Founder Spotlight: Leeroy Livias Shoko & Donald Saurombe of Dibz

Dibz App Ups The Game

By Jonaima Panalondong

In the recent years, the Philippines’ vehicle market has started to boom. Multiple companies have been dipping in the Philippine market with affordable vehicles that go with even more affordable down-payment and installment rates. Banks have been laying down more flexible auto-loan requirements as well. The middleclass are now enjoying the nouveau riche life. Due to this, the amount of vehicles in the Philippines has inflated tremendously. Unfortunately, the newly generated demand for more parking spaces is not met.

Ten years ago, you would be able to quickly locate a parking space wherever you find yourself, but now, you may need to park at an expensive hotel just because it’s the only place with a vacant space. You may even inadvertently end up touring the whole city trying to look for parking!

This inconvenience usually leads to tardiness and a whole lot of cancelled plans. Leeroy Livias Shoko and Donald Saurombe understood this problem, and also recognized an opportunity.

The parking hunt that evolved into a city tour – what sparked the idea for Dibz

It all started when Leeroy and Donald were waiting for a client from their previous job. Their client ended up cancelling on them due to difficulty looking for a parking space. He drove from Makati to Mandaluyong just to find parking!

Leeroy thought that this was problematic. It needs solving. This is where Dibz comes into play. Dibz is a mobile application and marketplace for parking that allows you to search, reserve, and pre-pay for a parking space before you arrive at your destination around Metro Manila. “We want to create convenience for drivers. They can call dibs on the parking space before they arrive,” Donald says.

Cost-cutting while helping Metro Manila traffic situation – win-win!

Parking rent for condominiums is expensive especially when you only ever use the space for a measly amount of hours. In addition to that, car owners are also looking to minimize expensive fuel costs. “Why not utilize that space to earn money? It is more of an opportunity to recuperate some of the cost and in return while helping alleviate the parking problem in the Philippines,” Donald proposed.

Dibz evaluates the parking space in terms of security, holding ability, and proximity to locations. They talk to the admins of commercial and residential parking spaces to lease the spaces instead of keeping the area unutilized. Security personnel will have information to keep utmost security with this app. “It’s just like an AirBnb for parking. We ensure safety for both parties,” Leeroy says. Dibz provides a tablet for the security personnel to monitor the place and to send real-time extension notifications. Tenants and unit owners, who have parking slots in their residential building, can list their parking spaces on Dibz for other nearby drivers to rent while they are away from home. This will help the parking space owners recover some of their monthly residential parking costs while helping improve the availability of parking options in Metro Manila and Cebu.

Family figures molded the entrepreneur in them

Leeroy and Donald are both graduates of the Adventist University of the Philippines. “We thought experiencing a new perspective in life would be good in the Philippines,” Donald shares.

Influenced by his father, Donald says that ever since he was young, he had always known that he wanted to become an entrepreneur. “I used to pretend to be a businessman as a kid,” he shares. He had found his inspiration when he saw his father read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” Growing up, he thought of other career routes. But in the end, he ended up back in business. He studied Management Accounting, but realized that it was not meant for him.

Leeroy said he had an entrepreneurial mindset since childhood. It was almost expected  because his parents are both entrepreneurs. His mother is a fashion designer while his father is an engineer. Both ran their own business as immigrants in Bostwana. They fled the crushing Zimbabwean Economy and had to work extra hours to put Leeroy through college. For that, he deems himself incredibly blessed to have them. Despite having difficulty getting money for his education, his parents were able to get him an IT degree in college.

“Traditionally, we were asked to get a degree, get a job, marry, and tell your kids to do the same. We wanted to go a different direction. ‘Let’s not be employed. Let’s be our own bosses. Let’s go our own way.’ We saved money from the entrepreneurial experiences we had and now, we are ready to launch something that will do good,” Leeroy shared. “We co-founded this distribution company where I was the main investor. It lasted for a while but eventually, we stopped,” he says. After that, he made a marketing tool for public and commercial locations; it offers free wifi after customers log-in to view ads. While doing that, they joined an e-commerce company. It was taking time, so they decided to do something independently. He came up with the idea, sat down with people, and started working on it. “There is a similar app in the United States, but it is just extra convenience – nothing being solved, but in the Philippines, the problem is real,” he states.

A recipe for entrepreneurship

The greatest mentor for Leeroy is Les Brown, a motivational speaker. “When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up. Let your reason get you back up,” Leeroy quotes. To Donald, entrepreneurship is about having the eye to identify problems, the ability to organize thoughts, and the will to come up with an execution plan. “If few people can identify, even fewer can execute. Good ideas need proper execution,” he says.

“No matter how good an offer looks, we have to learn how to say ‘no’,” Donald stresses. “Work on your product first. Make sure you have something that is worth it. Most entrepreneurs rush into the market then they lag and fall when their momentum is cut,” Leeroy observes. “If you can talk about it and envision it, I believe that it is possible. If you can do it, that is entrepreneurship. Contributing to the growth of a company with their own ideas is already entrepreneurship,” he adds.

Leeroy believes that if you want to do business, you must find someone you can trust. “As you build a team and you see your vision absorbed by your team motivates you. It empowers one to work harder,” Donald says as he stresses the importance of the team. “A company with family values is a long lasting company,” Leeroy adds.

“Go ahead and do it. The thing about lack of capital is, it does not really stop you from starting. You will be surprised to find out how inexpensive it can be. Stop talking about it, start doing something. Do the first part because you never know what comes along,” Donald tells young entrepreneurs.

“If you’re finding it hard to believe in your ability to achieve your dream try believing in someone who believes in you. As an entrepreneur, go for it, do not hesitate, and research as much as you can. We learn from people and projects. You will find out that you can learn more from people than you ever could from school,” Leeroy adds.

Currently, they are in the midst of adding the final touches to their app. Dibz aims to fully launch by November this year. 

Keep your radars on for a new era of driving in Manila!