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Empowering the Startup Ecosystem in the Philippines: A Conversation with the Dean of the John Gokongwei School of Management at Ateneo de Manila University

Empowering the Startup Ecosystem in the Philippines: A Conversation with the Dean of the John Gokongwei School of Management at Ateneo de Manila University

Roberto Galang

John Gokongwei School of Management at Ateneo De Manila University
Margaux Zurbano

The John Gokongwei School of Management (JGSOM) is the management school of Ateneo de Manila University (AMDU), offering both undergraduate and graduate programs in business and management. The School also conducts research in various areas in these fields. The school has produced many successful business leaders and entrepreneurs in the Philippines and abroad. JGSOM is built on a platform of collaboration with different schools within ADMU to help students across the university to create businesses and scale them up. The school focuses on tech-enabled innovation, hence their involvement in the startup ecosystem. They are open and looking for partners. With that, why don’t you join me in learning more about the JGSOM with its Dean, Roberto Galang.  


As the dean of JGSOM ADMU, what is the most interesting thing about your position that not many people know about?


My position in the university is a leadership one. Our goal is to put together new curricula, research, and learning programs that are of interest and use for our students. As Dean of the School of Management, there is little difference between what I do compared to the other deans of Ateneo de Manila University. Perhaps this is why ADMU is an ideal launching pad for the startup enterprises that we enable. This is because the structure of the university is very collaborative. Our programs are intertwined and are delivered with all the other schools within ADMU such as the School of Science and Engineering, Humanities, Learning Design, and Social Sciences. We know that when establishing a startup, a myriad of skills and experiences are needed across multiple fields and disciplines. A lot of our startup groups have a mix of different skills. While I’m the Dean of JGSOM, I work closely with our other deans across all disciplines. This allows us to deliver an interdisciplinary program, which is what one needs if they’re starting a successful venture or enterprise.


What is JGSOM ADMU and what makes it different from other schools in fostering innovation? 


Management is one of the oldest disciplines that is being taught in ADMU. The management program and the university has been in place since the ‘50s. We also want to highlight that we are a school of management and not just a school of business. Management is imperative in giving our students the knowledge and skills since it's necessary for everyone once they graduate, irrespective of whether they work in a corporate, government or NGO-setting – or they establish their own new organization. Team-building, marketing, finance, operations are all important factors in scaling startups, and our management curriculum helps the student understand this better. 

Another thing that helps us to stand out is that we recently launched a BS IT Entrepreneurship program. This is a 4-year program wherein we teach students to set up their own tech enabled startups. The idea is that after graduation, one of the student’s projects would be able to be turned into a viable startup. In fact, some of our students, as early as in their 3rd year of school, already have their startups operational. We are hoping that we can collaborate with other universities since the country needs a lot of disruptors and startups. We want to be a beacon that others can partner with. We want to contribute to creating a tech enabled ecosystem.


What are the programs, initiatives and courses that JGSOM ADMU offers? 


We have eight degree programs at JGSOM.  Five of them are designed for the creation of new enterprises: BS Management, BS Management Honors, BS IT Entrepreneurship, BS Restaurant Entrepreneurship and BS Management of Applied Chemistry.  The three other programs focus on skills needed to enhance the operations in a more corporate environment: BS Management Engineering, focused on data analytics,  BS Communications Technology Management, focused on digital transformation and BS Legal Management, focused on regulation. All of these programs are designed to help students understand how to manage an enterprise. The idea of our programs is to also help students come up with new innovations so that we are able to create new entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs across all fields and disciplines.


How does JGSOM ADMU contribute to the growth and development of the innovation ecosystem in the Philippines? How does it collaborate with other organizations or institutions to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the Philippines?


What we realized is that the skills we need to teach outgoing students are very different compared to students during pre-pandemic. For instance, we saw that during the pandemic, there was an explosion of e-commerce and digitalization across all fields. A lot of these things were taught in our school, but not to the extent that they were mainstreamed across the entire curriculum. Many of these courses used to be mere electives.  However, today, we need our students to have a clearer understanding of retail analytics, data visualization, operations, inventory, and supply chain management among others. Prior to the pandemic, these were a nice-to have but today, it is an essential part of the competitive landscape.


The other thing we quickly realized is that the amount of new knowledge our students need to absorb is much more than what our existing curriculum can accommodate in a four-year degree.  As such, we needed to be creative in finding a way for the students to learn these skills, even beyond the classroom.  We partnered with entities to shorten the length of these courses so that our students could learn these skill sets faster. For instance, we have partnered with different members of the Gokongwei group, as well as Aboitiz, PowerMac, CIMB, Quezon City LGU, and Lazada, to try to co-partner with them in delivering real-world training to our students. Through these partners, we are able to expose our students about the working world in analytics, digital banking, and e-commerce among many others. Similarly, we also partner with startups such as the Kaya Founders and QBO so that we can co-deliver programs together.


Can you tell us about any notable startups that have emerged from JGSOM ADMU or received support from the school?


We have a number of startups that have garnered awards and recognitions. One of them is Taikee, which is a personal finance startup that helps users with financial insights to help them improve their financial situation.  The platform leverages data science and artificial intelligence to generate actionable financial advice by better understanding the person’s income, transactions and spending habits. Another startup would be Petagon. This is an information system that collects all information specific to one’s pet, including vaccinations and food requirements among others. The idea is that it becomes a one-stop shop for pet information that will help pet owners with the services that they require. We also have Buzzin which is a startup that is looking to automate the way that people order food and drinks for the restaurant and bar industry. They utilize QR codes and a payment system so that it becomes easier for customers to fill their orders. These are only some of the many startups that we have and have had. There are a lot of times that they pivot throughout the iteration process.


We also want to highlight that we are creating slots for our top entrepreneurial groups so that they can stay with ADMU another 6-12 months after graduation. With this, we are encouraging our startups by not losing momentum after graduation and by providing them with the necessary resources such as funding, mentors, and university access to enable them to accelerate their growth potential and contribute to our start-up ecosystem.   


Roberto Galang is the Dean of the John Gokongwei School of Management in ADMU. He has a degree in Communications, a Master’s degree in Economics for Development, and a PhD in Management. As the Dean of JGSOM ADMU, Robby is committed to providing students with the perfect curriculum to instill knowledge and skills within them. This is important in cultivating the innovation ecosystem within the school, and bringing it beyond the school as well. He is responsible for setting strategic direction, managing academic programs, faculty and staff management, external relations, and overall academic and administrative operations of the School.


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