Last November 13 - 16 2018, UnionBank GlobalLinker sponsored 25 Philippine Delegates, all SME (small-and-medium enterprises) business owners, to an all-expense-paid trip to Singapore to attend two major events - Singapore Fintech Festival and GlobalLinker TradeConnect.
It was an opportunity for me to network with business minded people with the intention of gaining potential partners, customers, advisers, and investors for SeeYouDoc. But apart from that, I'm also keen to be part of UnionBank's community of entrepreneurs since I admire their drive of pushing innovations in the Fintech industry and helping Filipino SMEs.
In this article, I want to share how the whole trip went and what I have learned from this tour.
First day started with an early flight from Manila to Singapore at around 6am - 10am. Upon arrival in Singapore, we were greeted by UnionBank GlobalLinker organizers who accompanied us to our private bus that transported us to the Fintech Festival. Upon arrival at the Festival, we had our buffet lunch then afterwards went to the UnionBank booth.
My initial reaction about the UnionBank booth was - WOW! The booth had a large circular area. Each side had a semi-booth that represented various innovations of UnionBank - platforms, banking, e-commerce, logistics, blockchain, and GlobalLinker. In the middle, it showcased their digital bank with a 360 experience. On top of the booth, they had circular LCD screens that showed various videos and a large picture of the Philippines with their theme - TECHUP PILIPINAS.
It was here where I met the President and CEO of UnionBank -Mr. Edwin Bautista. It was pure luck that he was there and was available for a short talk. I took the chance to say hi and introduced myself and my company. I got his attention when I mentioned that SeeYouDoc is on a mission to improve the healthcare industry of the Philippines. From there I explained what we have accomplished so far and how we are executing our strategy on bootstrap funding. Then he asked me, "what's your ultimate goal?". I answered: "To dominate the Philippine market then go global". Afterwards, we exchanged business cards and planned for our next meeting to pitch SeeYouDoc.
To dominate the Philippine market then go global
We were then given time to explore the venue. This was where I met the ADB's (Asian Development Bank) Digital Innovation Team that is responsible for spearheading the digital innovation of the Manila-based regional lender. I met them when we at SeeYouDoc joined the ADB's UltraHack hackathon event last September of this year where we won as finalist for both Health and Digital ID challenges. I was lucky to meet them again at the event. I took advantage of this meeting and got their contact details, hoping to meet them within the week in Singapore. My agenda was to get any opportunity of collaboration between ADB and Pragtechnologies.
Next on my list was to visit the booth of Hyperledger - a company that provides a blockchain solution backed by Linux Foundation. I met them last year when we won the Hyperledger Blockchain Hackathon. I was happy to see a lot of people using Hyperledger in various use cases. I learned some architecture techniques in the booth. I even got a T-shirt for participating in the on-site lectures.
We went back to the hotel around 5pm. UnionBank has set a welcome dinner for us around 6:30pm to network with the rest of the GlobalLinker delegates (India and Singapore).
At the dinner, I ate and networked with senior management of UnionBank like John and Michelle. I got to know of their plans of using GlobalLinker as a platform to help Filipino entrepreneurs with banking solution that UnionBank can provide. I also got to know more of the business of my peer delegates. As you can see in the picture, we really did enjoy the dinner getting to know each other.
Second day was all about the TradeConnect event. We had breakfast first in the hotel before proceeding to the Fintech Festival where TradeConnect was being held. This was where we listened to the talks from the partners of GlobalLinker.
This is where we listened to the talks from the partners of GlobalLinker.
It's rare to see top executives wearing casual attires, just shirts and jeans, during a talk. This proves how humble they are as leaders and how serious they are in embracing the startup culture. It's inspiring to see them dress casually despite their positions in their companies.
After the morning talks at the TradeConnect hall, we had a picture of all the delegates then went back to the Fintech Festival to listen to the speech of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The candid message that got stuck in my head in his speech was:
If you want to empty the pockets of your investors, tell them you are using blockchain - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi
After that, we went back to TradeConnect hall. The place was still empty when we arrived, so guess what we did? PICTURE-PICTURE!
The afternoon session was spent networking with the rest of the delegates thanks to the guidance of Mourese Soriano. All of us stood and introduced ourselves by this format:
- Short introduction of who we are;
- Brief background of our business; and,
- Who do we prefer to meet in the event.
This was one of the best parts of my day because we got the chance to finally meet our fellow delegates from India and Singapore. We got to know in detail their names and their businesses which helped all of us to network better. I got to know a lot of fellow entrepreneurs who were interested in SeeYouDoc. One of them was Akriti Garg, a delegate from India, who had worked with companies with similar background to SeeYouDoc. Ms. Garg approached me and offered her advice for future product validation.
TradeConnect's aim of connecting different entrepreneurs and making a global community of entrepreneurs is a success as far as I am concerned. It made a huge impact in getting to know people personally so we can all build a global community.
After the event, we went back to the hotel at around 6pm. It was a free time for all of us so I took the time to meet my former teammates in BCS to catch-up on life stories.
The day started great. UnionBank GlobalLinker had made arrangements for me to be interviewed by Roel Landingin, the editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur Philippines, and Jessica Fenol of ABS-CBN News to talk about the story of SeeYouDoc. It was a humbling experience for me to tell my story and our future plans for SeeYouDoc.
The day was a free time for delegates to explore Singapore. Many of my peers already made plans to tour Singapore for shopping and photo opportunities. My plan was not yet set, although I already had my agenda in mind.
One of my agenda was to connect with ADB Digital Innovation Team. I emailed them in the morning and checked if we can meet in Singapore to catch-up. Good thing they responded and we were able to set an afternoon meeting in Marina Bay Sands.
Next on my agenda was to contact my cousin who is living in Singapore so we can catch-up and exchange life stories. Good thing he was available for dinner.
Since most of my plans were set later on that day, I took the time to enjoy myself in the gym at around 10am and then I had lunch afterwards in the hotel.
I left the hotel at around 4pm to meet the ADB team. The result of the meeting was very promising. We discussed first our experience in UltraHack Hackathon in Finland and the technologies we used in building the Tourbot AI application. Then we talked about ADB's Digital Innovation Sandbox programs. Their team is in charge of looking for partners in building their sandbox programs - which is very ideal for my company. In the end, I felt I was successful in selling the capability of my company and building a solid working relationship with ADB.
After that, I met with my cousin Mark. It was interesting to know Mark's working experience and lifestyle in Singapore compared to the Philippines.
Last day of the trip. I packed-up my things first before having my breakfast at around 8-9 am. We left the hotel around 10:30 am.
Then departed for Singapore airport to catch our Manila bound flight at around 2:00 pm. We arrived in Manila at around 6:00 pm.
The whole tour was a success. I was able to get potential partners and a lot of exposure for SeeYouDoc. Moreover, I was able to connect with my family and friends who are already living and working in Singapore. But most importantly, I was able to gain new friends within the UnionBank GlobalLinker community. Until now, we still keep in touch through GlobalLinker and our viber group.
I'm very thankful to UnionBank for sponsoring our trip and for investing in the GlobalLinker community. I asked one of the UnionBank organizers why UnionBank is willing to spend so much money for such a trip. His reply to me was simple: "UnionBank dares to walk the talk." Get to know more about their talk here.
Walk the talk - UnionBank