Written by Tribune Wires
Financial technology entrepreneur Mikko Perez of Ayannah and cacao producer Simon Bakker of Kennemer became the 9th and 10th Philippine-based high-impact entrepreneurs during Endeavor’s 69th International Selection Panel held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from February 20 to 22, 2017.
Mikko Perez grew up in the Philippines, witnessing 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 improve the livelihoods of many poor families. Hoping to strengthen his business acumen, he applied to Harvard Business School and after graduation 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 time in the Bay Area, Mikko increasingly began to view modern technology as a way to address infrastructure gaps in his home country and as a result, co-founded Chikka, a mobile instant messaging service that was acquired by PLDT in 2009.
The same year, fueled by Chikka’s success, Mikko founded Ayannah, which has set out to tackle the Philippines’ $40 billion underserved domestic remittance and financial services industry as urban-rural remittances continue to be predominantly cash based and take place through pawnshops — a process that is costly and inefficient.
Mikko and his team of engineers built SendahTM — 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 ISP 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. We are delighted to be selected into the Endeavor network as our business is at a critical inflection point in our mission to spur financial inclusion to the unbanked. The Endeavor network gives us access to a collaborative community working to build businesses that create value and social impact,” Perez said.
Entrepreneur Simon Bakker is a Dutch national who 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 and as his first venture, co-founded Enderun Colleges, a premier management college in Manila. As the company grew, the founders took on more partners which left Simon itching to start his own company.
Inspired by his homeland’s connection to the chocolate industry, Simon started a business based on 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 (i.e. planting, fertilizers, etc.), 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 4x on average to bring a 300 to 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.
Managing Director of Endeavor Philippines Manny Ayala added, “Mikko and Simon were accepted unanimously by their respective panelists, who were impressed by their business acumen and innovation in growing their companies to become leading global players. Endeavor is excited to provide strategic mentoring and support to accelerate Ayannah and Kennemer, which we are confident will transform their respective industries and positively impact the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Philippines and other emerging markets around the world.”