Last October 14, Parlon, the go-to discovery platform for beauty and wellness services, won first place against nine women-led startup finalists in the local rounds of She Loves Tech (SLT) Competition, the world’s largest startup competition for women and technology.
She Loves Tech is the first pitching competition that Parlon participated in. Parlon CEO Claire Ongcangco attended their week-long bootcamp as part of the She Loves Tech program and is set to represent the Philippines in the global competition.
“The judges were very excited about your pitch and the problem that you are solving that is very relatable to women, not just in the Philippines, but everywhere,” says Ms. Katrina Chan, one of the judges and the Executive Director of QBO Innovation Hub, the organizing team of the SLT Competition in the Philippines.
“You’ve shown tremendous traction even where you are now. And we hope that this platform will be an opportunity for you to go for greater heights not just in the Philippines, but around the world,” Ms. Chan adds in her message to Claire Ongcangco after the winners were announced.
The startups were evaluated by the following criteria: market opportunity, team, innovation/product, traction, and growth/scalability.
In Claire’s 5-minute pitch during the competition, she discussed how the beauty and wellness services industry is still underserved in terms of technology despite having over 40,000 establishments providing personal care services and employing about 151,665 Filipinos nationwide.
“When we conducted a survey on how people book their salon appointments, majority answered calling their landlines, not even mobile numbers,” Claire said. “When I was pitching this concept to salon managers and owners, we Googled together their salon name. Many were shocked to see very outdated information on the very first page of Google search results,” she adds, explaining that prices and reviews posted were dated as far as 5 years ago.
Because of this, Parlon built a management software specifically designed for the beauty and wellness services industry. This allowed their partners to have a Merchant Partner Hub where they can deploy contactless booking process, accept online payments, sell e-vouchers online, and have a Parlon page they can update and manage anytime.
Today, Parlon has over 60 partners nationwide. Partners include homegrown beauty brands from Metro Manila, Cebu, Bacolod, Pangasinan, and Pampanga.
In the Q&A portion of the competition, Ms. Natasha Dawn Bautista, one of the judges and the Head of Growth and Programs Group of 917Ventures, asked Claire, “How did you get your 60 brand partners?”
Claire shared her personal experience of going door-to-door pitching, cold-calling, and reaching out to salons through Instagram. “I started with my favorite salons. I pitched during my salon sessions,” the Parlon founder said. “But some [salons], [I] really [got them through] cold calls. I’ve been seen-zoned a lot in IG,” she adds, saying that the current challenge Parlon has now is to accelerate and scale acquisition of partners.
Virginia Tan, Managing Partner of Teja Ventures and founder of She Loves Tech, delivered an inspiring keynote speech entitled ‘What Women Bring to the Investments Table.’ Ms. Tan talked about what inspired her to build her investment firm Teja Ventures, how she got into the industry, how she navigated the uncertainties of making it, and how women are building companies in ways that are different than men.
“The one thing I do believe is that what was yesterday’s opportunities are not gonna be tomorrow’s opportunities,” Ms. Tan said, sharing that when they started She Loves Tech in 2015, the world didn’t actually value what women can do as much as they do now. “As a founder, I turned my attention to capital and to building what I believe is the capital ecosystem that the she-economy needs.”
“Why is it important to be in this industry? Because you need market makers,” Ms. Tan said. “The most important thing I can do today as a venture capitalist is to back other great entrepreneurs, especially women.”
Women-led startups including 2nd placer Bixie, 3rd placers Panublix and Airship Logistics, as well as Brooky Technologies, Pieza, Peraflo, Oh my Genie!, and RaceYa are among the competing startups in the event.
In an email interview, Rosalia Gitau, co-founder and CEO of the female-focused finance platform Bixie, talked about how her experience in SLT inspired her. "My experience at She Loves Tech was shaped by the fact that I had never been in the company of so many female founders ever— and this is after 5 years of working exclusively in the tech industry," she said. "I am so inspired by being among such brave and inspiring female founders and excited to see women making bold moves—and being encouraged to do so on the She Loves Tech platform."
We also interviewed the co-founder of Panublix, Noreen Bautista, and she said that "As a company that is also female-led and female-run, we at Panublix, are so proud to have been chosen for the She Loves Tech Philippines round. To be in the Top 3 spot along with 3 other women-led startups is just all the more empowering."
Rachelle Uy, founder of Airship Logistics, talked about how her experience in SLT helped her as a woman founder. "I was pleasantly surprised to find fellow women founders in the space, everyone was approachable and relatable. I do feel lucky to be a woman founder in Asia, as I didn't feel like I'm being capped with my capabilities and possibilities, and we're all treated equally," she said.
The She Loves Tech 2021 Global Startup Competition Semi Finals is on November 12, 2021 and the Grand Finals is on December 4, 2021. She Loves Tech is partnering with SWITCH Singapore for the biggest and most exciting annual She Loves Tech Global Conference on November 12, 2021.
The She Loves Tech Global Conference @ Switch will gather thought leaders, change-makers and trailblazing entrepreneurs on an international stage to inspire change, share knowledge, debate the latest trends, and network with the global community. The conference will also showcase the startups who will compete for the Semi-Finals of the She Loves Tech competition.
Get your tickets now at shelovestech.org/conference. Those that registered for She Loves Tech Pass will have full access to She Loves Tech @ SWITCH, SWITCH festival happening 8-12 November and She Loves Tech Global Summit on December 3-4, 2021. She Loves Tech is offering a special 50% off to the community! Use the code 𝐒𝐋𝐓𝐂𝐎𝐌𝐌𝐔𝐍𝐈𝐓𝐘𝟐𝟏. There are limited tickets at this price so get yours now!