Successful startup founders did not study IT

University of Santo Tomas in Manila. (EGKE TF image)

Business and social sciences are the two most common fields of study and level of education of founders and co-founders of the most successful Philippine startup companies suggesting that background in information technology is not necessary to build and succeed in e-commerce, according to a study by iPrice Group.

The study of the educational background of 54 startup founders and co-founders in the country found that non-tech majors are their most common field of study for bachelor’s degree, the e-commerce researcher for Southeast Asia reported.

“The notion that most startup founders and co-founders have computer science and information technology background is not true for the Philippine markets. Only 12.5 percent studied computer science and information technology combined,” said iPrice Group in a press release.

Based on the study, business dominated the seven most common fields of study with 32 percent followed by Social Sciences with 28 percent, and tied on the third place are tech and engineering with 12.5 percent each.

Economics, management and computer science are the most common Bachelor’s degree for social sciences, business and technology fields of study with 10.71 percent for economics and 8.92 percent each for management and computer science, it added.

A total 31 startups were covered by the study and eight of these were developed mostly by founders and co-founders with background in social sciences and business fields of study as follows:
1. Paynamics – Ronald P. Magleo (De La Salle University-Bachelor of Entrepreneurship), Esther Magleo (University of Santo Tomas-Bachelor of Accountancy and De La Salle University MS in Accountancy) and Mylene Chua Magleo (Polytechnic University-Bachelor of Accountancy);
2. Ayannah – Miguel Perez (Ateneo De Manila University-Bachelor of Management and AB Development Studies)
3. I-Remit – Bansan C. Choa (De La Salle University-Bachelor of Commerce);
4. – Moritz Gastl (Maastricht University-Bachelor of Internationl Business) and Rahul Maira (Delhi University-Bachelor of Economics);
5. Ecomparemo – J.P Ellis (Columbia University-Bachelor of Political Science and Government)

Only three founders on the financial industry startups have computer science background such as Ron Hose (Cornell University-MS Computer Science) and Runar Peterson (University of West Florida-Bachelor of Computer Science) of and Robertson Chiang (Ateneo De Manila University- Bachelor of Computer Science) of Dragon Pay.

From the Big 4

Most startup founders and co-founders also attended top-tier universities locally and internationally with 39 to 41 in favor of international universities. The so-called “Big 4” universities are the most common choice for bachelor’s degree. For further studies, most founders and co-founders opt international universities.

The Big 4 are Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU), University of Santo Tomas (UST) and University of the Philippines (UP). A total of 32 founders and co-founders studied from these schools.

ADMU leads with 12 founders and co-founders: Peter Cauton and Paulo De La Fuente of Storm Tech; Myla Villanueva and Ray Espinosa of Wolfpac Mobile; Bansan Choa and Ben Tiu of I-remit. The university’s most notable founder is Nix Nolledo of Xurpas.

Following the lead, DLSU have nine founders the most prominent of whom is Raymond Racaza, the only founder in the list with two companies namely Xurpas and Xeleb Technologies. Airborne Access’ Jay Fajardo is also one of its notable alumnus alongside with Wilson Damarillo of Morphlabs and Bansan Choa of I-remit.

In third place, UST have six founders and co-founders the most prominent of whom is Alexandra Roxas of Chikka Asia. UP has four founders and co-founders:’s RJ David and Airborne Access’s Tony Abello.

For international universities, most in the top 6 and top 7 list of startup founders and co-founders went to U.S. universities. New York University (NYU) tied in third place with USTand Harvard University placed fifth with each six and three founders and co-founders, respectively.

Level Up! founders and co-founders Ben Colayco, Phil Cahiwat and Syam Devineni are all from NYU. The university’s most prominent co-founder on the list is Yoram Heller of Morphlabs.

Harvard University’s most prominent founder on the list is Dennis Mendiola of Chikka Asia.
There were two founders each from the University of Southern California, London School of Economics, Columbia University and Santa Clara University.

Bachelors, MS, MBA

In terms of level of education, out of all the 31 startup founders and co-founders in the top six universities list, 26 took their bachelor’s degree in the Big 4 while the other five founders and co-founders all studied in NYU.

For Master’s Degree, ADMU produced three founders and co-founders, namely Mario Jordan Fetallino of Acudeen Technologies, Peter Paul Cauton of Storm Technologies and Ben Tiu of I-Remit. There is only one founder and co-founder each in NYU and Harvard University (HU): Alexandra Roxas of Chikka Asia and Ralph Manalo Wunsch of Metro Deal, respectively.

For MBA, ADMU and HU produced two founders and co-founders each more than any university on the list: Bansan Choa of I-remit and Noel Martin Baustista of Tsikot both for ADMU; Miguel Perez of Ayannah and Dennis B. Mendiola of Chikka Asia Inc. both for HU. Meanwhile, DLSU and NYU have one founder and co-founder each, Esther Magleo of Paynamics and Syam Devineni of Level Up!, respectively.

Out of all the top six universities, only UST didn’t have a founder and co-founder with MS or MBA degree in the university.

Local vs. int’l universities

Despite the lead of the Big 4 universities in the top six university list, international universities are more common in the Philippine startup founders and co-founders. After accounting all the founders and co-founders (regardless if not from the top 6 university list), the results suggest that there are 39 and 41 founders and co-founders with international education on lead. While there are more founders and co-founders who finished their bachelor’s degree in Philippine universities, international universities dominated for the most number of MS and MBA as most founders and co-founders pursue higher education abroad.

p: wjg

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