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How my wife and I met, fell in love, and started a tech firm

The American husband shares not only their love story, but how their ‘love child,’ Sprout, is revolutionizing HR and payroll services in PH.
By Patrick Gentry as told to Elyssa Christine Lopez |
PARTNERS. Patrick and Alex Gentry head Sprout Solutions Inc., a young startup that specializes in HR solutions for small and big businesses. 



For someone who finished with an Environmental Science degree, life’s plans for me have been different from what I had thought, but it has been a crazy ride: With a backpack and an adventurous spirit in tow, I never thought a trip to the Philippines could drastically change my life.



In 2008, I was invited by a good friend to visit the Philippines for a quick vacation. The hook? It is always sunny! Growing up in the country side in the US means four drastically different seasons with months of freezing temperatures. Count me in.


At that time, I was working remotely for a startup called Toolwire in Silicon Valley.


I was only meant to stay in Manila for two months, but after seeing my friend’s excitement over the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, I knew there was so much that could be done in the young industry. With nothing but my backpack, I dropped everything and decided to stay in the Philippines.


My friend and I founded KMC Solutions, a firm that leases its staff to select companies abroad. Today, it has 500 employees and growing, and is set to have its own name in one of the tallest buildings in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.



But truthfully, if it was not for a girl, I would not have stayed long enough to see this company prosper.



Our love story

In 2010, I was ready to leave Manila after two years in the bustling city. I came home to Oregon for the Christmas season as I prepared for my year-long backpacking trip to South America. Until I met Alex.


We were seeing each other for a while before I left home. Unlike other girls I met, she never stopped me from pursuing the dream trip of mine, even when it meant leaving her in Manila. Truth be told, I never really thought we will hit it off, or to better put it, we tried so hard not to be meant for each other.


Our first meeting was a disaster to say the least. When you were drunk and spilled beer on a gorgeous girl, you were supposed to apologize. Well, I did not. And that impression stuck until we had the chance to finally get to know each other.



After a cold Christmas season in the US, she was still on my mind. That was it. I am going back.




Fast forward to 2016, we are now a family of four with two young children and a lovechild called Sprout Solutions Inc.


In a country like the Philippines with loads of laws on salary and government benefits, administrative work can take its toll. Thus, our software frees up human resources departments from the tedious task of manually computing such, from time keeping to analyzing workforce productivity.


Heading a startup with your wife could have been a recipe for disaster, but not for me.


Related: 4 secrets of blissful entrepreneurial power couples

See, when I started the company in 2014, I was alone. I pitched the idea like hell all over Metro Manila—from Caloocan City to Ortigas Business District until I finally got a yes.


The thing about starting a company is you have to talk to a lot of people. Serendipity happens when you make the right connections. And I am lucky to have found a partner in the love of my life. Sprout would not have grown to what it is now if it was not for her help.



Even before the name “Sprout” came to be, my wife had already been helping me from designing the software to brainstorming. Today, from being a one-man team in 2014, our startup has grown to a team of 20, serving at least 2000 companies nationwide, with select locations in Singapore and Indonesia.


The software has grown from being a mere payroll software service into a human resources solution in itself. Our program can easily assess who are the most efficient teams in the company to how much would the company expenses be in the next year, considering the finances today.


Such tasks may have been more difficult if companies still process papers and that could mean detrimental financial losses. One interesting, but equally important finding we had was most companies either overpay their employees or shell out money unknowingly, only because of the complex accounting systems in the human resources department.


Cool right?



Exciting times ahead


Even with our successes, my wife and I still sometimes find ourselves in need of mentoring. As young entrepreneurs, we still need guidance from time to time, especially when we did not really have business degrees, and it is our first venture together!


So in late 2015, we decided to try our chances to pitch our startup in three leading accelerators in Silicon Valley. I initially thought of it as a mere exercise for us to start thinking out of the box and answer critical questions we have not thought of. We never expected to be supported—I mean we are on the other side of the world!


But luck is an intersection of persistence and opportunity and we were in the middle of it.


All three accelerators got back to us and were willing to support our venture. We never expected to get a yes, now we have the luxury to choose? Somebody pinch me.



Now that I am going back to Silicon Valley with my business partner/wife beside me for mentoring is nothing but a dream come true.


We are excited for what is ahead. After all, with the bustling local BPO industry, I do not see any reason for our company not to dream of serving at least a third of them in the future, yes?


Related: PH BPO industry on target to reach $25B by end-2016

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