STARTING a startup, needless to say, entails a gauntlet of challenges.

That’s even granting that the founder/entrepreneur already has secured herself/himself enough capital needed to cast one’s lot in the “Lion’s Den,” so to speak.

For in the Lion’s Den of the Philippine startup ecosystem, mortality rate is high. Not too many startups live to see another day.

Sooner or later, some startups become digital dust.

A starting capital, a problem identified and a solution in mind, and technology know-how, what else?

Find the right market; pivot when needed; validate as quickly as possible; hire the right talent; know your numbers; embrace good governance; sell, sell, sell; form the right partnerships; focus then scale up; and think global.CrewBloom 2They are the 10 ways to move a startup forward cited in the 2017 Philippine Startups Survey (PSS) that Isla Lipana & Co./PwC Philippines and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through the QBO Innovation Hub (QBO) conducted on the country’s startup ecosystem.

Notice the third to the last step, “form the right partnerships.” How important is it to the life of a startup that has just been able to get out of its digital cocoon?

Very important, most probably

And there are other challenges ahead for the founder/s, challenges that — if they become unmanageable — can stop a startup on its tracks.

Still from the PSS, here are five challenges to overcome to prevent a startup from being derailed:

  • Establishing trust — There needs to be a high degree of trust, transparency, and mutual understanding among participants, and they must be nurtured and managed very carefully.
  • Cultural differences — Understanding one another’s culture and values is essential to be able to work together towards a common goal.
  • Unanticipated events — Partners should foresee the possible events such as a regulatory challenge, change in the competitive landscape, and change in organization to ensure that the partners will be to adapt to the changes.
  • Lack of performance monitoring — Performance metrics are ultimately a reflection of what each stakeholder considers most important about the alliance — in other words, they are fundamental to the success of the alliance and need to be agreed on at the outset, not cobbled together once the alliance is up and running.
  • Exit issues — Partners need to consider the conditions under which they  would want to dissolve the arrangement and then hammer out the details, including such issues as the handling of jointly developed intellectual property and the incurring of liquidation costs.

Lawyer Alexander B. Cabrera, chairman and senior partner of PwC Philippines, summed up the crucial need for having the partnership that works.

“Finding the right partner may be difficult. But we all need someone we can trust, and who will complement our strengths. Once you find that partner, the opportunities can be endless.”

Surely, Cabrera was not talking about a particular startup. Certainly, CrewBloom, Inc. was not in his mind.CrewBloomCrewBloom founder Brianna Carney of the United States and her co-founder Kate Pavia of the Philippines narrating their story before some Filipino reporters. (EKU)

But the PwC Philippines executive unwittingly sounded like he was alluding to how CrewBloom was founded, how its American founder Brianna Carney and her Filipino co-founder Kate Ringcodan have struck a common chord that brings music to the ears. To their employees and, ultimately, to their customers.

Are Carney and Ringcodan humming their way to the bank? Appears so!

But, first, how did the two found each other? Rather, how did the American founder find her Filipina partner?

If there are, indeed, matches made in Heaven, maybe there are partnerships created on cyberspace, in the world of startups.

Story of the CrewBloom partners

Turns out that Carney placed an ad on CraigsList and Ringcodan responded. It’s a cliche, but the rest is history. Ever since then, their partnership has been thriving.

“What makes you, Brianna and you tick?”

The question caught the Filipina by surprise, she did not expect it. It elicited a smile, then a soft laughter from Ringcodan. “That’s a really good question, that’s the first time I am asked about it,” she admitted.

“But on my end, like Brianna and I have a really open communication. Maybe the reason why we are very close is I am very, very transparent.

“Like, I’m very transparent,” she repeated. “Like, other people don’t want to say anything like, ‘this is wrong,’ but I am very open to giving suggestions to Brianna which makes it easy for us to go along with each other,” Ringcodan told SDN — Scitech and Digital News in an interview.

She and Carney formally introduced CrewBloom to some Filipino journalists and bloggers in an event at Cafe Romulo in Makati City on September 20.

The question was repeated to the American, who is fond of marathon races, a former executive at Amazon. “Oh, great question,” she said.

Challenges and relationship

For her, challenges help in forming a better relationship.

“I think you go through really challenging things as a human being. When you go through a lot of things you learned about each other better. You learn what’s going to make your dreams come together.

“So, Kate and I tend to respond to each other and, because we know each other inherently, I know her better than I know my sister,” said Carney, as she looked at her partner during the same interview after the press launch of the company that is empowering American micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

CrewBloom is described as “an innovative and ambitious remote outsourcing agency dedicated to helping companies grow by using modern and radical outsourcing approach.”

