Founder Spotlight:  Calen Legaspi of Orange and Bronze

Making an Impact as a Philippine Software Industry Pioneer

By Michaela Villaroman

Today’s digital driven world has pushed companies to improve the technology side of their products and services. With that, we see the field of software development receive a spike in terms of its necessity and role in business innovation.  

Particularly in the Philippines, the software sector has already shown its significance in the country and all over the world. According to reports, the Philippine software industry is positioned for a lot of growth. In fact, it is projected that by 2020, the country’s share would grow up to $7 billion USD from $3 billion USD back in 2016.

One of the Philippine industry trailblazers is Orange and Bronze Software Labs, a software development, consultancy, and IT service provider that has built a solid track record for providing industry best practices. We spoke with Orange and Bronze CEO Calen Legaspi to learn more about how the company came together and what else we can look forward to from them.

The origins of Orange and Bronze

Even in his youth, Calen was always fascinated with technology. “Originally, I wanted a career in Materials Science. My uncle, however, encouraged me to consider IT,” Calen recalled, “It was also an exciting time back then since it was only the beginning of the dot com boom.”

Calen went back to school to get a second degree in Computer Science, but before he could finish, an opportunity opened for him to start his career as a programmer for Ayala Systems Technology. He shared, “It was hard studying and working at the same time, but at least I was able to get a solid foundation in Computer Science.”

His first stint as a programmer eventually led him to many other jobs in the field. But it was not until he helped start the Filipino Java Users Group or PinoyJUG that he became truly immersed in the industry. PinoyJUG is an organization created for Filipino Java users who are passionate about learning and sharing their knowledge on Java. Calen helped the organization grow and soon took on the role as their president.

“My end goal was really to start a company. Through PinoyJUG I was able to learn a lot as well as build a network,” Calen said. He took his first steps starting Orange and Bronze when he got a small team from PinoyJUG to do a short project with him for a client. In the end, the project didn’t pan out well since most of the people on the team had day jobs, but it did serve as a catalyst that pushed Calen to go all in on his venture.

“As soon as I quit my job in 2005, there was a rapid growth in IT outsourcing. A lot of companies were ramping up their programming staff, particularly in Java development. From this, we put together the Java Bootcamp, a training program that we still conduct today,” Calen said. The program was a success and it was able to catch the interest of both local and multinational companies.

In the process of providing training, Orange and Bronze also got referrals for other projects. And in 2007, Calen was able to bag their first offshore client. He told us how he came across them, “I don't know what motivated me to do this, but I found an ad on one of my mailing lists and I saw that they were looking for developers for technology we were already using. I messaged them asking if they would consider outsourcing the service to us. And to my surprise, I actually got a response saying they were interested.”

With training and outsource services already provided by the company, they were able to quickly establish themselves in the industry. In 2009, they were approached by a telecommunications company who sought their help on a project that failed. The outcome was a success, and soon after, more and more telcos sought their services.

Today, Orange and Bronze is considered a maven in the field of software solutions as they have catered and continue to service heavyweight clients all over the world. They provide a variety of offerings such as software consulting, product engineering, and other IT services. They are recognized as one of the early practitioners of Agile Software Development in the Philippines and are also the the first Philippine-based Pivotal partner, with over a hundred of experts on the team specializing in Spring and Hibernate.

Expanding initiatives through product development

Behind Orange and Bronze’s success is their team of experts. Calen said, “I’m not a fan of overusing the word ‘passion’ but I believe that we’re doing really well because everyone on our team is passionate about their profession in software development. These people strive to learn constantly and are just generally excited about their work.”

Apart from having a dedicated team, Calen also expressed his joy of working with other like-minded individuals who want to solve problems through tech. He had been interested in getting into product development for a time, and he fortunately was able to find the right partner to get into his first project.

“I wanted to build a product that could solve a problem for schools and universities, so I turned to my network of friends. I found Niel Dagondon, a very wise serial entrepreneur who has been very active in the startup community, and he was interested in collaborating with me,” Calen shared.

At the time, Niel was running his school CIIT Philippines, which offers top multimedia arts training to students, and he thought that managing a school could be made simpler if artificial intelligence is applied to their systems.

In partnership between Niel, they created an AI-driven technology system that analyzes data and resources for schools. They named the product Edusuite and it managed to bring great results. They conducted their pilot run in CIIT Philippines and the school observed a 23% increase in revenue  per student, and smarter management of their students and faculty. Calen said, “Even if there are dozens of systems for campuses in the market, we’re the only ones who applied artificial intelligence.”

Solving the mundane and complicated problems

With the success of the product, Calen hopes to keep the ball rolling and continue his involvement with product development. He shared his motivation, “As an engineer, I enjoy solving complicated problems. I’m a fan of the ones that are difficult to solve, especially those that people would describe as mundane and complicated. It is particularly those types of problems that excite me because if it were easy to solve, someone must have done it by now,” he shared.

As for his thoughts on the current state of the software industry in the Philippines, Calen shared that he knows we can keep improving. He said, “For Orange and Bronze, we’d like to continue to do what we’re doing. Through our efforts, we hope to help improve and raise the bar for the Philippine software development community. There's a lot of interest right now in the industry yet the level of practice isn't quite there yet. But like how we are able to solve the mundane and complicated problems through Orange and Bronze, I know fellow organizations will be able to do so the same, too.”

To learn more about Orange and Bronze, you may visit their website here.