[Executive Edge] 10 business leaders to watch out for in 2015

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Apple’s Tim Cook. SpaceX’s Elon Musk.

What do they have in common? They are the faces of the companies they lead.

They are the leaders of such pioneering companies.

They spread their company’s vision beyond the boardroom.

They lead changes that not only impact their own companies and industries, but the world as a whole.

They dared to dream and led to achieve.

In the Philippines, there are budding names – in start-ups – in established technology firms or social enterprises who, like Bezos, Cook, and Musk, are also daring to dream and leading to achieve, not only a name for themselves, but for the businesses they lead and the industries which landscape they are helping to change for the better.

Who are they? In alphabetical order (by surname), remember their names; learn from their leadership and management styles; and watch out how they will tackle the challenges ahead.

Natasha Bautista, acting general manager of GrabTaxi Philippines

The biggest challenge for Bautista and GrabTaxi Philippines is maintaining their lead over competitors.

“We understand that we have existing and upcoming competitors that are even bigger than us, but we plan to simply be laser-focused in this David versus Goliath battle,” she said.

Competitors of GrabTaxi Philippines include Rocket Internet’s EasyTaxi, which has recently exited several markets in Southeast Asia, and Uber, which is currently facing regulatory issues in the Philippines.

Bautista believes that one advantage GrabTaxi has is that – in all 6 countries they operate in – their teams are all locals.

“We believe that being hyperlocal is key and that decision-makers of the company need to really understand the needs and wants of our passengers and drivers,” Bautista said, adding that GrabTaxi is an app made by Southeast Asians for Southeast Asians and they have been proud of this fact since Day 1. 

Erick Coser, country head, Tripda Philippines

As the country head of carpooling platform Tripda, Coser is tasked with getting Filipinos on board with the idea of sharing rides with one another.

“The biggest business challenge for me and Tripda in 2015 is to start a public conversation about how carpooling can help the Philippine authorities solve a big part of the problems with urban mobility,” Coser said.

Coser believes that this conversation needs to happen. According to him, there is a lot of unused capacity in Manila streets in the form of cars with solo drivers.

There is also a corresponding demand for that unused capacity as we can see in the long lines for the LRT, MRT, jeepneys, and UV expresses. 

But Coser and Tripda are well poised for this battle.

“With the great round of funding we've just raised, we'll be able to scale up our operations in the Philippines, intensifying our presence inside universities (where the trend-setters and more open minded brains are), launching even bolder campaigns to raise awareness about carpooling and closing high level partnerships with the government, big companies, and these universities,” Coser shared.

Gabby Dizon, co-founder and CEO, Altitude Games

Dizon and the team at Altitude Games re-released their mid-core title, Run Run Super V, late last year with the help of investor Xurpas. (Editor’s note: Nix Nolledo, president and CEO of Xurpas, is also a board member of Rappler). 

Dizon sees their 2015 goal as releasing the game worldwide and making it one that millions of people around the world can play and enjoy.

“We have to iterate countless times on the gameplay using test markets and make sure that we meet our internal metrics goals before going live worldwide,” Dizon said.

Given the enormity of this task, Dizon emphasized that the team needs to remain focused and confident.

“This also requires a strong belief from the team that we're creating a great product, a game that can stand up on its own with the best games in the app stores around the world,” he concluded.

Stephen Jagger, co-founder and head of business development, PayrollHero

PayrollHero provides analytics, attendance, payroll, scheduling, and time tracking services to other businesses, and they have signed some of the largest brands in the country, including The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, FamilyMart, and Krispy Kreme.

For 2015, Jagger identified international expansion as the biggest challenge for PayrollHero.

From their beachhead in the Philippines, the firm has already expanded into Singapore and they have plans to expand into more countries in 2015.

“As with any expansion there are challenges, but especially in Southeast Asia and some of the emerging markets,” Jagger said, citing corruption, culture, customs, language, tax law as examples of local problems that PayrollHero has to deal with.

Jagger said that PayrollHero can overcome these challenges through its unique business approach and practices, such as the fact that they make some of their code open source or that they hire what they call #AdventureEngineers.

Lyle Jover, co-founder and CEO, Raket.ph

As Internet penetration increases in the Philippines, more Filipinos will turn to the digital world to try to make money. They may opt for international platforms like Freelancer.com or Elance-oDesk, or even homegrown sites.

One of the most promising of the latter is Raket.Ph, which is led by CEO Lyle Jover and now boasts of more than 7,000 users. 

