While the Philippines has, in recent years, fairly succeeded in promoting itself as an outsourcing and IT hub, it still hasn't produced a real homegrown tech superstar in the mold of India's Infosys, Wipro or Satyam.
But a recent announcement by Gurango Software Corp. (GSC), a local software developer founded by Filipino IT pioneer Joey Gurango, might just be the break the country has been waiting for so long.
I'm referring to GSC's declaration in a recent press briefing that it will have an initial public offering (IPO) in the first quarter of next year. If this plan pushes through, it will mark the first time that a purely Filipino-owned software development house will go public.
The IPO on the Philippine Stock Exchange aims to raise approximately 300 million pesos (US$7 million) from investors. The funds generated are also intended to accelerate market expansion in major markets like the United States, Europe and Middle East.
There have been Filipino-led IT firms that went public in the past, particularly during the dot-com mania, but they were mostly a part or subsidiary of conglomerates controlled by foreign investors. The biggest software companies in the country, of course, are mostly subsidiaries of large multinational firms such as IBM and Microsoft.
That is not the case with GSC. Gurango, a veteran IT professional who was part of the original team of software developers who created the first version of Microsoft Excel in the United States, said the money he used to build the company all came from his pocket and contribution from some friends.
More than its symbolism, Gurango's bold plan would serve as a paragon for aspiring Filipino tech entrepreneurs. And if its IPO does become successful, it may further fuel the red-hot Philippine economy, especially with the local currency appreciating mightily against the US dollar.
If I appear overly enthusiastic about this, it's because it's really a crucial moment for the Philippine software industry. The last time an IT company--though not exactly a software firm--tried to list publicly in the local bourse, it failed miserably.
Since then, a psychological wall seemed to have been erected that somehow made it hard for Filipino-bred software companies to go on an IPO and expand its business beyond local shores. This is not to say that there is a dearth of local talent.
As observed by Asian Institute of Tourism professor Federico Macaranas during a recent roundtable discussion for an upcoming Innovation Summit organized by IBM Philippines, it's not the people but the local environment that seems to be hindering the growth of the sector.
This assumption is bolstered by the revelation of Intellectual Property Office director-general Adrian Cristobal Jr. that a huge number of IT patents and inventions by Filipino IT professionals are filed not in the Philippines but in other countries, particularly the United States.
It's good, therefore, that GSC develops its own IP assets in the form of software solutions based on the Microsoft Dynamics platform. It now brands itself as a "multinational software company" after it recently acquired overseas-based software maker Absalom Systems for US$3 million.
The time is probably ripe, and I hope Gurango is right in saying that the Philippines is capable of becoming the base for multinational software companies.