Three Startups and a Book: How Winston Damarillo Won 2019

The former Silicon Valley tech whiz is already working on new ventures for 2020.

While most of us are taking a hiatus from work at this time of year, Winston Damarillo is probably doing quite the opposite. The graduate of De La Salle University, CEO of Talino Venture Labs, and executive chairman of Amihan Global Strategies is probably propped up at a desk, laptop to face, and hard at work. 

In 2019, Damarillo, through his two tech companies, helped found no fewer than three inclusion-tech startups and even managed to find time to write and publish a book. All of this comes after his stint at Intel and a flurry of ventures in Silicon Valley, including notable startups like Gluecode, which was eventually bought by Intel; Logicblaze, acquired by Iona Technologies; and Webtide, sold to Intalio.

Talino Venture Labs

Wrapping my head around what Talino does initially came with some difficulty. But a conversation with Damarillo has one tap-dancing between the realities of artificial intelligence, big data, 5G, and blockchain—all of which are boggling topics in themselves.


“Talino Venture Labs, the first inclusion tech venture building [start-up] in the region, was created precisely to address the large unmet need,” Damarillo sums it up succinctly himself. “We build tech startups in partnership with industry leaders, to drive tech-accelerated inclusion and access for Asia’s emerging economies with scale and agility. This unmet need is the “digital-savvy,” “tech-driven” population at the base of the pyramid.

“Poverty, income inequality, and financial inclusion remain key barriers for majority of the population, especially for farmers and micro entrepreneurs,” he continues. “Talino Venture Labs will break these barriers with startups and technologies developed to drive equitable growth and scalable impact.”

Corporate VC 3.0

Talino serves this underserved market, with what it calls Corporate VC 3.0, and promotes the creation of startups from within the established firm, not as a side-venture but as an agile vehicle to further develop and expand their core business. As such, new ventures not only have the human and knowledge capital to build products but a ready market with which to test and implement readily.

In service of the large population of budding micro-entrepreneurs in need of bite-sized chunks of capital and insurance to match, it makes sense that Talino has partnered with CARD Pioneer Microinsurance Inc. (CPMI), an affiliate of the country’s largest microfinance institution, CARD MRI; and Pioneer Insurance, founded in 1954 and currently one of the country’s largest insurance companies. However, Talino pursues eclectic partnerships, too, including with PJS, a leading Philippine law firm with key expertise in infrastructure, energy, mergers and acquisitions, and banking and finance in Asia Pacific.

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Startup No. 1: Asenso

A joint venture with CARD MRI, which currently has about 3.25 million active loan clients and a 99.28% repayment rate, Asenso provides “digital access to fair capital, aggregated supply chain, market intelligence, integrated marketplace, and micro insurance.”

According to Damarillo, you need to determine one’s identity and credit score to provide them with funding for their prospective ventures. Asenso, with the aid of its chatbot assisted micro-loan platform known by its beta-release name Puhunan, can do just that and have the budding entrepreneur withdrawing the funds at the CARD bank teller, in under an hour.


True to what you’d expect from a one-time Silicon Valley, venture-launching, tech entrepreneur-led organization, Asenso finds solutions through the prudent employment of new technology. “We are using technologies such as natural language processing to be able to communicate with farmers in their own languages and dialects; artificial intelligence for recognition of crops and produce; process automation to enable supply chains; and all through the simple interface of Facebook Messenger chatbot to make it less intimidating and more accessible to farmers,” according to its chief technology officer Miguel Cabral.

Startup No. 2: Saphron

Saphron, meanwhile, is a joint venture with Pioneer Insurance that provides affordable and accessible products, driving financial inclusion for the 4.4 billion uninsured people in the world.

The company achieves this by crafting low-cost and “bite-sized insurance products designed for the experience-snacking market.” The delivery of such products is done via what the company calls its 10-10-1 Model: $10 dollars to purchase, 10 cents to process, and one minute to enroll.

Of course, this venture wouldn’t be complete without a bit of technology that's straight out of Star Wars to drive its value proposition home. Launched in mid-2019, is “user-friendly tech for micro insurance agents to educate and enroll clients, reducing the encoding and on boarding time from six months to 60 seconds.”

Each startup undertakes a fair amount of technological effort in the name of speed, but CPMI expects to sign up one million micro insurance policies by yearend.

Startup No. 3: Unawa

Seeking to get its two flagship products online by the first quarter of 2020, Unawa is the partnership with PJS Law that employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to break down the complex, near-un-navigable business laws that hamper so many small businesses from getting off the ground. It comes from the Filipino word for understanding and comprehension. 


“Unawa aims to make regulatory compliance as pain-free as possible for enterprises and SMEs so they can focus on their core businesses and become real engines of economic growth,” Atty. Monalisa Dimalanta, CEO of Unawa and Partner at PJS Law chimes in. The company will do this through Unawa Privacy Guard, an aid to navigate legalese, and Unawa RapidStart, a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs to start a business from name filing all the way to local government permits.

About that book

Launched at Talino Venture Lab’s yearend gathering last December 10 at Blackbird in Makati City, Ready or Not 2020: The 5 Big Trends Set to Change the Landscape of Business is a follow-up to Winston Damarillo’s successful Ready or Not: The 6 Big Disruptions That Will Change The Way We Do Business. 

In the book, which comes complete with witty cartoons, Damarillo “discusses the omnipresent e-commerce, the digitalisation of cash, the more personalised iterations of biometrics, the onslaught of artificial intelligence, and the decentralised infrastructure of blockchain.”


Copies are currently available at Ready or Not 2020 but will soon be available in bookstores nationwide.

My quick chat

I had time to ask Damarillo one question at the event. “I read that cashless applications like GCash and PayMaya may soon be able to utilize just one universal QR code to make digital payment simpler in the Philippines,” I said. “When do you see this coming to the fore?” 

Without a blink and with a quick smile, Damarillo responded, “Within the year.” Of course, that’s just a few days away.

Just like that, he was off, his hand making its rounds and finding a sea of hands extended to meet his, many of which belonged to some of the country’s most influential chief technology officers and entrepreneurs.

Talk about a winning year.

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Jaymes Shrimski
Jaymes Shrimski is a twentysomething, Manila-based writer who’s grown up somewhere between Sydney and Cebu. Enthusiastic about all things food and beverage, clothes, books, and small business, he also loves a good long run, beers with his mates, and coffees at any given time of day.
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