Interview with Doxcheck’s CEO, Joseph Sarmiento
Doxcheck, one of today’s leading companies that is also included in Echelon’s Top 100 Startups, specializes in internet database security and protection. They are the first company to create a secure online documents verification and authentication facility to protect people from fraud and counterfeiters. With its fast, easy, and accurate verification process, Doxcheck has made a name for itself in the professional groups and has then launched Doxcheck Professional.
To know more about Doxcheck, we interviewed the CEO and one of the co-founders of the company, Mr. Joseph Sarmiento. Let’s find out more about him and how the company started!
Q1: “Tell us a little about yourself. What pushed you to be an entrepreneur? And how do you balance your work and family?”
Before I was in software business, I actually started in accountancy, planning to be a lawyer. But after two years in accountancy, I went to IT
[On being an entrepreneur] I started with food, medicine, and anything I can sell. Then, with my background in IT, I started doing software and became an employee for corporations, and software development companies. After that, I became a programmer and systems analyst for the Bureau of Immigration here in the Philippines. Eventually, I thought why not build a company - a software development company. So, I started a software company - a very small, humble software company.
[On work and family] I dedicate my Saturdays and Sundays to my family. I have an 11 year old son and I take him to movies after my work. That’s how I connect with him. I actually see myself in my child. So, I tell him stories about my business and how Doxcheck is also his. I tell him that this is a great opportunity for us. I also have a daughter and on Saturdays and Sundays, we go out. If needed, I take a week off. Sometimes, my family goes home to the province. And I stay here because work is tiring and I just want to rest in the weekend. If I stay up late because of meetings and other business things, she [my wife] knows I will make it up to her. It’s very important to have time for my family because I get motivation from them. In business, it’s always a battle and it’s tiring. Money is not motivation, but family is.
Q2: “Please explain about Doxcheck. How did you come up with this business idea?”
We founded it in 2012, and launched in January 2013, under a different name. It’s still Doxcheck but under a different company – it’s owned by all founders. Doxcheck handles document security and prevents documents from falling victim to counterfeit. For example, the diplomas of universities and colleges are easier to fake. For a third world country set-up, it’s very hard to verify if it’s real or not.
We started reaching out to schools and professional organizations because somehow it isn’t their priority to put up their own system to let third party verifiers authenticate their documents. What they do is take phone calls and emails which takes time. Almost all companies and government agencies in the Philippines and other countries, even first world countries, are affected because they don’t have a way to check [the document]. So that’s why we came up with Doxcheck. Also, my brother is a lawyer in the maritime industry. Some shipping vessel companies coming from Japan, U.K., U.S., [the government] don’t know how to verify their certificates and that’s why we started in the maritime industry in 2013.
Q3: “Doxcheck startup is a company. How’s life for Doxcheck as a startup company? What are the pros and cons to running a startup?”
When we built the business, we didn’t have any idea of start-ups. We just built it for the heck of having a start-up. We knew that this business would be something someday, so in 2012, with our own money, we [my brother and I] were able to put up and raise Doxcheck. Then in 2013, we didn’t have funds anymore. We thought that the product was really good and would sell on its own but we learned that there is no such product like that. We were still in the marketing phase and needed a lot of people to sell it for us. So since I didn’t have money and didn’t want Doxcheck to go to waste, I researched and found out about the start-up industry. It was the reverse way for us; we didn’t form Doxcheck because of the start-up trend. We built this traditional business and used the start-up industry to raise funds, to expand, and to market it.
[On running a startup company] We don’t tag ourselves as a start-up because it’s repellent to our companies and clients. If they know you are a startup, sometimes they don’t want to talk to you because they don’t know how long you will last. They think that start-ups are not really acceptable here yet. That’s why we say we are a tech company that has been in the software industry for a while.
Q4: “It looks like your target is the global market. Isn’t it a little difficult to penetrate into other markets? What is your marketing plan to reach other countries?”
This year, we are penetrating and targeting new colleges and universities. A while back, one of the top universities had their graduation and it was announced that all their diplomas were verifiable online.You can find a sign in front of San Beda’s campus that reads, “San Beda College is now protected by Doxcheck.” That’s our tag line. We protect this firm. It’s similar to ISO, the International Standard, in a sense that ISO means one is organized as Doxcheck means one is protected - your firm cannot be counterfeited. That’s our marketing strategy; it’s a marketing way [to say] that “this [school] is now protected by Doxcheck.”
This year, we’ll market first to raise funds and to penetrate the whole Philippines. We will try to get IT’s from other countries. Then, we’ll start one to two years from now to go out, mostly Southeast Asia. But as of now, we want to dominate the Philippines first.
Q5: “Is there any competition in the market? What are the threats and risks that you are expecting from this business?”
If we dominate the market, even if someone gets in we can easily put them down. For clients who’ve subscribed to Doxcheck, it’s harder for them to shift because the shifting cost is very high. It’s easy to lower down the cost but the profit margin is very high. We are anticipating that if someone comes in then we can easily adjust. The competitors are still figuring out how to be profitable, but with Doxcheck it’s easier because we’ve reached that point of dominating the market. But that’s my biggest fear. What if we’re not ready and another company comes along? We can be profitable by the end of the year but it would just be enough to get by but not really dominate. Like you said, marketing is very expensive and if we don’t have funds, then a giant [company] can eat us up. But if we are bigger company, we would have the funds and if someone comes along, we can sue them and pay for the losses. If we don’t have funds they’ll just lodge us - that’s my biggest fear. I’m trying to weigh things. Raising money is not that easy because it takes time, but this is happening already. Clients are coming in. Profitability is very near. So which one will I prioritize - earning money or being profitable?
Q6: “How do you plan to compete and what is your biggest advantage?”
I understand that there are companies and universities that have their own verification systems. But the problem is if you are an employer, a recruiter, or a government agency then you have to check all websites of each university. The idea of Doxcheck is that it is centralized. Any company, government, and university that is in the Philippines can check via one facility. They don’t need their own infrastructure or their own IT team because we take care of that. That’s how it works. For example, transcripts of records can be one to five pages, right? It’s only 1 code for 5 pages so it’s easy to check if the documents are really authentic. That’s just 60 cents (USD) per code. I just photocopy the diploma and it is visible to the third party. They just go to Doxcheck and enter the code, and they’re done. That’s how [easy] you can check if it’s real or fake.
[On biggest advantage] I was an accountancy major before and I used that to understand business people. They’re all about numbers. I studied numbers combined with technology and programming, which is why I can bridge the gap with business people. So when they talk about numbers, I understand. Maybe that’s my advantage in the [software] business. I became a businessman and ventured into a lot of businesses but I am also an engineer. So when I talk to them, I speak their language and at the same time, I know the limitations of the software that I will provide them. I don’t make promises that I can’t deliver on. I promise what I can do.
In a competitive world where business and technology co-exist, Mr. Joseph Sarmiento has proven that hard work does work. With a dedicated and passionate CEO like Mr. Sarmiento, Doxcheck is surely in good hands!