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20 Startup Founders and CEOs Paving the Way For Women in Tech 

Meet the women leading startups in the Philippines. 
ILLUSTRATOR RACHEL MUNSAYAC
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Female leadership is flourishing. The Philippines is one of only five countries that have achieved parity in the percentage of women and men in leadership positions, according to the International Labor Organization. In fact, as per Grant Thornton International, the Philippines is also one of the top countries with the most number of women occupying senior management positions. 

There have been countless studies about the unique leadership advantages women possess, and a study featured in the Harvard Business Review put it best: women are statistically stronger in most leadership competencies. Some of the country's top conglomerates are governed by female leaders, and it looks like the Philippine startup ecosystem is joining the club. In case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of the golden age of Philippine startups, and women entrepreneurs have played a large part in the ecosystem’s success. 

One organization that’s been championing female entrepreneurship is SoGal Manila, the local chapter of the SoGal Foundation, which is dedicated to building a space where women and their businesses can thrive. In coordination with SoGal Manila, we’re honoring 20 remarkable female founders and CEOs who are leading innovative Filipino startups. These are just some of the leaders paving the way for women in tech and setting the bar for aspiring Filipino entrepreneurs. 

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Now more than ever, Filipinos are realizing the importance of healthcare insurance, but as many know, the process of getting insured and accessing benefits can be a struggle. This is where Hive Health comes into play. This digital health insurer connects SMEs and their employees with quality insurance plans through a data-powered platform. Leading the startup is Ateneo alumna Camille Ang, who recently completed her MBA at Harvard Business School.

InvestEd is committed to solving the problem of inaccessible education in the Philippines. The startup was co-founded in 2016 by Carmina Bayombong, who realized that youths were missing out on livelihood opportunities because they couldn’t afford to go to school. InvestEd provides these youths with loan products so they can access higher education and create meaningful opportunities for themselves. InvestEd’s risk-control algorithm allows the startup to hand out loans in order to better the lives of disadvantaged youths.

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Another inspiring edtech is Eskwelabs, which is led by Angela Chen. Eskwelabs is an upskilling startup that lets students “study now, pay later.” The startup educates students through its data science programs, some of which last only a few weeks. The programs promise to equip students with the knowledge and skills to become employed as data scientists and data analysts. The career track is one of the most in-demand around and a viable option for Filipinos looking to improve their quality of life.

The Philippine startup ecosystem is booming, and entrepreneurs are eager to keep up with the latest tech news in the Philippines. Backscoop provides this with a newsletter service that keeps you updated on all the tech and startup news happening in Southeast Asia. Founder and CEO Amanda Cua realized the need for the service when she was working at Avion School, another successful edtech in the Philippines. 

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One Filipino problem that is yet to be solved is the stigma and lack of education surrounding reproductive health and contraception. Condoms, birth control, sexual health—these are all topics spoken in whispers in Philippine society, but Kindred is here to break down that barrier to give women the services they deserve. Co-founded by registered nurse Jessica de Mesa, Kindred is a “femtech startup” that provides women with monthly contraceptive packages (including emergency birth control), virtual consultations about sexual health, and even fertility products.

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Youths that come from low-income families are not afforded the same opportunities as their middle-class or upper-class counterparts. Aiming to solve this problem is KadaKareer, a career coaching startup co-founded by Harvard alumna Michi Ferreol. KadaKareer is dedicated to providing low-income students with the content, coaching, and community they need to succeed in their chosen career paths.

This agritech was co-founded by Jojo Gumino, who chose to leave the corporate world and return to her farming roots. Despite being an agricultural nation, the Philippines still has much to do to improve the lives of farmers and fisherfolk. Agrabah Ventures aims to do its part for the agricultural sector by connecting farmers and fisherfolk to buyers directly through tech. Agrabah also gives farmers and fisherfolk access to loans and logistics services. 

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Made by mothers for mothers, Edamama is a game-changing baby-focused e-commerce platform co-founded by Bela Gupta D’Souza. Instead of visiting different stores for different products, parents can purchase all their items from this one-stop shop. At Edamama, parents can purchase everything from baby shampoo, books, formula, cribs, and baby-friendly detergent and air purifiers.

Tang app aims to solve a uniquely Filipino problem by letting OFWs and migrant families send money from the U.S. back home to the Philippines without having to leave the house. Tang app was founded by Harvard grad Rebecca Kersch, a member of the Filipino diaspora who understands the difficulties of sending funds back home. Filipinos who live in rural communities in the province don’t have easy access to brick and mortar remittance stores, but Tang app offers a solution to those troubles. 

