A closer look at the Philippine founders profiled in The Finishers

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter

Want to scale a startup in the Philippines? The Finishers was written with just this premise in mind. Author Ezra Ferraz – one of Ambidextr’s managing partners – set out to collect the stories of the most successful Filipino founders, all of whom managed to scale and successfully exit their business to a larger local enterprise or multinational. 

Through their stories, The Finishers aims to give practical, actionable advice on building a tech business in the Philippines, along with inspiration on how to stick it through. The book includes an afterword from Senator Bam Aquino and was given to regional delegates from ASEAN as part of the nation’s hosting.

Interested readers can pick up a copy at this order form

Here are just some of the successful tech startups featured in The Finishers, along with actual multimedia from their respective chapters.


Led by founder Shahab Shabibi and partners Farouk Meralli and Subir Lohani, HeyKuya had the fastest exit in the Philippines. Just twenty-four weeks after its founding, HeyKuya was acquired in 2016 by YesBoss, an Indonesian-based with a similar business model. 

While the companies above operate in vastly different fields, there is still something to be learned in how HeyKuya was able to go from founding to exit so quickly.

Anino Games

Anino Games founder Niel Dagondon pioneered the gaming industry in the Philippines. Anino games did outsourced gaming development for some of the biggest companies in the world as well as produced its own original intellectual properties. Its most influential original was Anito, the first game based on Filipino mythology and folklore. Anino Games was acquired by Indonesian game studio, Pocket Playlab, in 2014.

According to community organizer Pen Gwen, the heads of most gaming studios hail from Anino. Gabby Dizon (a producer at Anino) and Luna Cruz (a designer and writer) founded Altitude Games; Tristan Angeles (QA) and Marnielle Estrada (programmer) teamed up to create Squeaky Wheel Studio; and Beatrice Lipa, PhD (a producer) started Senshi Labs.


Ranking at the top of nearly every measure of social media usage, the Philippines was aptly declared the social media capital of the world in 2008. Just five years later, co-founders Jonas de los Reyes, Donald Lim, and Mon Lizardo set out to help local brands connect better to this digitally-savvy population with Sociayltics. In 2015, Socialytics was acquired by Globe subsidiary, AdSpark.

Socialytics served some of the biggest brands in the Philippines


Founders in Silicon Valley often create their startup in the proverbial garage. Husband-and-wife team RJ and Arianne David started Sulit in the upstairs bedroom of the former’s parents in Angono, Rizal. With the aid of acquirer Naspers in 2013, Sulit would become one of the most trafficked ecommerce sites in the Philippines.

Sulit was the only local company to appear in the top ten most visited sites in the Philippines.


Before Viber, before WhatsApp, before Telegram, it was Chikka who popularized messaging in the Philippines. Chikka even patented the idea of identifying a person by their mobile number that many of those apps use today, just one part of their broad innovation in the SMS space. Chikka was founded in 2000 by Dennis Mendiola and Chito Bustamante and later sold to PLDT in 2009.

As reflected by the geographic distribution of Chikka Text Messenger downloads, Chikka was one of the first tech companies from the Philippines to truly go global.

Airborne Access

Working out of a coffeeshop in the Philippines today is nothing out of the ordinary, but in the mid-2000s it was still mostly unheard of. Co-founders Jay Fajardo, Tonyboy Abello, and Papittee Madamba popularized mobile working through Airborne Access, a WiFi solutions provided that afforded patrons with internet access via purchasable scratch cards. Airborne Access was acquired by partner Smart Communications in 2008.

Airborne Access changed constructs of work for knowledge workers in the Philippines.


While nearly all UP alumni will fondly recall stories of the UP Shopping Center, very few know that the site was ground zero for the country’s tech ecosystem. In an internet cafe there, Dominick Danao, Josephine Romero, and four other co-founders built PinoyMail.com, an email service for Filipinos. PinoyMail.com would arguably become the first exit in the Philippines after it was sold in 1999 to the venture capital firm of Orlando “Doy” Vea, the founder of Smart Communications.

Dominick Danao is the only person in the world to have won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for literature and exited a tech startup.

There are many other stories of successful founders featured in The Finishers.

You can order your copy of The Finishers by clicking on the above image.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Stay updated on work, tech, and everything content marketing.

Read More