Local financial technology startup First Circle launched on Thursday, July 7, an online tool called “Project Finder” to help more Philippine small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) get started on government supplying.
First Circle said finding appropriate projects and clients is always a struggle for SME owners, noting the use of digital tools for sales and marketing among Filipino SME owners is still minimal as they mostly rely on word-of-mouth and referral from personal connections to find revenue-increasing opportunities.
The Philippine government happens to be a lucrative source of SME opportunities, it said. Through their official website, PhilGEPS (Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System), local LGUs and government agencies post hundreds of projects every day for SMEs to bid on.
Many SMEs, however, are hindered from B2G (business-to-government) transactions due to several factors. Most are unaware of PhilGEPS or the process of government supplying. Others do not have the time to explore PhilGEPS contracts regularly, it observed.
“Lastly, most SMEs lack the proof of funding needed to win the bidding system for contracts. This is because SMEs often count on unpaid receivables from ongoing projects to fund their next business opportunities,” First Circle said.
The startup said its Project Finder can help SMEs break into B2G operations through a free and searchable database of government contracts. The contracts are scraped from PhilGEPS and LGU websites, showing project details that are otherwise inaccessible without a PhilGEPS account or an exhaustive online search.
“Database users can find projects with a simple keyword search, and filter results further by contract budget and region. Users can also save time by setting daily or weekly email alerts for business-relevant government projects. To do this, search for a keyword, then click the ‘Get alerts for this search’ button above the search results,” it said.
More importantly, the startup said Project Finder users can get project funding directly on the platform by clicking “Apply for credit line”. This leads to an application form for PhilGEPS Project Finance, First Circle’s exclusive loan product for government suppliers.
SME applicants who qualify for the product will receive a revolving credit line, which they can opt not to use unless needed. The credit line is free and always available, it added. If it is used, SMEs only pay for the amount they borrowed plus interest.
“Qualified SMEs will also receive proof of funding to include in their bidding documents — increasing their chances of winning the government project. Lastly, SMEs who borrow from their credit line can pay upon completion of their government project — mitigating cash flow gaps and accounting for possible payout delays,” First Circle said.