When orthopedic surgeon Dr. Rene Catan proposed to create a local and cheaper total joint implant, nobody listened.
“Way mutoo, way maminaw (nobody believed, nobody listened),” Catan said Friday while propping up the huge P500,000 mock check he got for being one of the 10 winners of IdeaSpace’s nationwide search for start-ups.
Catan and his teammates, epidemiologist Niño Ismael Pastor and engineer Vernie Reyes, were named winners for their entry Mirand (Metal Implants Research And Development Corp.) in the IdeaSpace nationwide finals last Friday at the First Pacific Leadership Academy in Antipolo City, Rizal.
Catan specializes in joint replacements and finds it frustrating that people who needed their knees replaced refused the procedure because of the cost. He said he had been grappling with the problem for close to 20 years. Many people, Catan said, became aware of the procedure when former president Joseph Estrada underwent it.
The prostheses have to be imported and can cost up to P150,000. He said some would rather take medications that can have dire side effects like eventual kidney failure rather ran have their joints replaced.
Catan said he and his team were able to make a cheaper prototype because labor costs here are lower, they outsourced its manufacturing and their design was simpler and had fewer parts although still offering “greater range of motion to allow squatting and kneeling without compromise in quality.” The cost savings can amount to an estimated 50 percent, he said.
They had a hard time, however, in reaching out to potential investors because nobody listened to them.
“One day my wife gave me a piece of paper, which she got from her friend. It was about IdeaSpace. She said ‘why don’t you fill this up? Why don’t you validate your idea?” Catan said.
He filed his IdeaSpace application and progressed through the process until eventually landing among 20 finalists out of 700 that submitted to the nationwide contest.
When the finalists were subjected to a Skype interview, Catan said he tried to ask IdeaSpace whether he could come over to their office instead because he did not know how to use the VOIP and video conferencing software.
When told that they had to do the interview over Skype to be fair to everyone, Catan said he had to seek his child’s help.
Never too late
When Catan, who is 54, and his team went up on stage last Friday to claim their award from IdeaSpace chairman Manuel Pangilinan, they were the most applauded from a start-up field young enough to be their children.
“It’s never too late when you’re an entrepreneur and you have ideas and you want these ideas to soar. It’s not about the age. It’s your dream that makes you young,” he said.
Catan, Pastor and Reyes, along with the nine other winning start-ups, got P500,000. They will also receive funding and incubation services worth up to P5 million each.
Another team that won in the contest is TimeFree, which was a project submitted to the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Sweep) in 2010.
TimeFree is a system that manages the queuing of customers. It allows people to leave the queue and get an SMS notification when it’s close to their turn.
When it was a student project, the system included a piece of equipment where people dropped P5 and then entered their priority number, specified on which priority number they want to be alerted and then entered the phone number where they want alert text messages sent.
Joselle Macrohon, who thought about the project when she was still a student and saw long lines in Ateneo de Zamboanga’s finance office, said she couldn’t believe their achievement. Macrohon is now the group’s chief financial officer.
Teammate Philip Adrian Atilano, now the chief executive officer, said that “after so many failures, this is the best thing to have happened.”
“We had a lot of obstacles even in college, many said it wasn’t needed, it’s no good. We proved them wrong,” he said.
Atilano said they did away with the hardware that accepted P5 coins and turned the system into a software package that is easier to deploy. They’ve added an online scheduler that allows people to get a priority number even without going to the establishment.
Macrohon said they already have a deal with Smart to deploy the system in its wireless centers nationwide.
The other winners include Armtech from Angeles City, an affordable water purification machine for households; DateCola from Davao, a natural date-enriched beverage; PGRS from Metro Manila, a system that produces electricity via rumble strips on high traffic roads; PinoyTravel from Metro Manila, a bus seat reservation system that uses mobile technologies; PortfolioMNL from Metro Manila, an online marketplace for creative professionals; Prodigo from Manila, a solution for targeted promotions and analytics; Tech4Health from MetroManila, a solution for monitoring chronic health conditions including diabetes; and WeGen from Sorsogon, a new design of wind turbine that is more efficient than what is currently available.
IdeaSpace president Earl Martin Valencia said the 10 winners “embody what we need right now in the Philippines.
“We have a diversity of ideas from IT-based solutions all the way to the next big medical company. That’s what we want here,” he said.
Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu. He has written and edited for such publications as The Freeman, The Independent Post, Today, Sun.Star Cebu, Cebu Daily News, Philstar Life, and Rappler.
He is also a mobile app and web developer and co-founded InnoPub Media with his wife Marlen.
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