By Alithea De Jesus
Identifying the potential of various start-ups and their unique roles in shaping a better tomorrow, Shell officially launched theLiveWIRE program last September 2020 in collaboration with the Philippine government. Shell LiveWIRE provides the next generation of innovators with opportunities for mentorship, financial assistance, technical expertise, and a chance to be part of Shell’s supply chain.
The PitchFest culmination for the 2020 search for startups was held last December 4 via Zoom and hosted by RJ Ledesma. Three local tech companies were chosen out of 155 candidates to participate in a start-up bootcamp: uHoo, which measures air quality in order to safeguard and enhance people’s health; Next Pay, a digital banking platform aimed specifically for small and medium-sized business owners; and Nanotronics, which reduces plastic products while protecting the environment.
While all groups exhibited immense potential, Nanotronics was named the grand winner of this year’s Shell LiveWIRE program—taking home a cash grant of PHP500,000.
“Great ideas are among the best investments any sector or company can make. Since launching LiveWIRE in the Philippines, we’ve seen hundreds of entrepreneurs apply to the program, and it proves that there’s so much more to be done at the grass-roots level to nurture businesses,” said Cesar Romero, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pilipinas Shell.
The panel of judges for this year also included Sankie Simbulan, Country Social Performance and Investment Manager of Shell Philippines; Sebastian Quiniones, Executive Director of Pilipinas Shell Foundation; Love Gregorie Perez, Director of XCHANGE; Nelly Dillera, Executive Director of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); and Emmy Lou Versoza-Delfin, Director of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
“The pandemic has shown us the importance of digital transformation and how the public needs to adapt—not just to survive, but thrive in this new ecosystem,” enthused Director Delfin. “We should all work towards creating a globally-recognized Philippine start-up ecosystem.”
Since 1982, Shell LiveWIRE has been the energy industry leader’s global enterprise development program. To date, it has cultivated more than 1,300 businesses in 20 countries—from Argentina and Egypt, to Indonesia and now the Philippines for the first time.
Romero continued, “Most entrepreneurs still lack the resources to reach their full potential, especially as they adapt to a digital world. We bridge that gap by connecting them with government and fintech institutions as part of our LiveWIRE program. This is our contribution to nation-building.”
Grand prize winner Nanotronics is a company founded by Dr. Jerome Palaganas; it produces a bio-based nanomaterial called cellulose nanocrystals, which are made from indigenous plants. These biomaterials are designed to reduce plastic waste in an environmentally-friendly way. Palaganas explained, “We are committed to making a significant difference in the environment and community, leveraging on our natural resources here in the Philippines. We see a good synergy with our products and the Shell ecosystem.”
Meanwhile, uHoo, founded by Dustin Onghanseng and Lilet Camara, developed a device that helps measure air quality, alerting users to possible health risks and threats and enabling them to address these challenges. According to Onghanseng, “We want to bring clean air for all. The way we view the company is all about impact and enhancing people’s well-being. This is a global movement that we’re trying to build long-term, and Shell LiveWIRE has helped bring us closer to our goal.”
Last but not least, fintech company Nextpay offers a simple and affordable digital banking platform for small business owners to collect, send, and manage their money. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. By approaching that market and helping them succeed, this helps the Philippines as a whole—especially as we move towards digitization,” shared Nextpay founder Don Pansacola. “Shell LiveWIRE’s mission is to empower entrepreneurs, and that’s also our mission and vision.”
Continuing Shell Philippines’ mission of empowering communities and encouraging sustainability, Shell LiveWIRE tapped three community enterprises to join the LiveWIRE program, who each get to take home a cash grant of PHP75,000. They include MagzWheel Furniture, which specializes in transforming used rubber tires into furniture and apparel; Green Factory by Oro Handmade Innovations Inc., which produces handmade paper products and is currently in the process of building a sustainable factory; and Revolve Eco. Logical, which recycles used PET bottles and to create new products.
Dir. Dillera concluded, “The entrepreneurial spirit of Filipinos is very much alive. They’re finding new ways to disrupt or reform the way business is operated. It’s important that programs like LiveWIRE support these various industries. It’s a great initiative.”