This CEO Wants To Help One Million Filipinos Get Easier Access to Healthcare
How many Marias do you know?
Chances are you’ll find at least one Maria among your family and friends, or at least a similar name like Mary or Marie. Maybe it’s hidden inside a longer name like Maricar or Marites. You might even know some guys named Jose Maria—or you might have been calling him Jomar all this time without realizing where it came from.
It’s obvious why—these women (and some men) were all named after the Virgin Mary, and its frequency is thanks to our country’s predominantly Catholic population. That also means Maria has been rooted in our culture for a very long time—it’s no accident that one of the most popular female characters in the Philippines is named Maria Clara.
So for Vincent Lau and his team at Maria Health, a startup aiming to give Filipinos easier access to healthcare, taking on that name was a no-brainer.
“It could be your mom, your ninang, your sister, [or] your best friend. There’s always a Maria in your life that takes care of you, that nurtures you, that you can trust, that you can rely on. So that’s what we want our brand to be known for,” explained Tracy Ampil, Maria Health’s COO, during their initial pitch in the business reality TV show The Final Pitch.
If you have health insurance, consider yourself lucky—you probably work for a large company that offers it as one of its benefits, or you have a family member that does. Maria Health wants to make it easier for the 96% of the population who aren’t part of that group, such as employers and employees of smaller companies as well as freelancers and OFWs.
And it’s as simple as buying something from Lazada or Shopee. The Maria Health website lists various health insurance products from some of the country’s leading health maintenance organizations (HMO) like PhilCare, Medicard, and Maxicare. You can buy a prepaid health insurance card or a comprehensive insurance plan and pay online or over-the-counter.
It’s a simple but crucial business, and Lau is proud of its traction so far—since its founding in 2015, Maria Health has provided health insurance to over 14,000 members, which consist mainly of small companies with lean teams as well as young women who are buying insurance for their families.
But like any entrepreneur scaling up, Lau knows he can do more.
“I don’t think we’re going to stop in the Philippines until we insure a million people,” he told Entrepreneur Philippines in a May 2018 article. “It’s an internal goal of ours: Let’s not make a million dollars, let’s insure a million people.”
Reaching one million people as a small startup is no easy feat, but Maria Health recently took a big step towards that goal. Last January 22, it announced that it was one of the first two companies that will receive investment from the Gobi-Core Philippine Fund, a partnership between venture capital firms Gobi Partners and Core Capital that aims to support early-stage startups in the Philippines.
“We believe the health sector to be one of the most verifiable and understandable needs in this country,” said Jason Gaisano, co-founder of Core Capital. “Gobi envisions Maria Health’s business to be scalable on a regional level.”
While Lau didn’t reveal how much his company raised, he did say that proceeds from the funding will be used to enhance its marketplace platform, improve the customer service experience, and further build the brand, all with the aim of scaling up the business from serving thousands of people to one million.
“A big focus this year is to continue to digitize and simplify a traditionally tedious and offline process so that our service is scalable to millions,” said Lau.
Maria Health is one of the first two startups that the Gobi-Core Philippine Fund invested in, the other being Henry Motte-Muñoz’s Edukasyon.ph.