Biotech startup bags P500,000 top prize in inaugural Shell bootcamp

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A local biotech startup that pioneered the production of a plant-based material designed to reduce plastic waste has been proclaimed the grand winner in the inaugural Shell LiveWIRE program.

The panel of judges during the Q&A with Nanotronics founder Dr. Jerome Palaganas (top left photo)

Nanotronics, which won the top plum worth P500,000, has introduced a biomaterial called nanocellulose crystal (NCC) taken from native plants which can reduce plastic waste products while protecting the environment.

Rounding out the winners’ circle were two other startups which were chosen out of 155 candidates that participated up bootcamp: uHoo, which measures air quality in order to safeguard and enhance people’s health, and Next Pay, a digital banking platform aimed specifically for small and medium-sized business owners

The Shell LiveWIRE provides startups with opportunities for mentorship, financial assistance, technical expertise, and a chance to be part of Shell’s supply chain.

“Great ideas are among the best investments any sector or company can make. Since launching LiveWIRE in the Philippines, we’ve seen hundreds of entrepreneurs apply to the program, and it proves that there’s so much more to be done at the grass-roots level to nurture businesses,” said Cesar Romero, president and chief executive officer of Pilipinas Shell.

The panel of judges for this year also included Sankie Simbulan, country social performance and investment manager of Shell Philippines; Sebastian Quinones, executive director of Pilipinas Shell Foundation; Love Gregorie Perez, director of XChange; Nelly Dillera, executive director of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); and Emmy Lou Versoza-Delfin, director of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

“The pandemic has shown us the importance of digital transformation and how the public needs to adapt — not just to survive, but thrive in this new ecosystem,” said Delfin. “We should all work towards creating a globally-recognized Philippine start-up ecosystem.”

Since 1982, Shell LiveWIRE has been the energy firm’s global enterprise development program. To date, it has cultivated more than 1,300 businesses in 20 countries —from Argentina and Egypt, to Indonesia and now the Philippines for the first time.

Romero continued, “Most entrepreneurs still lack the resources to reach their full potential, especially as they adapt to a digital world. We bridge that gap by connecting them with government and fintech institutions as part of our LiveWIRE program. This is our contribution to nation-building.”

“We are committed to making a significant difference in the environment and community, leveraging on our natural resources here in the Philippines. We see a good synergy with our products and the Shell ecosystem,” said Nanotronics founder Jerome Palaganas.

Meanwhile, uHoo, founded by Dustin Onghanseng and Lilet Camara, developed a device that helps measure air quality, alerting users to possible health risks and threats and enabling them to address these challenges.

According to Onghanseng, “We want to bring clean air for all. The way we view the company is all about impact and enhancing people’s well-being. This is a global movement that we’re trying to build long-term, and Shell LiveWIRE has helped bring us closer to our goal.”

Fintech company Nextpay, meanwhile, offers a simple and affordable digital banking platform for small business owners to collect, send, and manage their money.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. By approaching that market and helping them succeed, this helps the Philippines as a whole — especially as we move towards digitization,” said Nextpay founder Don Pansacola.

Shell LiveWIRE also tapped three community enterprises to join the LiveWIRE program, who each get to take home a cash grant of P75,000. They include MagzWheel Furniture, which specializes in transforming used rubber tires into furniture and apparel; Green Factory by Oro Handmade Innovations Inc., which produces handmade paper products and is currently in the process of building a sustainable factory; and Revolve Eco. Logical, which recycles used PET bottles and to create new products.

“The entrepreneurial spirit of Filipinos is very much alive. They’re finding new ways to disrupt or reform the way business is operated. It’s important that programs like LiveWIRE support these various industries. It’s a great initiative,” Dillera concluded.

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