th images menu user export search eye clock list list2 arrow-left untitled twitter facebook googleplus instagram cross photos entrep-logo-svg

3 Startup Tips from Chikka Founder Dennis Mendiola

Startups can learn a thing or two from the founder of one of the most successful PH startups
By Lorenzo Kyle Subido |

Chikka was fcounded in 2000 and was one of the first ever internet-based messaging apps



No list of the Philippines' most successful tech startups would be complete without Chikka.


Chikka Text Messenger, which got its name from the Filipino street word for “small talk,” was launched in 2000 and is one of the first internet-based messaging applications. Since then, it has expanded its services to over a dozen countries. It ended 2015 with a revenue figure of Php207.4 million.


Behind the company’s success is Dennis Mendiola, one of its founders, who spoke at the launch of public-private partnership QBO Innovation Hub last week.


In his speech, he highlighted how startups these days have it much better than in the early 2000s, as services like QBO and cheaper infrastructure were not available back then. “Ang daya niyo!” he said good-naturedly.



Related story: JPMorgan Chase, PLDT Tie Up to Support Gov’t Tech Incubator 



But he also had several nuggets of wisdom to impart from his years of experience. Here are Mendiola’s top three tips for startups:



1. Put profitability first

Mendiola pointed out that most startups immediately think about exiting when bringing in an investor. As such, startups put high importance in being innovative and creating unique products without paying attention to the numbers behind it.


The Chikka founder emphasized that all startups should prioritize being profitable first before thinking about exiting, especially in the Philippine setting. “Unlike other markets with deeper exit liquidity events, when you build your businesses, you should focus on profitability, on cash flow,” said Mendiola.


He then cited past successful exits of Philippine startups to support his advice. “All Philippine startup exits were immensely cash flow positive before they exited,” he said, mentioning mobile tech firms Xurpas and Entertainment Gateway Group as examples. Mendiola’s own company has a similar story when it was bought by PLDT subsidiary Smart Communications in 2009.



2. Know when to pivot 

Many startup founders treat their businesses like it was their baby. As such, they find it hard to make any drastic changes to it because they get attached to the ideas they birthed and grew.



But Mendiola advised startups to know when to pivot—or to change the direction of their startup’s overall approach. “When you find out it’s not working, you kill it and you move on to the next thing,” he said.


Mendiola used Chikka as an example: Before becoming a messaging application, the founder shared that the business was catering to overseas Filipino workers by helping them with their gift shopping. “The free messaging part was just an additional feature,” he said.



When he found out that there was potential in the feature, he began restructuring his baby into what Chikka is known for today—free, internet-based messaging.


“It’s the most difficult thing,” Mendiola said on pivoting. But he added: “There’s a fine line between commitment, passion and stubbornness.”



3. Great tech wouldn’t mean anything without a great team

Finally, Mendiola highlighted that innovative products and service will not go anywhere without a good team behind it.


"If I were given a choice between great technology and service but mediocre management versus mediocre technology and service but cohesive, adaptable, harmonious team members, I'll choose the latter," said Mendiola.


Relating it to his previous point, he said that it is only with a good set of people that a startup will be able to pivot properly. A startup team that knows how to adapt to changes and work well together under the pressure from these changes will be more successful in the long run.


And he had this final piece of advice for startup founders: “Find a set of people that you’ll be cohesive with, that you can sync with. That will allow you to pivot.”






Lorenzo Kyle Subido is a staff writer of Entrepreneur PH

Latest Articles

Property Tycoon Urges Php200-300 Hike in Daily Wages for Construction Workers

A boon for labor, the proposal could be tough for small construction firms that cannot absorb the...

byPauline Macaraeg | October 17, 2017 11:00:00

Financial Adviser: 5 Retail Lessons Every Startup Can Learn from the Co-Founder of Lazada

Lazada is the largest e-commerce destination in the country today. How did they do it?

byHenry Ong | October 17, 2017 11:00:00

The Most Powerful Word in Business Is 'No'

Focus in business is one of the key ingredients to success. Focus comes from the word no

byTim Denning | October 17, 2017 08:00:00

How One Entrepreneur Found Lasting Success By Focusing on 3 Basic Business Principles

A single-minded focus on revenue can blind you to how badly your business is really doing

bySerenity Gibbons | October 17, 2017 06:00:00

Use This Successful Entrepreneur's Scheduling Secret to Have Your Most Productive Day

Monitor your energy levels to know when to attempt your biggest tasks

byNina Zipkin | October 17, 2017 02:00:00

22 Influential Matriarchs From Notable Filipino Families

We round up a list of inspiring and accomplished women who have made an impact on Philippine society

byHannah Lazatin and Paolo Chua for | October 17, 2017 00:00:00

Is Your Company Among 6 PH Firms Included in Forbes’ List of the World’s Best 500 Employers?

The local companies include the country’s biggest banks and property developers

byLorenzo Kyle Subido | October 16, 2017 17:00:00

Bigger and “Instagrammable” Stores Driving Greenwich To Growth

Franchise the homegrown pizza-and-pasta brand for a minimum fee of Php1 million per store

by | October 16, 2017 16:00:00

3 Takeaways on Digital Transformation from IMMAP’s DigiCon 2017

The conference chairman sums up the highlights of the three-day mobile marketing summit

byLorenzo Kyle Subido | October 16, 2017 12:00:00

3 Ways to Build Entrepreneurial Resilience for the Next 'Wave' of Challenges

When the problem is what you didn't do, the solution begins with figuring out what to do next

byJeff Boss | October 16, 2017 08:00:00

If You're Going to Fight, Fight Early

Facing conflict head on, asserting yourself and getting on the same page is critical to success

byKevin Hart | October 16, 2017 06:00:00

Here's Why Companies Lose 17% of Women Employees at Mid-Career

While many women take a career off-ramp for different reasons, most just don't want to be "stuck"

byAmanda Schnieders | October 16, 2017 02:00:00