Business Talk with Paolo Bugayong, Co-Founder and CEO of AIDE
Paolo Bugayong is the co-founder and CEO of AIDE Mobile App, a home health care platform serving the greater Metro Manila area. Established in 2016 by the Bugayong siblings, AIDE has since been providing medical services that include blood work, doctor visits, and medicine delivery all in the comfort of patients’ homes. Currently, AIDE is an Ayala company and has over 200,000 users registered on the app.
Bugayong is an economics graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University where he received the prestigious Gerry Roxas Leadership Award. He then continued his studies at the University of California, Berkeley for finance. Before setting out to be an entrepreneur, he was involved in the field of corporate finance.
Can you tell us about AIDE? How did it start and what is the business all about?
In 2016, my siblings and I thought about this (AIDE) because our grandmother needed medical attention. She was already immobile, and it did not make sense to take her to the car and drive all the way to Makati or wherever the hospital is just to get medical care. Because of the traffic and the chaotic lines and systems, it can be tough. And then we thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to get healthcare to come to your home?” That’s where it all started. This is a sibling-run business. My youngest brother, who is a medical school graduate, takes care of the medical side. My sister is in the customer service side so she handles operations. We are a good mix. I handle finance, business development, and others.
I have about 200,000 Filipino patients in my app. I grow constantly each day at about 100 to 300 new users. I have hit about 200 transactions in a day and continuously growing. In the supply side, we have about 4,000 medical professionals—a mix of doctors, nurses, caregivers, and physical therapists.
Can you walk us through your flagship services and how the application works?
Our main services would be, number one, blood work. That is, taking your blood in your home, bringing it to our lab partners, and then you’ll get the results in the app. Part of my vision is that when you go to the hospital or to another doctor, and all your information is here in the AIDE app.
Number two, nursing care. When I say nursing care, it’s short-term and long-term care. Long-term care will be 30 days; one week maybe for a sick family member.
Number three is the doctor visit and the medicine delivery. When you’re sick, you just have to book a doctor to come to your house. It may be on the premium side like P2,500, but in terms of the value of time, you’ll be able to save a lot—you’ll be able to do other things while waiting for the doctor. And, of course, the medicine delivery and the vaccines. That’s pretty quick. For medicine delivery, you just order, send a prescription, and we’ll deliver it in a hundred minutes or less.
You could pay in the app through credit card, GCash, or cash.
How can a patient get assigned with a particular doctor?
All you have to do is put in who’s sick or who needs it, and then put in the time and day that you need a doctor. Then, put in the location where you want the doctor to go, and some notes—the symptoms, what you are feeling, etc. You click Find a Doctor. True enough, after a few minutes, you’ll find around three to four doctors that can do your request. Some are more experienced, some are newcomers, and some are actually your neighbor, so that’s interesting.
What are the challenges you have encountered in AIDE, and how did you deal with them?
I had to find a bigger reason to keep going. Because just like any business, you know that income will come later, and for a start-up—when I say start-up, I mean I’m the first in the country—so I had to build, I had to market, I had to sell, I had to hire, and I had to fundraise all at the same time.
We did the product development in 2016, and I said, the first thing I would do is to acquire a tech mentor because I need somebody to tell me if I’m doing the right thing. And then, in October 2017, our numbers went up. That was the inflection point. That was when we decided our strategy would be to focus on 100 customers and make them very, very, very happy; because by doing that, they will spread the word. And that’s what we did. Anything they wanted, even if it’s not to scale or nothing to do with technology, we would do it just to make them happy. And true enough, it never stopped from there. Our big break came when Ayala invested in AIDE.
Before you take a health service, you want to make sure who is in. Partnering with Ayala was the biggest value that contributed to us. Being an Ayala company, we were taught about best practices, how to properly vet the doctors, and how to properly record and monitor the transactions. Now, when you say AIDE is an Ayala company, at least the wall is smaller. At least the trust part is better.
How would you describe your management style?
My management style in the beginning was more of a team player role because you’re trying to find the product fit. I’m the CEO, I’m the messenger, I’m the HR—I’m everything. In other words, you have to be flexible and willing to wear many hats. So my style today is I try my best to empower my team. It’s very important that I don’t think for them. The vision is clear; here’s the main goal. I want to hear their thoughts, and I will pick the best idea that I think will work. The last one is hiring the right talent. I devote a lot of time in hiring the right people.
How would you describe the work relationships in AIDE?
I always tell everyone we’re like riding an airplane and I’m the captain. I need to continuously strategize. I cannot be bogged down with operation problems or other problems. It’s a machine, they have to keep on going while I continue to ride this airplane. I have to continue flying it.
Who are the people you look up to?
I only have two people in my mind—they would be my father and my father-in-law.
My father would always tell me, you see these great businessmen out there, they all have their own story, and they all went through their own struggles. There’s no shortcut to success. If you want to succeed, you have to just work hard. There’s no other secret. Look at every day like it’s your best day. Work well with full integrity and full excellence. He always tells me that. So I wake up each day and give it my best. I will struggle well. I will be a great leader. I will be a great team player. It’s the same with my father-in-law; he taught me how to be a manager among many things.
But the most important thing that I received from these two was, “Dream big, but don’t forget to put your feet on the ground.” We can always dream big, but if you don’t embrace reality, you are not going to succeed. You have to be real.
What words do you live by?
First is passion—you need passion to get you going. Without it, you’re not going to finish. Integrity: what’s not yours, give it back. Transparency: for them to help solve the problem, they have to know what’s going on, and I tell them. Service: in my younger years as a student leader, I was trained to be a servant leader. I don’t want to be a leader that tells what to do. I’ll be a leader as a team player and watch these people succeed. Excellence: whatever you do, do it very, very well. Sometimes, we ask somebody, “How did you do it?” It’s just a byproduct of hard work. The last is humility: you should be able to receive feedback about yourself and about your team. If not, your ego will be so high, and you’re not going to finish it right. Finish strong.
If you want to be great, you got to do something. You have to take some risks. I keep telling myself, if you want this, what are you willing to give up? You cannot get everything. That’s never going to happen. I was willing to give up my career and my salary just to get there.
This first appeared in Philippine Primer’s English magazine February 2020 issue.