert.

We’re going to Qatar because of their annual research conference. I’m looking forward to meeting some of the companies that are trailblazers in their respective industries – especially those who deal with space travel! One of which is Gilmour Space whose goal is to provide low-cost access to space, and to enable human spaceflight and exploration. Decades from now, your company outing might actually on the moon!

Infostellar is a company that also supports space travel by creating a deep space internet for a spacefaring humankind. Makes sense. How else will you Instagram back to Earth your selfies with Saturn’s rings if you don’t have internet, right?

Since we’re in the topic of space, it might be worth mentioning a quote that I really like from Stephen Hawking. “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”

Westerlund 2 — Hubble’s 25th anniversary image

The Hubble telescope reveals that there are at least 100 billions of galaxies in the universe, maybe even double that as tech for telescopes progress.In a galaxy, there might be 100 thousand million stars. I can’t even fathom the number, much more the intricacies of each of those galaxies. One cannot help but think that there may be other lifeforms out there and I would want to live long enough to not just understand, but experience the universe itself.

Since I’m so pumped up for this trip, I even bought a new camera, also as an advanced birthday gift for myself. I’ve been shooting before using a DSLR so handling this entry level Fujifilm mirrorless camera won’t be a problem.

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So there, I’m quite excited to ride camels and pick the brains of the startups who deal with space travel. The next days might be gruelling, but will still try to update this blog as often as I can.

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Finance, Innovation

Making a Dent Through Fintech

We were invited by the Qatar government itself to exhibit our fintech innovation in Doha for their annual research conference! I’m quite excited because it will be my first time in the Middle East, and there will be other tech companies who are “making a dent in the universe” with what they do – health, energy, robotics, space and humanity. We will also meet with a Filipino community there to explore opportunities for expansion.

I will be going my boss who dared to envision something crazy more than a decade ago. We will be there because of that vision and hopefully, it will pave the way for the unbanked to get more access to financial products to uplift their lives.

Steve Jobs famously said that “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

I was reflecting a few days back and I guess my experiences in commercial banking and development financing were pivotal in the role that I’m taking now. Include that my grad school course which focused on innovation. If you tell me back in college that in a decade, I will be involved in the fintech industry, I would have laughed at you because I got a C in our finance class despite a brilliant tutor and I was a laggard in adopting technology.

I feel the pressure to deliver a system that will make loans, investments and insurances more convenient and targeted even if one has no previous formal transaction history. It’s sort of a breakthrough because we’ll be using machine learning and companies have been lining up to use the product, even willing to be guinea pigs, even if we have yet to fully launch it.

I have always wanted to make an impact. I was able to do it in the lives of the thousands of people who benefited from the loans we released to rural banks and cooperatives, and to the people we trained financial literacy. You can only amplify that through tech.

We’ll be there from March 18 to 22. Drop me a message if you happen to be there!

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