BY DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA
Two Philippine-based entrepreneurs—a Filipino financial technology (fintech) founder and a Dutch cacao producer—made it to the roster of Endeavor, a global nonprofit that supports high-impact entrepreneurs around the world.
Mikko Perez of Ayannah and Simon Bakker of Kennemer were handpicked as the 9th and 10th Philippine-based high-impact entrepreneurs at Endeavor’s 69th international selection panel held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Growing up in the Philippines, Perez witnessed poverty firsthand. After graduating with honors from Ateneo de Manila, he left the city to become a community organizer and adult educator in the countryside. It was there that he realized how entrepreneurship could uplift poor families out of poverty.
After graduating from Harvard Business School, he worked for JP Morgan’s technology investment banking group in San Francisco and Next Century Partners where he managed a private equity fund. During his stint in the US, Mikko started to view modern technology as a way to address infrastructure gaps in his home country. He co-founded Chikka, a mobile instant messaging service that was acquired by PLDT in 2009.
Fueled by Chikka’s success, Mikko founded Ayannah, which seeks to address the Philippines’ $40-billion underserved domestic remittance and financial services industry. As urban-rural remittances continue to be predominantly cash-based, some taking place through pawnshops, he saw the existing process as costly and inefficient. Perez and his team of engineers built Sendah, an electronic platform that gives unbanked Filipinos easy access to a suite of financial products and services through a network of 7,000 agents that include pawnshops, convenience stores and other retail establishments as well as individuals.
“The [Endeavor] ISP (international selection panel) was a unique opportunity to learn from amazing mentors and entrepreneurs from around the world. The feedback helped us refine our business plan and prepare to take our business to the next level to achieve market leadership in the Philippines and expand to other emerging markets,” Perez said.
“The Endeavor network gives us access to a collaborative community working to build businesses that create value and social impact,” he said.
Dutch entrepreneur Simon Bakker earned a Masters in Economics from the University of Amsterdam, afterwards serving as the managing director for Asia-Pacific at Fidelity National Information Services, a US banking and payments technology company. He arrived in the Philippines in 1994. His first venture was as co-founder of Enderun Colleges.
As the company grew, the founders took in more partners that left Bakker thirsting to start his own company.
Inspired by his homeland’s connection to the chocolate industry, Simon started a business that involved buying cacao beans from Filipino farmers in 2011. Soon after, he met with buying representatives and shared success stories of consolidated growership programs around the world.
While most growership arrangements only offer support in one area— such as planting and using fertilizers—Simon believed a true end-to-end support organization could increase overall productivity, revenue, and social impact. Though the Philippines has farmed cacao for over 300 years, it has historically been a low-yield, backyard crop.
Simon hired agronomists to develop cacao growing and post-harvest technology and worked with local banks to develop cacao loan programs to help farmers establish new farms. Today, Kennemer supplies best-in-industry knowledge, planting materials, fertilizers, and loan products, multiplying the productivity of Philippine smallholder farmers by four times on average to bring a 300-600 percent increase in their annual income. This not only supplies Kennemer with a steady source of high-quality fermented cocoa beans to export to global clients but also transforms the lives of millions of smallholder farmers.
“The ISP was a rare experience. The Endeavor panelist provided me with valuable feedback on how to further scale up our cacao sourcing model. At the same time, the interaction with my fellow entrepreneurs from various regions in the world was truly inspiring,” Bakker said.