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Chow Paredes

Co-Founder of ZipMatch

Security Bank client since 2013

Chow jokingly recalls how her height crushed her flight attendant dreams.

“You’ve got to be ready for rejection,” begins Chow Paredes-real estate trailblazer and ZipMatch co-founder—as she looks back at her journey to startup land. “Before you can get one yes, you have to go through the ninety—nine no’s.”

Chow is singular in the Philippines’ booming startup jungle, and it’s not (just) because of her charming looks. She burst into the scene after co-founding online real estate portal ZipMatch, a marketplace that simplifies a homebuyer’s search for properties and allows them to make the most informed decision through quality content. But as with all startup journeys, the real story is not in the present but in inception. And in Chow’s case, it all started with frustration.

After years as a broker for major property developers, Chow wanted to solve real estate’s industry-wide problems. “With Facebook and all these mobile apps popping up, I knew the world was changing. I saw an opportunity to be in a different playing field in the next few years,” she says while touring us in their cozy BGC office.

Passionate and direct—talking to Chow is electric. This woman doesn’t mess around. “My business partners call me the most relentless person. I never stop until I get what I’m trying to achieve,” she exclaims while shifting to a lighter tone. “I never thought I would be an entrepreneur…I wanted to be a stewardess when I was a kid, but apparently I was too short [laughs].”

At an early age, Chow manifested an uncanny desire and ability to sell things: “My cousins and I grew up with our extended family. At home, we had a kamias tree. We would pick fruits from there, and we would sell it in the street—to the kapitbahays.” She owes her engaging personality and strong conversational skills to her family background. “Most of my family are either lawyers or judges. I didn’t become one, but I think like one,” she says while crossing her arms. Her verbal sparring sessions with them over dinner have trained her to be feisty and witty. This has served her well.

She started as a call center agent, which was the emerging and ‘hip’ industry in the country. “One of my friends entered one of the first three call centers [in the Philippines],” Chow recalls. “She was receiving a nice paying job, for a fresh grad. So I was like, ‘What are you doing? What’s that?'” Upon applying, she was profiled for a sales job where she sold phonebooks and cable TV over the phone to international markets.

What makes Chow special, however, is her guts to pursue opportunities whenever and wherever they present themselves. After a few years of grinding phone calls, Chow decided to seek greener pastures, which led her to selling real estate properties for a high-end developer. There, she refined her approach to selling. “Many people ask me what sales is—I always say it’s figuring out a solution for a certain person. And if you figure out that solution, you end up selling to them.” It was also there that the seeds of ZipMatch were sown as she met online marketing professional John Dang, her eventual co-founder.

As a major player in a cutthroat industry, Chow knows a thing or two about the advantages seamless banking can get you. “We used to be with another bank and we had to do all of these [paperwork]. And then Security Bank came and they were very friendly with startups. Security Bank made it easy for us to set all of these up as a new company and they were very accommodating in getting us corporate credit cards.”

She continues to rave about how Security Bank gives startups a chance to prove themselves: “Security Bank gave us a chance to really build our relationship with them. Because sometimes, when you step into a bank, they try to ask for your credibility right away. But when you’re a startup business, you don’t have that yet. You’re still building, and Security Bank was with us along the way.”

Apart from being a champion at selling condos, Chow also follows a very active lifestyle. Whether it’s going to the gym, hiking, or running to her next meeting, she sees to it that she’s always moving. And maybe that’s her secret to success. After all, a company who helps people settle down might just need a woman who never stops.

Who is Chow Paredes?

I’m loud, I’m energetic and most of the time candid or casual. It’s just who I am.

You’ll see me running around BGC or doing things at a fast pace all the time. I’m very direct to the point, and I want things done and executed fast. I’m a go-getter. I never stop until I get what I’m trying to achieve. But it’s easier said than done, di ba? So I guess I understand why people describe me as somebody very resilient or very relentless.

I took up Consular and Diplomatic Affairs in college, which is a pre-law course because I come from a family of lawyers. I grew up in a family where conversation about certain views, political topics or arguments are always in the table. It was a normal thing. So that’s where I get my feistiness, for lack of a better word—or a highly opinionated nature.

Whenever opportunities come my way, I’m challenged to take it, I will always take it. I’m fast in taking opportunities, which led me here. Although in everything I did, whether in the corporate world or today, I’ll always go for it with lakas ng loob.

Looking back, was it always your dream to be an entrepreneur?

