Flashback to 1997. While working as medical representative of then called Warner Lambert Philippines, Parke Davis pharmaceutical division (later merged toPfizer in 2000), we were equipped with the tools for testing diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and ischemic heart disease with a 3in1 portable point-of-care device for blood glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride; as well as an ECG machine as part of the company’s patient care and recruitment programs.The project had awaken my childhood dream of becoming a doctor.
I enjoyed providing patient care support services and made it the cornerstone of my future career activities. From then on, I started conducting regular weekly activities whenever and wherever there is an opportunity to do so. For medical missions, we performed tests on patients including ECG as per doctor’s request and organizing patient clubs in government hospitals. In the process of doing such routine, I had the opportunity to talk and interact directly to patients and know their plight firsthand. It was then that I recognized the gap that exists in our country’s healthcare system and how it fails to enable the common Filipinos’ financial access to their healthcare needs.
Forward to 2001. Under the new Pfizer in the Philippines, the company launched the “Leaders for Health Program” for rural doctors and was involved in the implementation by working with our region’s Department of Health to provide support to these doctors and their respective communities. This exposed me to the inaccessibility of healthcare services and professionals in geographically isolated areas (GIDAs). Those realities became the two core problems I carried with me everyday when I began to develop my ‘why’ and purpose in life as a frustrated doctor at the cloak of pharmaceutical sales.
As leaders in Pfizer, we were molded by the company in the value of “malasakit” or sacrifice for others. Consequently, I started finding answers in the nascent internet at that time drawing my vision of a future where medical goods and services are both affordable and within reach. While improving the standard of living of all Filipinos was the ideal solution, it was and remains to be beyond my control. Instead, I opted for the next best yet most feasible solution: making medicines cheaper.
In 2005, I took the plunge and left a promising and high paying job at Pfizer to start the arduous road towards making medicines affordable and accessible to Filipinos. Together with a former colleague as co-founder, we envisioned 3in1 privately run community based health centers comprised of a pharmacy, consultations and diagnostic services. We took off in generic pharma wholesale and grew so fast but also went down slowly when we veer away and venture into uncharted territory ahead of its time without allocated capital. Highly leveraged, we ceded control of the company as it merged to a local pharma tool manufacturing company and exited in 2012 after two years of transition.
In 2013, I pressed reset on my dream. This time as a solo entrepreneur focusing on doctor-owned pharmacies and hospitals. But the call for the mission still haunted me whilst seeing the plight of many Filipinos struggling to keep up with their medications cost.After six years of hibernation and with the implosion of technology-driven business disruptors, along with the rise of e-commerce and Telemedicine, I finally saw the chance to launch the 3in1 model starting off with an online pharmacy platform. One with a unique focus on medicine subscription services to differentiate against existing players and on a niche of multiple medicine users. Looking back to my ‘why’, I scoured the web day and night to learn how to build my platform and eventually stumbled upon low code options and off the shelf solutions that allowed me to get started on registering domains, integrating payments, and developing ordering and registration solutions. With these self-learned discoveries, my vision was finally given a breath of life. September 20, 2019 saw the birth of Xulbara Health Solutions, OPC with XalMeds as its online retail pharmacy arm.
In search of proper training through incubation and acceleration for tech enabled companies we tried to validate the idea from the perspective of investors and applied for the “Philippine Startup Weekend Arise Pitching Competition” in November 23, 2020 and was selected as a finalist.
With this validation, the courage to make this work only deepened as XalMeds was accepted by the Founder Institute (FI), the world’s largest pre-seed accelerator out of Silicon Valley, CA, USA, for the “January 2021 Virtual Philippines” cohort. The journey in FI strengthened XalMeds’ business model towards a socially-driven company under the guidance of Asia’s leading startup mentors and advisors.
With its graduation on April 27, 2021 from FI as a portfolio company, we hope that doors will be opened for XalMeds to reach and impact more customers to live longer, healthier, happier and productive lives true to its tenet of “saving lives, time and money.” With our 3in1 vision, we hope to enable and realize the government’s elusive Universal Health Care aspiration for all Filipinos particularly in GIDAs, rural areas, urban mass settlements and God willing, beyond our borders.