Jover felt that the biggest challenge over the past year was introducing the brand and building this user base. He sees the main challenge ahead as something slightly different.

“For 2015, the tides have changed – I would say this time our biggest challenge now is establishing our brand as the go-to website whenever anybody needs freelance help,” Jover said.

“We’d like to look at this not as something to overcome but rather something to accomplish for Raket.ph,” Jover said. 

Kenneth Lingan, country manager, Google Philippines

Newly appointed Google Philippines country manager Kenneth Lingan said that the biggest challenge facing the company is the task of helping the industry navigate to mobile in 2015, that this shift will happen and will open a lot of opportunities for Filipinos.

“Half of our country's population will be connected to the web as smartphones and data packages become more accessible,” Lingan said. “The question is whether companies and businesses are prepared for this massive consumer shift,” he added.

Lingan envisioned Google Philippines as a kind of steward for all ventures in the country.

“We’ll take on the challenge by sharing our expertise in the digital economy and providing thought leadership in mobile and digital to both large businesses and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) on how they can make the most out of the web," Lingan said.

Carl Mamawal, co-founder and CEO, Nytfi

Nyfti is a foldable bicycle proudly designed and manufactured in the Philippines. The company was founded by Carl Mamawal and Isidro Antonio "Ingko" Marfori III after the latter wanted a foldable bicycle for his roughly 3-kilometer commute to De La Salle University. The ones out on the market did not suit him, so he set out with Mamawal to create one that did.

Nyfti was soon born. The foldable bicycle is currently available for sale on their site, and the team has been dutifully fulfilling the first batch of bike orders due in February. Not surprisingly, Mamawal identified scaling as their biggest challenge for 2015.

To meet the growing demand for their Nyfti bicycles, the team has to scale operations without sacrificing quality. 

“But we're finding it difficult to find local skilled workers to help us make bikes to the quality that our customers deserve,” Mamawal shared.

 “Fortunately, we’re in discussions with key local manufacturers who also believe in creating export quality products. With their help, we can truly create a world-class bicycle,” Mamawal said.

Ralph Regalado, co-founder, Senti

Social media predominates the lives of many in the Philippines, so it may come as a surprise to learn that there are very few corresponding social media tools for Filipinos.

One promising social media analytics tool is Senti, which can decipher Filipino and even text-speak.

Senti should thus allow brands to learn more about their customers who prefer to communicate in Filipino. Regalado is now focusing on getting brands to see this value.

Regalado admitted though that the team was very lax last year at executing their customer acquisition strategy, most of which was focused on content marketing and joining exhibits.

“Though we got a good number of interested clients, conversion was really low,” he shared.

“This year we plan to execute more strategies actively, at the same time wisely. Getting and talking to the right clients and sustaining their interest in our service,”

Paul Rivera, founder and CEO, Kalibrr

Kalibrr is a tech start-up that aims to change the way that business recruiting is done in the Philippines, and in turn, the world.

Rivera sees the biggest challenge that Kalibrr faces is serving both stakeholders in this marketplace.

“I would say that our biggest challenge will be to ensure that as Kalibrr's talent marketplace scales, both jobseekers and companies get measurable value from our platform,” Rivera said. 

To measure Kalibrr’s success with this task, Rivera said the company is focused on a single core success metric for each.

“Are our jobseekers finding work and are our companies finding the talent they need to grow their businesses on Kalibrr?” he said. “We are extremely excited to bring innovation to recruitment in the Philippines in 2015."

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, co-founder and president, Rags2Riches  

Ruiz recently had the distinction of making it to Forbes’ 2015 list of social entrepreneurs under 30, and when you look at her body of work leading social enterprise Rags2Riches, it is clear why.

Rags2Riches experienced a 100% annual growth rate from 2007 to 2012, according to Forbes.

In identifying the challenges for 2015, Ruiz names cash flow, inventory, and logistics. “Our team is very entrepreneurial to begin with so I believe we are all capable of learning quickly, experimenting, and refining our systems to become more efficient,” she said. 

Ruiz admitted that these problems are not necessarily the sexiest.

“These all sound quite ‘unsexy’ but the truth is, the ‘materials’ to build viable and sustainable social enterprises, or quite simply, enterprises, are the lesser known but crucial business systems,” she said, and added that the positive impact they want to achieve deserves nothing less than their dedication and discipline. – Rappler.com