Unilever launches Foundry in the Philippines

TO boost the development of startups in the country,  manufacturing giant Unilever Philippines recently launched the Unilever Foundry, a platform to provide a single entry point for innovative entrepreneurs seeking to partner with the company in its ongoing commitment to sustainability.

Dennis Perez, media head of Unilever Philippines, said the country is experiencing an upsurge in startups as many young Filipinos are getting more exposed to the modern technologies in the digital age.

“A growing number of innovative visionaries are emerging in the country with the potential for global scale. This project, therefore, pins hope for the Filipino entrepreneurial community as it allows them to expose promising technology solutions in business,” said Perez in an interview at the sidelines of the launch at the Bonifacio Global City.

The program, which enables its global brands to experiment with and pilot new technologies, will provide startups and entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop and work on global projects, access mentoring from marketing professionals, and tap into a new source of funding.

Perez said one of the program’s objectives is its three-month period of marketing mentorship that will provide entrepreneurs the opportunity and collaborate with Unilever mentors, who will guide them develop their brand vision, marketing strategy and product roadmap. Perez said the Unilever Foundry will enable the company to develop an easier and stronger relationship with small startups and entrepreneurs by providing its potential collaborators with opportunities to showcase their ideas for new technology.

To fulfill this, he said Unilever brands and functional teams will post short announcements where they are looking for innovative technology solutions. Companies will then be invited to pitch their solutions, and if selected, pilot their technology with Unilever.

Perez said the pitch-to-pilot process enables Unilever to embed experimentation at the heart of the marketing function, allowing new technologies to be piloted, and new partnerships to be cultivated.

Under the Foundry program, Perez said startups are encouraged to pitch their technology to Unilever for the chance to embark on a paid pilot with Unilever. Successful pilots are already being scaled, and some startups go on to receive funding via Unilever Ventures. For funding, project grants are made available via Unilever Ventures, the Venture capital arm of Unilever.

Unilever Ventures provides investment for early-stage companies that could become strategically relevant to both Unilever and the startup company since the latter can benefit from accessing Unilever’s assets and capabilities.

One of the key areas of investment for Unilever Ventures is Digital Marketing, encompassing marketing-services business with a focus on mobile marketing, digital media and video, social media, content creation, eCommerce, shopper marketing and big data.

“Unilever consistently leads the way in digital technology engagement. Now, the Unilever Foundry project further humanizes the company’s Crafting Brands for Life journey,” Perez said. “This will enable our marketers to reach out to more people, including untapped communities, with brands that are more human and more purposeful. This is all part of our business plan, which aims to create a brighter and sustainable future for all.”

Meanwhile, Unilever Senior Vice President for Global Marketing Marc Mathieu said the establishment of the program is a manifestation of the company’s passion for innovation through collaboration.

“Unilever is a forward-thinking company. We continuously find new ways to connect with our consumers in this ever-evolving global market. Clearly, technology has transformed the way we live, and so we are always looking for smart innovations that can help us grow our business, while creating positive socioeconomic impact,” Mathieu said in his opening remarks during the launch.

Mathieu, the brains behind the Unilever Foundry, flew in to witness the launch of the program, a first in Asia. The initial launch was held In London this year.

“The focus of this collaborative innovation sits alongside Unilever’s ongoing commitment to sustainability. We want to inspire and lead transformation for a more sustainable future,” Mathieu said.

To begin, Unilever has selected six startup companies for the program: myChild, WattSmart, MobKard, Senti, Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALT) and Community Data Network Exchange (Codenex). 

MyChild is creating a scheduling and messaging app that allows parents to interact with their family, friends and fellow parents. It lets them stay in touch with important events, school requirements and little details related to everyday parenting. 

The WattSmart System is an online energy-management platform that shows real-time electricity consumption and analyzes energy behavior. 

Mobkard provides real-time promotions from establishments and allows establishments to be always in touch with customers. 

SENTi Media serves as a nexus between user and the market, by making social media work for the user, rather than against the user. With its cutting-edge monitoring and analysis algorithms, SENTi assists a user in analyzing market feedback that other tools cannot normally process. SENTi also supports the ever-confusing Filipino language, making it the perfect tool for Filipino businesses. 

SALT aims to eliminate the sustaining cost in areas that rely on kerosene/battery-powered lamps and candles as their main source of lighting. It also seeks to provide a more efficient light source for people who use lamps and candles as an alternative source of lighting. 

Codenex is a software-as-a-software web application, developed for local government units as an accurate, reliable data-management system with an infinite number of usage that includes data mapping and reporting. It is a community-based information system on barangays and more.

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Rizal Raoul S. Reyes has covered technology, science, business, property and special reports. He had working stints with the Business Star, Manila Bulletin and Independent Daily News.

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