Dennis Mendiola loves to build bridges.
Tens of millions of bridges.
- Between Filipinos overseas and at home
- Between computers and mobile phones
- Bridging online users and offline mobile subscribers
- Between those wanting to share prepaid credits
In the year 2000, he co-founded Chikka Text Messenger, a messaging app used by tens of millions throughout the world.
The instant messaging application supports free SMS or text messaging between online users and offline mobile subscribers.
It was the world’s first commercially successful integration of web and mobile utilities. Dennis filed a number of technology patents, (he says probably the most infringed-upon Philippine patents worldwide) and continues to imagine and create new communications solutions.
Today he is working on how to make the internet available 24/7 to the Philippines – in bite sized chunks.
Dennis was born in America, grew up in the Philippines, returned to the US to attend the Wharton School of Business. After graduating, while working at McKinsey & Company, a preeminent consulting firm, Dennis visited the Philippines and was asked to volunteer as a key executive to revive Subic Bay Metropolitan Area. 40,000 jobs had recently been lost, partially due to a volcano dumping ash in the region. He thought, ‘If I want to make a difference, then this would be the time to make a difference’. Dennis remembers “We did give lots of jobs to people.”
The successful volunteer effort brought him closer to his roots, and gave him confidence that he could develop a technology company in the Philippines.
He remembers: “Before the year 2000 we lived in a divided world of texting. The Philippines is a country which still today has one of the slowest internet, and at that time was even slower, so people used texting to communicate. But millions of Filipinos living outside, especially those living in North America, could not text to the Philippines. At Chikka, we decided to address this, let them communicate via text on their PC to Filipinos using their phones (or PCs) back home.”
Actually Chikka began as a way to send gifts from overseas back home. Then they discovered that people did not want to send gifts, they wanted to communicate.
It’s all about bridging the digital divide. That led them to creating the first person-to-person digital debit card. And today he develops ways to bite-size the internet – so users can choose those applications on the internet, without having to pay for everything else.
When I asked about how he continues to innovate he has two responses:
- Encounter daily problems and be conscious about it – at the same time be aware of the technologies available – and keep a hard core team of Silicon Valley grade engineers.
- Don’t try to solve first world problems (I’m going to be the Amazon of the Philippines, the Blue Apron of the Philippines) – we are not even getting minimal connectivity in the Philippines (true – we had to reset our interview 3 times because the call kept dropping). Instead he solves the problem in front of him.
Here is a wonderful video of Dennis with one of his co-founders, Chito Bustamante