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Meet the MBA-Working Professionals: Entrepreneur Matthew Roman

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Vasavah founder and CEO Matthew Roman, from the Class of 2022 for Working Professionals (MBA-WP), speaks to us about his journey of becoming an entrepreneur, the challenges he’s faced along the way, and advice he would give to people with a similar entrepreneurial path.

Scaling A Global Startup with an MBA

“At the end of the day, what force of good are you creating? What impact are you delivering to your community?” says Vasavah founder and CEO Matthew Roman during his Interview with Asia School of Business. Originally from the urban district of Pasig, Philippines, Matthew is part of the Class of 2022 currently pursuing the brand-new MBA for Working Professionals (MBA-WP) program at Asia School of Business (ASB).

With passion and determination, Matthew founded Vasavah, his second startup, in the Philippines back in 2017. Vasavah is a data sciences company that integrates, automates, and analyzes data in a way that makes the most sense to your company. Be it to address efficiencies in managing customers in all stages of the sales cycle, simplify operation processes, or promote efficiencies to lower costs, Vasavah designs the best solutions that addresses your most pressing business goals.

In a conversation with ASB MBA 18’ alumna, Crystal Cha, Matthew talks about his journey of becoming an entrepreneur, the challenges he’s faced along the way, and advice he would give to people with a similar entrepreneurial path.

Crystal: How did you first hear about ASB and why choose ASB?

Matthew: I actually ran into ASB a few years ago when I was working with my first startup. I realized that in business, there are many different perspectives involved. I really wanted to understand the different lenses to apply when I look at business. I ended up going to an MBA tour and quite interestingly, nothing really sparked much interest in me.

Then, Gulnura from the ASB Admissions Team walks in and she came across as so unconventional and different from the other people I was meeting at business schools. The way she was talking to everyone and presenting the school was completely different, and that resonated with me. And here’s ASB saying if the MBA was going to be redesigned from scratch today, what would it look like? They re-thought the MBA but used MIT’s best practices as the foundation.

When Covid-19 happened, I saw that as an opportunity to actually pursue an MBA. When it came down to it, it was John Sterman’s lectures that really nailed it for me, and I got led to John Sterman because of your article on System Dynamics at MIT Crystal. That sealed the deal for me!

Tell us more about your startup, Vasavah, and who is the audience you serve?

Vasavah in a nutshell is a data sciences company. We’re not just a team of data scientists, we’re also software developers that develop software that’s data science-aligned. We empower companies not just with automation, but with measurement control and the ability to comprehend all the information that their systems gather. We deliver that digital transformation not to the point of automation, but further with built-in real-time business intelligence and data analysis.

Who are some of the typical clients that you work with?

Our biggest clients right now are actually in the power industry. Ayala Energy is one of our biggest clients today. We also have a lot of clients in retail because we’re the official IT consultant for the Philippine Retailers Association.

How long have you been running this company?

Vasavah is the second startup I founded. When I saw that the service industry might not be the future of IT, I exited my first startup and I started Vasavah. I put this up in 2017, so we’re running into our fourth year now.

What were some of the biggest challenges keeping you up at night – that you hoped this MBA could address?

Well, the scariest parts are also the most exciting things. I could see that our products and what we’re doing is something that would be a very high scale, high growth thing. It would be a global thing and not specific to our own country. With Vasavah, we might have a few thousand customers today then tomorrow we have ten thousand and then we have a hundred thousand.

There is no reason for us to be constrained within the Philippines, our products would function just as well in Malaysia or Thailand. How do you design it so that you don’t become the very problem that you’re trying to fix? We don’t want to create variances within our organization that drowns us in complexity.

That was the biggest fear for me, because we fix these kinds of problems for other people and we know how bad they can get. The biggest things that keep me up at night were – What are we not thinking about? What are we not anticipating? That’s actually why system dynamics resonated with me because system dynamics is the study of the complexity as a whole.

You’ve completed several semesters at ASB now. Has ASB delivered?

What you should understand about ASB is that there are a lot of tools you can use, but these are just a handful of the cherry-picked tools that the professors had the time to discuss with you. These tools are not all you can learn. What is critical is the perspective these tools give you, the lenses that they teach you to have, like how do you approach or look at this and what are the questions you’re supposed to ask.

How have you changed as a person by being part of this program?

If you think about it – the entire world is a business transaction, even if you’re buying groceries or even the economics of choosing whether to buy a big box of detergent or the small one. At the end of the day, the way I’ve learned how to look at things really has an impact. I think the biggest impact that ASB can give to an MBA graduate is not really just about business skills, it is actually about gaining principled leadership.

It’s easy to just focus on maximizing profits or marginalize your staff or have a good financial statement at the end of the year, but at the end of the day, what force of good are you creating? What impact are you delivering to your community? I think that is one of the bigger responsibilities a business school should have that often gets forgotten.

I really love that about ASB – they instill the mentality that you’re not just here to be good businesspeople, you’re here to be principled businesspeople. When I look at things now, such as the vendors that I use or the products that I use, I think to myself, is this the right product to buy? It’s the cheapest – but at what cost? So, it does impact everything that you do and I think that it’s an important perspective that ASB has given me.

What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs who might be considering an MBA, and are unsure whether it is the right move?

I think every entrepreneurial journey is different. It really is a journey and there isn’t a set destination that you should be targeting. You should really be considering what kind of journey you want to have. At the end of the day, entrepreneurship is one of the hardest things you’ll have to do in your life, so you better pick the journey you really want and have a clear understanding of what it is you want to create.

Always listen to good advice, and at the same time, listen to good critiques – but you have to make your own decisions. I wouldn’t tell anybody that ASB is the best school because you have to figure out what the best school is for you based on who you are. For me, ASB is the best school because I think that it is the best fit for me.