Aside from being a research-based University, De La Salle University is also an institution that offers courses and programs that develop and equip aspiring entrepreneurs to build their business. The Lasallian community is more engaged in this field than ever. The number of students creating and developing their own products through startup projects increased throughout the years and is continuously on the rise.
A startup is not your archetypal brick and mortar business. It makes use of innovative technologies and business models with the intention of addressing social problems and make an impact. However, startups are not only limited to students in the business program. In fact, there are non-business majors who have ventured and successfully operated their own product line.
Gero Tan Seng (BS CS-CSE, ‘17) is one of these students, rising to become the youngest solar energy supplier in the Philippines. It only took Seng a week to conceptualize his business framework, and officially launched his solar energy startup last September 2016. The inspiration behind the decision to start his own business came from the need to gain enough funding for his research by re-selling various productions such as tables and powerbanks.
Preparation and development
Like others in business, Seng had to undergo initial steps in building his company. He started by doing research on solar photovoltaic products by reading a wide range of datasheets, as well as studying reviews. In the process of analyzing and sorting products, he made sure to put the Philippine market into consideration and identify what would be best for it without having to sacrifice quality. Contacting multiple suppliers and attending several exhibitions that may potentially broaden his knowledge on solar energy were also two essential steps that he had to carry out.
Seng discloses that the fundamental reason why he chose to build a solar energy company is that it will help a lot of people save money from their electricity and be able to create an impact on the environment at the same time. From this mindset, the company’s mission is to “provide each Filipino household with the Solar system that they deserve.” Likewise, the company’s vision is to “create a more sustainable Philippines through the use of renewable energy technology.”
Venturing on solar energy
Of the several possible types of businesses to choose from, Seng settled with solar energy because he firmly believes that one of the major problems in the current Philippine society is the constant energy price hike. “I started Tan Seng Industries to supply and install reliable solar equipment and services that every Filipino deserves,” he narrates.
He also shares that the solar energy concept struck him when he joined the 2016 Hult Prize with his friends. The group’s primary plan back then was to help solve predicaments involving crowded urban spaces. “We designed Solarize Works, a social enterprise that would help people generate income by leasing their roof for solar use,” he explains.
For Seng, taking his chances on green technology isn’t a move towards financial stability, but a future-proof investment that would benefit the environment and the people around it. Seng shares, “I am currently handling several researches on hydroponic farming and also started another company for a more reliable internet connection and sustainable housing.”
Devising phase and challenges faced
Seng shared that it was difficult to convince people that solar energy was effective at first. However, despite doubts about the efficiency of solar energy, Seng still believes that the Philippine solar market is set to boom in the following years, mentioning the negative effects of fossil fuels as one of the major reasons as to why there is an increased regulation of green energy.
Due to his two other businesses, a livestock and an agriculture business, overlapping at times, he shares that coinciding meetings is an inevitability. He, however, knows how to manage his time wisely. “If I need to be in one spot or another, there will always be a way,” he says. He also shares that he uses the LRT at times when company cars aren’t available, readily sacrificing comfort for his company’s needs.
Even with the three businesses that he is currently managing, Seng does not consider himself as a serial entrepreneur. He explained that he stays focused on all the businesses without leaving anything out. Using a system he developed that sends him business reports regularly, he says that he could be a more hands-on entrepreneur. “No one can handle the decision-making better than me I think, because I started it,” he asserts. “[It is] an advantage of being a computer science and engineering hybrid,” he adds.
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
At a young age of 23, Seng already has three businesses under him, namely Tang Seng Industries, Triple Jade Dragon Incorporation, and Solar Home Philippines Corporation. As a student himself, Seng testifies that time management is the key. Seng also shares that he aspires to be a billionaire before the age of 30, through starting impact-driven businesses — low margin endeavors that yield high quality products. For him, the best type of business is one that can help people, improve the environment, while also being financially profitable.
Seng doesn’t necessarily follow a standard formula when it comes to operating his businesses. However, for the young entrepreneur, eliminating the fly-by-night operators serves as one of his goals, since he believes customers deserve better providers. That said, to be able to offer those, Seng engages in self-study.
Capital is considered as the biggest challenge for startups. Seng shares the same opinion as he believes that students who plan to build their own business must recognize first their capabilities and the resources available to them, particularly connections and capital. “You need to find a segment of the market that is underserved and capitalize on that opportunity,” he advises.