Entrepreneur helps future-proof a generation with innovative mobile apps
Jessica Palmiano (4’11”) stands tall and boasts a powerful presence that fills the room. During the shoot with BoardRoom Watch, she speaks excitedly about enterprises that she has so passionately built over recent years.
The first of her corporations is Cavalli Al Galopo, which she established in 2011, and which deals with property and development. “Cavalli Al Galopo means ‘Galloping Horses’ in Italian. It sounded like such a fitting name and I was also born the Year of the Horse,” says the 39-year-old entrepreneur, explaining the roots of her corporation’s name. Her other enterprise, Nessotech – an IT firm and systems solutions provider engaged in software development – comes from the Italian word, “nesso,” which means “links.” (Among the systems Nessotech has developed, ‘Traccia,’ ‘Lealta’ and ‘Entrata,’ are – yes, you guessed it – Italian as well!) Though the names of her companies ring with exotic flair, she candidly admits: “I’ve never even stepped foot in Italy!”
Hopefully, she will be able to visit the country of foremost innovator and artist Leonardo da Vinci one of these days, but not any time soon, she reveals. “Some people love the history and age of a place like Italy. But not me, I’m honestly more drawn to modern cities and countries. I like modern structures and automations.” So the boot-shaped nation, quite understandably, is not at the top of her travel bucket list.
Even if it was, Palmiano says she would find it hard to squeeze in the time as her hours are packed with managing her IT empire, commuting from Alabang to the Makati headquarters and taking caring of her rambunctious two-year-old daughter.
Convenience at a click
A graduate of U.P. Diliman (Public Administration), a pre-MBA Program from UC Berkeley, and Ateneo de Manila University with a master’s degree in Business Administration, this dynamo of an executive also heads Togetech, a sibling enterprise of Nessotech, which designs mobile apps and solutions such as the recently launched Moneygment app.
The electronic tool is a payments solutions mobile app that allows Filipinos to remit money and pay for government contributions and loans through the convenience of their mobile phone. In addition, Moneygment helps businessmen, entrepreneurs, self-employed individuals and freelancers to compute, file and pay for taxes.
“I created Moneygment because I wanted to streamline the process and make it less taxing for the good, law-abiding Filipinos and OFWs [overseas Filipino workers]. They want to remit and pay for their benefits, and so why not make it easier for them?” she explains. “Now, you don’t have to line up and go through all that stress. You can pay straight through the mobile app, and it reflects in real time.” Within weeks of its launch, Moneygment has already been downloaded over 10,000 times.
“I head an IT solutions firm and develop apps and software, but ironically, I don’t have a background in IT or engineering,” she chuckles. This has, of course, come as a surprise to many clients and partners. It may seem like a crutch, but for Palmiano, not fully understanding IT and software development, was just another challenge she easily hurdled. “I’ve always believed, if you’re not equipped, educated or up-to-date about a certain subject matter, you can always learn and find people who can help.”
In addition, it’s important to find mentors, she says. “I never get tips from someone who is younger than me. Listen to those who have actually gone through challenges and have the wisdom to share. Mentors are important because you need someone who can be your honest critic; someone who has the good intentions to tell you when you’re wrong,” she adds.
Learning from the best
More than an engineering or IT degree, what has helped Palmiano find success as an IT leader was the hands-on training and education she received from her entrepreneurial family.
To earn extra cash in high school, Palmiano would sell baked goods to her teachers and other students. “I would take the trip to Quiapo, where the ingredients were cheapest, and buy everything there. I also manned the store when we had the family-owned pharmacy,” she says.
Her dad operated a small taxi business, while her mom worked at a government agency. The drugstore, located at the first floor of their home, served as another additional means of income. “We were taught early that if you wanted something, you had to work for it.”
Unfortunately, her father died when she was just 19, forcing the family to uproot and migrate to the US. But even in the land of “milk and honey,” Palmiano was expected to work hard and persevere. She later worked and managed a business which dealt primarily with OFW remittance. “It was during this time that I saw the sacrifices of OFWs and the importance of having SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG.
From 2001 to 2011, she helped establish offices and partnerships with agencies around the world, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, London, Malaysia and Cambodia.
Soon, like any entrepreneur-in-training, she wanted to venture out on her own. In 2011, she bid goodbye to her former employer and set up Cavalli Al Galopo and Nessotech, followed by Togetech.
Today, the different companies are flourishing, and she’s most excited about working on more apps like Moneygment (under Togetech) which are designed to help her fellow entrepreneurs, professionals, freelancers and the like.
“The apps that I want to design – like Moneygment – don’t only focus on providing convenience for spending, but spending on things that will help ‘future-proof’ our customers.
“Future-proofing means being responsible citizens through the filing and paying of taxes, and ensuring savings and insurance coverage through the utilization of government initiatives provided by SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG.”
Palmiano points out the well-known weaknesses of Filipinos when it comes to finances and savings: “Filipinos are all focused on the now, and so we sometimes lose sight of what we need to prepare for the future. Moneygment helps you to stay on track and helps you secure that future.”
She clarifies that future-proofing doesn’t only entail ensuring that you have retirement money to spend when you hit 60 years old. “It’s ensuring that you have medical funds when you get sick, being able to claim calamity loans when emergencies happen, and being able to secure that loan for your future home. Future-proofing is also about helping you achieve financial confidence by being able to provide financial tax returns even if you are operating a micro-enterprise, and enabling you to secure financial assistance to grow your business.”
Playing with ideas
Palmiano nurses greater dreams for her companies and is already exploring more ways to expand her portfolio of apps and financial services. “In the next few years, we will be partnering up with other reputable institutions such as insurance companies, and micro-finance and government agencies.”
In addition, Palmiano and her team are excited to reveal that they’re working on a new queuing app called “Pila,” which will redefine your experience at the bank, hospital and clinic. “We waste so much time waiting in line at bills payments, doctor’s clinics and hospitals. What if we had an app that allowed you to maximize and utilize your time properly? With a notification on your mobile, it would tell you how many minutes you have before it’s your turn. The industries where this could be applied is endless!” she exclaims.
Palmiano’s mind races a mile a minute and all idle moments are spent thinking of ways and ideas to help the Filipino taxpayer and professional. Her best ideas, she reveals, usually come when she’s taking the 40-minute ride aboard the P2P bus from Alabang, where she resides, to Makati.
“People often ask me, ‘You’re the CEO and head of so many corporations and companies, why do you take the bus to work?’ I just laugh at them and say that we should patronize ideas like these because they’re simple yet effective. They offer real solutions, just like how Moneygment and my other ideas aim to be.”
PHOTOS BY HARVEY TAPAN