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Another cross-border pain point is international trade. Anyone in the industry will tell you of the challenges of exporting goods from the Philippines, but 1Export has taken on that challenge with aplomb to help MSMEs deliver quality Filipino goods to 28 overseas markets. This logistics startup is led by Mel Nava, who is proud to say that her company has a 100 percent customs clearance rate for all of their clients. 

Now is the prime time for e-commerce enabling startups. Peddlr is perhaps the fastest-growing startup in that field, thanks to the power of word of mouth. This Samar-based startup experienced exponential growth in the last few months courtesy of its loyal base of customers. Aiko Reyes is one of the founding members of this startup, which has become a competitive player in the e-commerce enabler industry. Peddlr provides services such as bookkeeping, inventory, and more.

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Another healthtech on the list is Mediclick, an online pharmacy that delivers healthcare products directly to your doorstep. Many e-pharmacies are limited to generic products, but Mediclick offers a wide inventory of medicines ranging from diabetes care to gastro care. Prescriptions are required for many medicines, which you can upload directly to the website. CEO Tina Sabarre brings her vast experience heading Luxasia and Johnson & Johnson to the table at Mediclick. 

Unlike the other startup leaders on this list, Revianne Sesante leads a venture studio instead of a traditional startup. Through AHG Lab  (previously known as Alternative Housing Group), Sesante helps grow real estate startups that will in turn benefit the real estate industry. AHG Lab is a property technology (prop-tech) venture builder, and its portfolio includes startups that deal in co-living, co-working, property management software, and real estate brokerages. 

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Ateneo alumna Kim Yao is a major player in the Philippines’ growing cloud kitchen scene. Cloud kitchens gained prominence during the pandemic when many restaurants shut down, and CloudEats was one of the first F&B startups that adjusted to the lockdown. The startup now boasts over 10 digital food brands, all of which are MSMEs. Yao was previously a managing partner at The Palace and a founder of Boozy.ph.

Edukasyon was one of the first startups to gain buzz when the Philippine startup ecosystem was still in its infancy. The edtech startup is now under new leadership after Grace David was named CEO in 2020. Edukasyon gathers course and tuition data from thousands of SHS and tertiary institutions in the country, giving students and parents the chance to compare and decide on potential courses. The edtech startup has also introduced tutoring services, scholarship guidance, and more.

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By now, every gamer in the country probably knows Yield Guild Games. The DAO play-to-earn gaming guild is at its core a community of gamers, investors, and NFT experts. YGG intersects gaming with crypto, and uses much of its funding to invest in valuable NFT assets, such as Axies. Prior to YGG, Li was part of the founding team of Coins.ph, the founder of crypto platform CapchainX, and a consultant for UBX Philippines, a subsidiary of UnionBank. 

Data science is at the heart of all tech startups. Championing data science implementation in the Philippines is Stephanie Sy, the founder of Thinking Machines. This tech startup provides data science consultancy to enable businesses to make the right decisions. The Stanford grad left Silicon Valley to start Thinking Machines in the Philippines, and it has already expanded to Singapore and Bangkok. 

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Co-founded by CEO Crystal Gonzalez, Pick.A.Roo prides itself on being the first Filipino-developed shopping and delivery app. Pick.A.Roo sets itself apart from competitors with its carefully curated list of shops and goods. Gonzalez is no stranger to leading innovative tech startups. Prior to Pick.A.Roo, this tech boss held senior management positions at Lazada, Viber, Canva, and Honestbee. 

Alodia Gosiengfiao might be best known for her cosplaying, but this influencer and celebrity is a titan in the Philippine gaming scene. A champion of professional e-sports, Gosiengfiao co-founded Tier One Entertainment, the first official gaming and esports agency in the country. Essentially a management agency, Tier One signs, trains, and supports aspiring professional gamers before “unleashing” them online.

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Every college graduate knows how insanely popular collegiate gaming can be, but AcadArena was one of the first to professionalize this amateur industry. Leading AcadArena is Ariane Lim, the startup’s co-CEO and the former head of the collegiate department at Garena. AcadArena organizes a number of competitions, focusing on college-level players. It also provides a community and a starting ground where collegiate gamers can move on to become professional players.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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