You’re never too young to be an entrepreneur, and this is exactly how many young business-minded individuals are finding themselves of late. Even here at e27, we think that the magic age for entrepreneurship is on your 27th year. But there’s a certain novelty with startup founders and CEOs who are below 20. Take for instance Gian Javelona, who got some exposure in the Philippine tech media, as well as mainstream media outlets for developing the Polytechnic University of the Philippines’ (PUP) mobile portal.
The “teen developer sensation” — as SGEntrepreneurs calls him — is credited with enabling university students’ mobile access to registration, grades and news right from their Android devices. In a country where a majority of users access the Internet from mobile devices, this is a big help in improving access to services.
e27 recently got hold of Gian, and the young co-founder and CEO of Orange Apps told us that his venture into mobile app development has seen some traction, so far. From within PUP, usage has grown to about 6,000 out of the university’s 70,000 students spread across several campuses. IdeaSpace — a venture fund and incubator founded by a consortium of telecom and technology companies — has invested into Orange Apps and is providing mentorship and marketing support.
Gian told us that at first, developing for mobile platforms was difficult, due to the need to test the app on a variety of devices. At first, he had to borrow smartphones from friends to try the app on different devices. “I was borrowing my classmates’ phones to test it,” but eventually, angel investors trusted him enough to provide Orange Apps some hardware, such as a desktop computer and smartphones to help improve development.
The third-year Computer Engineering Management Technology student’s story was quite serendipitous, he said. “It all started when we were featured on TV5. IdeaSpace emailed me for a meeting, and they wanted me to talk at an event for AIESEC.” It was here where Gian met Philippine Basketball Association coach Chot Reyes, who also runs an executive and business coaching enterprise. After liking Gian’s pitch, Chot took the young entrepreneur under his wings with mentorship and support.
Recently, Gian was able to pitch to PLDT chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, and got “good feedback.” It was actually a surprise pitch. “Chot asked me to come with him to a meeting, so I did. I didn’t know I was going to pitch to MVP.”
Orange Apps is now exploring partnerships with other schools and universities, such as San Beda College and the University of the Philippines. Through the mobile portal, students will be able to enroll into classes, check grades and get news updates. Meanwhile, teachers can already input grades into the system. The app works with the schools’ existing infrastructure, so the app actually works as a mobile extension of whichever system schools already use for enrollment or recording grades.
The team already has an iOS application in the works, although developing on Android is a priority, given the lower barrier to entry. The app’s main business model is advertising, targeted toward the mostly student user-base.
Right now, Orange Apps has a core team of four individuals, mostly under 20. The team includes Gian himself, plus a co-founder, graphic artist and business development manager. The team also has an intern. With regard to hiring, the young startup founder says he looks beyond talent. “I’m not looking for the skill itself, but for the passion, dedication and eagerness to learn.”
One advice to the youth: “The sooner you start the faster you”ll learn.”
Start ’em young
Gian notes that apart from raw talent, it’s also the circumstances, opportunities and meeting the right persons that can help make or break a potential enterprise. He is thankful for IdeaSpace, Coach Chot Reyes, PV Aquino (co-founder of jackenpoy.com, and who is also a mentor). Gian even cites his brother who bought him a laptop computer so he can learn to code.
As of this month, though, Gian ceases to be the 19-year old startup founder that earned him accolades from the media. He just turned 20, which probably means he’s nearing that “magic age” of 27 when he will likely be able to hit and execute an even bigger idea.