PH team places 3rd at Alibaba global technology contest

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The Filipino trio of Michael Kakumoto, Ariel Silva Jr., and Jann Skyler Teng – graduate students in Innovation and Business at the Asian Institute of Management and co-founders of local startup Symlify – was proclaimed as third prize winners in the recently held Alibaba GET Global Challenge 2020.

Alibaba GET Global Challenge 2020 host Huanming and GET product manager Jason Xiao announce Symlify from the Philippines as third prize winner. The Symlify team was present via video call during the awarding ceremony

Seeing the grave impact of the pandemic to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the three entrepreneurs came together and worked towards establishing Symlify, an order management system designed for small business owners that depend on social media.

Aside from Kakumoto (head of business development and strategy), Teng (UX and design head), and Silva (technology and engineering head), the Symlify team also has Adrian Silva as technical lead, Carlo Tansuk as process engineer, and Florentino Gonzalez IV as SEO consultant.

Teng said they saw how the Philippine retail market evolved with more businesses pivoting online to cater to the needs of consumers that have been shopping online most especially during the onset of the pandemic.

“We wanted to support these social sellers in the pandemic, helping them reach more customers, organizing their data and simplifying their process,” said Teng.

Prior to Symlify, the three co-founders used their experiences in building the unified order management tool for MSMEs as they realized the opportunities that technology presented to transform and empower business owners.

“In my job, I was already engaged in helping organizations digitize or manage their technology risks. I guess I felt that I could apply the concepts I use in consulting through my own entrepreneurship,” said Kakumoto.

Figuring out which product to build for MSMEs wasn’t an easy feat for the three, but their goal of building a tool for business owners was their main driving force. Thus, Symlify, was born to become a digital tool that empowers Filipino social sellers and soon across Southeast Asia.

Their eagerness to know more about the approach and nuances of Chinese startups, as well as test their product idea with various stakeholders, led the team to participate in Alibaba’s GET Global Challenge 2020 which aims to create solutions that can be used during this pandemic and help businesses generate a sustainable business model.

“When we joined the GET challenge, Symlify was completely just an idea,” said Silva.

During the competition, the teams took advantage of the 1-on-1 coaching, sharing and training sessions, as well as different resources such as case studies, industry reports, and many more offerings from the Alibaba GET Network.

After discussions and feedback from stakeholders, they pivoted their idea from being a purely B2B (business-to-business) platform to now being a B2C (business-to-consumer) platform halfway through the competition.

Out of over a thousand global teams that participated in the challenge, Symlify celebrated victory when they placed third after multiple rounds of competing. They also won a valuable cash prize of RMB10,000 (over P71,000) which the team plans to use for their user acquisition capital.

“Seeing ourselves grow as entrepreneurs and having our idea validated and now, undergoing final bug fixes before our official launch hopefully by end of this year, has been our most satisfying moment in business,” said Teng.

Symlify is set to commercially launch by end of this year once alpha and beta testing have been completed. To date, they have over 50 pre-sign ups from a range of sellers selling a variety of products including food.

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