The company is a BPO with a twist and it’s disrupting, nay, re-inventing, the usual outsourcing industry by a work-at-home arrangement for its 15 core staff and 30 other employees. It goes also with the top 2 percent Filipino BPO professionals CrewBloom has connected with and working remotely for American MSMEs that want to scale.

American  MSMEs want to scale

CrewBloom caters to the U.S.-based MSMEs seeking to grow their business but having difficulties finding, hiring, and retaining those they have hired.

It is where the two-year-young startup has come in with its innovation. “By connecting businesses with top-tier Filipino professionals to join their sale, business development, and customer-service teams, CrewBloom created a better, easier, and cost-efficient way to grow companies with the best outsourced professionals who love what they do,” Carney and Ringcodan explained in a statement.

Carney is based in New York, U.S., Ringcodan is all-Filipino.

“With a 100 percent remote model, U.S. companies enjoy up to 70 percent reduction in overhead costs, not having to spend on infrastructure, technology, taxes, and healthcare benefits,” they added.

It’s not only Carney and Ringcodan who are humming their way to the bank, their workers, too, who are receiving thick pay envelopes, better than what the usual call center firms give to their employees.

Carney is confident she can depend on Ringcodan as she rely on her co-founder to not let her down.

“I wake up every day knowing Kate is there waiting. I think it is one of the biggest lessons of my life.”

CrewBloom is only two years young, but has been reaping success as it connects their clients in the U.S. — the MSMEs — to highly-skilled BPO professionals the Philippines can offer.

Carney raved at the Filipino professionals’ proficiency in the English language as well as their work ethics. It is a comment that had also come from other foreign employers of Filipinos.

Their secret of success

One word. Actually two words in one — home-based.

It’s a disruptive mode of operating a BPO company; employees work at home, even the call center agents they provide to American MSMEs. It is the reason why CrewBloom can charge their clients less but can pay its employees around 50 percent more than the average the industry in the Philippines pays.

CrewBloom’s employees in the Philippines are as scattered as the 1,700 islands of the Filipino archipelago. Thanks to remote and home-based BPO, U.S. companies do not have to establish a back end office in the Philippines.

It’s important that workers now a days of the digital world are technology-savvy, but still as important, or even more are the way companies promote culture — meaning how do digitally-transforming businesses balance technology and human beings (their workers).

“As to culture, we really care about our people,” said Ringcodan, noting that in the BPO industry there area lot of friction. Companies do not really know their employees.

“But we really want to know our people. We always talk to them, because communication is essential. We ask them questions. So, Brianna and I always keep our lines open, receiving anything, any suggestion, We always want to hear it,” she explained.

The CrewBloom co-founder, who is in-charge of finding the top BPO professionals in the country for their U.S. clients, emphasized that their employees should make more to support their family. “That’s what we give them.”

Employees want to be heard

“I think one of the things that is really important to recognize is that the call center industry has done a good job and they are really disruptive. However, the call center industry has been distinct and in a similar fashion now for quite sometime, and I think there is an instinct for people to wanna contribute more, their voice heard. People wanna feel like what they bring to the (table) is being taken for consideration and implemented,” said Carney.

The two partners said CrewBloom’s remote setup has also attained high employee retention and consistent performance by affording contractors looking for work-like balance.

“CrewBloom also solves the lack of humanity in Philippine call center environments by providing work flexibility and compensation that recognizes success and rewards hard work.”

So what differentiates CrewBloom from the rest of the BPO industry?

There are four ways

  • Quality vs. Quantity — Rigorous screening and recruitment process leaves proven top performers in its talent pool.
  • 100 percent Remote — Cutting out the call center helps in charging client partners less, pay employees more, and support a happier workforce.
  • Guaranteed Performance — Clients’ trust is valued. If contractors perform below expectations, contractor replacement is guaranteed at no cost.
  • Ongoing Support — Support is taken to the next level by having a Success Team oversee the growth of partnership. The team sits through training, monitor contractor performance, and conduct coaching sessions to address under-performance.

As a connector in the outsourcing industry, CrewBloom covers the following services: Sales and Development; Customer Service; Lead Generation; Appointment Setting; Administrative Support; and Email and Chat Support.

Moving forward, CrewBloom sees “remote work” to be well on its way to be the future of workplace and businesses, which it predicts would get businesses ahead of the curve leveraging the company’s new way of outsourcing. (EKU)