Pursuing one's passion with Comet

April 07, 2021
In the last 12 months, pivoting due to the pandemic has become a norm. Hands-on education was replaced by setting up virtual learning spaces. Despite this global health challenge, educators’ dedication to engaging with students did not waver. For Rafael Alfonso Aquino (BS Management Information Systems 2019), a lecturer at the John Gokongwei School of Management of the Loyola Schools, a tried-and-true strategy to get students interested in learning is work on their passion.
 
“One way we can motivate and keep students engaged is through building up lessons through their passions. In my DECSC25: Creative Thinking and Innovation Management class, I challenge our students to ideate and prototype viable solutions to problems they care about. Since students already have a connection through their passions, they are more energized in developing solutions and seeing the relevance in their lives,” he said.
 
Pushing students to pursue their passion led to the creation of Comet, a mobile application that connects users within communities, organizations, and social circles. Developed by Vince Velilla (4 BS Management Engineering) and Mikaela Francesca Aquino (3 BS Management Engineering), the app was recognized and won in QOMPETE: Intercollegiate Technopreneurs Challenge. Organized by QBO Philippines— a hub aimed at nurturing a startup ecosystem in the Philippines—the competition brings student startups from universities and colleges across the Philippines in a virtual tournament with the top 3 startups receiving prototyping credits and incubation opportunities.
 
Screenshot taken during the announcement of winners.
 
Vince learned about the competition and thought of joining. 
 
“When the pandemic started, we found it difficult to meet other people within our organization. We knew that it was a problem for many organizations and businesses and thought that maybe we could do something about it,” he said. 
 
Armed with a strong business blueprint and the Ignatian spirit of magis, Vince and Mikaela took on the challenge. They started to work on their idea: a mobile application that created connections within communities. They asked Rafael, their former teacher, to mentor them. Preparations were underway by September 2020.
 
Team Comet with their mentor Rafael Alfonso Aquino
 
Through a QBO boot camp, the pair learned about the rudiments of running a startup. With around 200 participants representing different universities across the country, the boot camp experience bolstered the grit and fortitude of the 2 Ateneans. 
 
 “After the boot camp, we had the semi-finals where we needed to record our pitch for the QBO team to judge, and they narrowed us down to 10 teams,” recalled Vince. After the final pitch, the ten teams underwent a rigorous Q & A with a judges’ panel.
 
While the boot camp expanded their business skillset, the two already had a leg up on the competition, thanks to their learning as Management Engineering majors.
 
“As Management Engineering students, we have been given a holistic view of business. This enables us to bring Comet to life and to ensure its sustainability,” Mikaela said. She cites DECSC25 in helping her gain a deeper and more diverse understanding of creative thinking and innovation. 
 
“I took up the class during the pandemic, and it challenged me to adopt a creative problem-solving mindset contextualized to our reality today. Ateneo has supported us through our mentors, and we’re thankful that they’ve extended their guidance beyond the class setting to see our startup.”
 
Added Rafael,” Vince and Mikaela were determined to develop their idea. Even after the competition, the team was already in talks with a startup hub called Hub Genesis, which is under the Ateneo Business Resources Center. The hub connects startup teams with faculty and mentors to further develop their ideas.”
 
Vince and Mikaela are currently working on developing a full-blown app. While it may take time and much effort, the two remain unfazed. Even a pandemic will not derail their creativity, commitment, and passion for recognizing new challenges and making meaningful changes.
 
As Vince said, the whole experience “reinforced our passion for using technology to make lives better.”
 
Interested parties who may wish to connect with Comet may contact them at vince.velilla@obf.ateneo.edu.