Filipino startup bags prize at Dubai hackathon
By Sharmila Ganapathy-Wallace March 10, 2017
- Beats participants from 41 countries to win second place
- Secured two rounds of angel funding to the tune of US$40,000 in the past six months
IT ISN’T often that a little-known Asean startup beats 41 other countries to win second place at an international hackathon. However, MaroonStudios which hails from Quezon City in the Philippines, has done exactly that.
The startup won second place and a US$30,000 cash prize at the recently-concluded UAE Blockchain Virtual GovHack in Dubai, with their blockchain innovation called HealthBlocks.
HealthBlocks is a blockchain-based technology that enables secure health information records transfer between governments, patients, clinics, insurance companies and service providers.
MaroonStudios co-founder and chief executive officer James Mendoza explains that HealthBlocks is an ecosystem that comprises the following: HealthWallet, a smartphone application that enables easy patient identification and access management; HealthPortal, an all-in-one solution for customisable and standardised Health Data Management; and HealthNetwork, a provisioned-blockchain Health Information Exchange Network that enables cryptographic and immutable data storage.
“We only knew about the hackathon about a week or so prior to it, I was introduced to it by a Malaysian startup called Neuroware, which is also in the blockchain space. And they suggested we join this hackathon in Dubai,” Mendoza tells Digital News Asia in a recent interview.
The hackathon was organised by the Prime Minister’s Office of United Arab Emirates (UAE), in collaboration with AngelHack, a global hackathon organisation. The hackathon was in line with The World Government Summit 2017 and specific to blockchain technology.
Prior to their hackathon win, the MaroonStudios team also won last November’s Asean’s Next Great Idea competition sponsored by Uber, Digi and the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre.
According to Mendoza, 20 teams were chosen to join a two-week incubation program in Cyberjaya.
He adds that HealthBlocks being among the five finalists awarded in the Global Entrepreneurship Community 2016 closing ceremonies, will be flying to Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco this month for more training and venture capitalist (VC) fundraising.
Where it all began
So how did MaroonStudios come about? “We started the company in 2014 and our vision has always been affordable innovations for positive change. And for the last three years or so our company has focused on building innovations in the healthcare space in the Philippines,” Mendoza explains.
When asked about the name MaroonStudios, Mendoza says that five of them started the company. “We were all university mates. That’s why we coined the name MaroonStudios because our school collar was maroon and our varsity team was called The Fighting Maroons, so we said ‘let’s just name our company Maroon’.
“Of the five, two are electronics engineers, one is a computer scientist and the two computer engineers. Right now only three founders remain since the other two sold their share in the company to pursue other ventures. The team is now comprised of 10 members,” he says.
According to Mendoza, the main problem in the Philippines’ healthcare space is that service providers, practitioners and the government are quite reluctant towards technology, as they’ve been used to their usual way of doing things for a really long time.
“So whenever a new technology comes in they are quite averse to it. In the past three years we’ve been helping healthcare organisations here embrace digital technologies and making them realise that using digital technologies will make them more efficient and more secure.”
Why healthcare? “When we started out, the only opportunities we got (80%-90% of them) were in healthcare. We had a couple of friends from the same university as us who happened to be doctors and working in the public healthcare space in the Philippines.
“They connected with us and our first project as a company was with the local Food and Drug Administration, we created a mobile app for them and they loved it. And through referrals and word-of-mouth, we became entrenched in the healthcare space here. We were introduced to the local Ministry of Health and did a project with a public healthcare unit as well.”
“So that has been somewhat lucky for us but when we tried to sit down and think about what we actually wanted to do, we felt that in healthcare we would be able to create more impact and more positive change hopefully for the Filipino people.
“We’re a populous nation and one of the biggest problems is actually healthcare; how to keep 100 million plus people healthy.”
Next page: Putting the pieces together