Sterling group acquires two startups developed by Fil-Am

By Edd K. Usman

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — A privately-led Philippine business group with interests in agriculture, retail, and real estate has acquired two local start-ups developed by a San Francisco, California-based Filipino-American.

Chris Blanquer

Chris Blanquer

Sterling Paper Group of Companies (SPGC) has bought Openovate Labs and Galleon.ph in August 1 and 15 respectively, Fil-Am Christian Blanquera said on Thursday, August 24, during the 5th Geeks on a Beach (GOAB) event held in this city.

Openovate Labs, an IT company providing various solutions, counts LBC, Globe Telecommunications, and Smart Communications as clients while Galleon.ph “ships products from abroad that are not available in the Philippines,” Blanquera said.

Although he declined to mention the selling price, Blanquera said that he will still help run both companies and will “lead the way for the first year.”

The acquisition prompted him to express appreciation to his employees — both at Openovate Labs and Galleon.ph — who occasionally pulled in two-day shifts.

The companies are “practically their second home,” said Blanquera, adding that several other companies also offered to acquire his startups.

Initially, he and his partner Jeffrey Siy didn’t entertain selling his two “babies” but changed his mind when Sterling made the offer because of the business group’s “core values and what they stand for”.

“I think it was more of a strategic kind of acquisition, too; we were actually offered by three other companies as well. We were not looking to sell, we were both growing companies,” he said. “When one person heard that they offered, we were offered, then another person offered and so and so forth.”

Once the acquisitions are completed, “(we will) put in $3 million for Openovate Labs and another $3 million for Galleon.ph (in two to three years),” Blanquera said.

He said finding partners for a struggling startup is a tough challenge, including hunting for funding, seeking the right connections, and establishing trust.

“It was really very difficult, also trying to convince people to believe in you, in like less than five minutes, that is basically when you are telling people about it,” Blanquera said.

Over time, as he grew his two companies which later got acquired, Blanquera said that money didn’t matter to him as much as it used to.

“Before I was just thinking of money, ‘I am gonna make a lot of money.’ It was about money for me. But over time I learned about the most important thing and, specially that I was maturing and I have a kid, is the family; family, culture, core values,” he said.

Blanquera’s parents — Helen from Oroquieta City in Misamis Occidental and Alfredo from Dagupan, Pangasinan — immigrated to the US in the 1960s. Meanwhile, his two kids — Nicole, 9, and Calleigh, 6 — with his wife Sam were born and raised in the Philippines.

Blanquera was in Palawan to attend the 5th Geeks on a Beach (GOAB) to share his experience and insights about putting up a startup. GOAB is an international conference about startups and technology.

TechTalks.ph, founded by Tina Amper, organized the GOAB 5 here at the Princesa Garden Island Resort, inviting Filipino-Americans who made it — and still making it big — in Silicon Valley, with Yobie Benjamin and Aldo Carrascoso leading the list of prominent names in the field of startups and technology.

“It is definitely possible for any company to get acquired, to reach sort of an exit here. So it is important to make those kind of connection, and not just basic connection, but personal connection, personal relationship. I find it very different from experience, just a professional connection,” Blanquera said.

Blanquera was referring to the process of “pitching” when startup creators present their ideas and solution to a particular problem before investors.

In a sort of a call out to his geek countrymen, he said, the quality of a startup idea matters. “It is the most important thing, it is the reason why a lot of startups here don’t get investment because they don’t think across regions,” he said.

The Philippines should be the stepping stone to beyond its borders when thinking of a product to all Southeast Asia, he suggested.

“You have to have a strategy right when you have an idea and knowing where to go. It is a call to action to be really ambitious, in what you want to do. You have to think beyond the values. So, think bigger when it comes to your startup.”

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