To develop a technology enterprise in a developing country such as the Philippines may seem like a lost cause; but not to an enterprising and persevering woman as Myla Villanueva, co-founder and managing director of Novare Technologies. With a strong faith in Filipino ingenuity, Myla believes that Filipinos are some of the most capable in developing revolutionary technologies that are for the advancement of not only the country, but of the whole world. Myla believes that Filipino inventors and ‘technopreneurs’ just need a whole lot of support.
As a kid, Myla has always been curious about how things worked. She used to break phones and radios apart, and she had been electrocuted many times because she experimented with all sorts of circuits at home. Her innate curiosity has been complemented with an entrepreneurial spirit, which has been nourished by her parents when she and her brothers were still very young. That is why at 16, she started helping in the family business by trading in computer disks, tapes and hard drives from their garage.
It was during her days at the Silicon Valley in Sta. Clara where she learned that technology can be life’s work. Inspired by the stories of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Myla brought her knowledge in information technology back to the Philippines. Aware that developing technology in a not-so-advanced country as the Philippines could pose many challenges, Myla also knew that it presented many opportunities as there were many solutions that can be introduced to the technologies that country still lacked. Being able to identify the specific technologies the industry needed would make her a pioneer in many local innovations.
Even with the overwhelming idea of entering a male-dominated field, Myla went ahead and introduced her very first innovation, which would later on establish her name in the local industry. At that time, nobody had heard of the terms “Local and Wide Area Networks”. And this was also the time where there was no electricity and various coup attempts had been rocking the government. She still wonders how she was able to go past these problems, but through MDI Group Holdings, Myla introduced the idea of connecting computers on a network via Internet Protocol, therefore being one of the first to create an IP infrastructure in the 80s, which was the Social Security System (SSS) network.
Thanks to technology, information on the internet is accessible pretty much anywhere with the right devices, one of which is the wireless mobile broadband such as Smart Bro. Back in 2003, before it was sold to Smart Communications and before being rebranded to Smart Bro, Meridian Telekoms was the first wireless broadband company in the country. Myla co-founded Meridian, her fourth company. Myla is also the technopreneur behind Microwarehouse, a distributor for electronics equipment, gadgets and software such as Apple, Cisco and Linksys for the mass market; and Wolfpac, which pioneered mobile applications and also became the largest content developer. Wolfpac was also sold to Smart.
Setting up one successful enterprise after another, most of which offered technological breakthroughs, Myla was selected as the first Ernst and Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003 and became one of the most respected technopreneurs of her time. Today, she is establishing an international presence in information and technology with the set up of her fifth company, Novare Technologies, which is based in Hong Kong. Novare provides IT consultancy and solutions to companies in Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.
At this point, there is no stopping Myla from expanding. As she continues to push innovations in cost-effective software platforms in telecommunications as well as banking technologies, she is foreseeing huge opportunities from emerging markets in Asia alone. That is why she encourages IT development through young innovators and technopreneurs, believing that these young innovators can elevate the Philippines as a powerhouse for software and mobile application development. Just as with Go Negosyo, Myla has also been providing mentoring sessions specifically for technopreneurs, pooling in IT experts and executives to guide and teach young innovators.
Just recently, her company Novare released a tech entrepreneur fund called “Wireless Wings”, a 111-million peso venture capital outfit that will help students develop an investment thesis as a start in building their own technology companies. She believed that the lack of exposure hinders aspiring technopreneurs, but she is happy with the positive reception that this project has been getting from the private sector.
She is not an engineer or a computer scientist by training, but Myla’s determination and passion about the importance of technology in efficiency led her to success, gaining the trust of big institutions like SSS, Meralco, and PLDT.
As an entrepreneur who has given a significant contribution in the improvement of the country’s technology, and now as an active mover of the youth to engage in technology as an opportunity for them to reach their goals, did she believed that our time has come? How do she intend to help see this come to reality personally and through her MDI, Novare, and her other business endeavors?
“I think we have a big chance at realizing our potential. Our economy is stable. There is a lot of pent-up energy for making investments again, and I do believe that our government is moving towards the right direction. Like many, I wish things would move faster, but I am supportive of the administration’s high-level goals. As for our technology sector, I am so proud that our BPO industry is continuing to grow and outpace our foreign competitors. It is my hope that as an industry, we move up the value chain towards large scale software development in my professional lifetime. This entails a lot of structural changes in our educational system though. Industry and the educational system are still at a disconnect. Our new graduates are not equipped to enter challenging development environments and need at least two years to catch up with what industry needs. And because there are so few that are readied by our educational system, the demand for the “passable talent” is huge, creating a discrepancy between experienced talent and pay. There is so much “piracy” going on in our industry that compensation is the number one motivation, and not investment in learning, exposure and self-improvement (an understandable, but unfortunate reality). I wish that the base of talent becomes larger by better education and industry exposure so that we have a chance to compete globally. On a personal level, I will continue to do what I have been doing since the start, that is, try to bring in as many new ideas, foreign partners and technologies in and out of the country, in the hope that we can speed up the exposure to, and keep up with, what is going on around the world.”