No, I never thought I would be one. I wanted to be a stewardess when I was a kid, but apparently I was too short [laughs]. It’s funny, because I remember in my childhood, we’d always play games of what you wanted to be and then you’d act it out. And when we play, I always end up as the one selling something. So kunwari caroling for Christmas, I would always be the lead singer collecting the donations or the money. So I don’t know, maybe I had an inkling for sales ever since I was a kid.

My first job was in a call center—sales. And at the time, it was a really good industry because they really teach you. They get people from top universities and you really learn a lot. So that’s how my sales career started. I started selling over the phone actually. And then I don’t know—I just had a natural liking for it. I never really mapped it out to be here today.

From working at a call center, how did you get into real estate?

The same person who told me to try out the call center—she was starting to buy cars. I’m like—what are you doing? ‘Cause call centers give you a large salary, but I can never save. Like, I spend all of my money every 15th and 30th. I could never understand why…

And so this friend of mine started building her wealth. She was buying a car and investing in properties. So I was like ”I gotta do what you’re doing.” And she said, “You should try real estate!” So parang ako, “Okay! Sige I’ll apply!”

So I applied for a real estate company…But I got rejected. I was depressed so I went to the mall afterwards and incidentally, another friend was working there. Apparently, there’s also real estate sales in the mall, and they asked me to apply. But it was hard to get into real estate without a network. In the interview, they asked: “So, who are your contacts? Who can you sell real estate to?”

These were high-end properties so you have to know people who can afford it. And I didn’t have that… But it was nice that they took a chance in hiring fresh people to do real estate and they did the training themselves.

So I got into that and here I am 13 years after, still in real estate.

I was skeptical about the idea, but I also saw the opportunity. I wanted to make a difference, and I thought, “The real estate landscape is going to change, and I want to be part of that change. And I want to innovate that.”

From there, how did ZipMatch begin?

While I was working as a real estate broker, I met our co-founder and CEO—his name is John Dang. He’s from the US, and his expertise is in online marketing.

Seeing the real estate boom in the Philippines, he sounded off the idea of selling houses online to me. And at the time, I even said, “Who’s gonna buy online?” Like, all my clients are face-to-face, you know? How do you meet clients online?

But at the time, real estate was already changing. Unlike before that when a client goes to you, it’s almost certain that they’re gonna buy [property]. But as years went by, many real estate developers started popping out left and right. I was starting to feel that the traditional way was getting smaller and smaller as a lot more people were doing it.

And digital was also booming, right? With Facebook and all these mobile apps popping up, I knew the world was changing. I saw an opportunity to be in a different playing field in the next few years. Upon seeing the opportunity which my partner showed me, we naturally grabbed onto it, and we started a small project.

Tell us more about ZipMatch, what is it exactly?

We believe kasi that choosing a property should be like online dating. So we curate the information and the content, quality photos, details, metadata about properties, and we present it in a certain way.

First of all, at the time 4 years ago—there was no one place that you can hardly get quality content for real estate. Most of the time, the experience wasn’t so good; you have to sift through thousands of listings just to see what you like.

Secondly, with the demand-driven real estate market, I believe there’s a lot of real estate professionals out there who’s really not that good. For example, because there were so many inquiries out there—or so many people interested to buy—sales people don’t really have to be at their best to stand above the rest. Professionals are put in that place where they’re order-takers. Most of the time—across portals for real estate—somebody inquires and they’re not assisted properly, not provided good response time and not provided quality service.

We also provide content. Real estate professionals are not naturally good with creating content because they’re sellers. Their skill is cut out for a certain stage in real estate purchase, which is the presentation of the end offer and relationship-building. So we take care of content. We make it a point to—for every building in Metro Manila, for example—send our team to take photos and to write about that property.

We believe kasi that choosing a property should be like online dating. So we curate the information and the content, quality photos, details, metadata about properties, and we present it in a certain way.

We’re also building trust. Obviously, when you’re not as tangible as a hard property—if you’re online—it’s harder to build that trust. To address that, we ask consumers to rate their professionals.

All in all, ZipMatch is a marketplace. On one side is the buyers and on the other is the sellers. So we communicate to both and appeal to both.

What’s your advice for people going into sales?

You should solve somebody’s problem.

Many people ask me what sales is. I always say it’s figuring out a solution for a certain person. And if you figure out that solution, you end up selling to them. They end up buying whatever it is you’re “selling.” So it may not be a physical product, it may be an idea.

I can be having a conversation with you now: I’m not selling you anything, but as we have this conversation, you get to buy into my idea. And that’s what I find interesting about sales.

That’s why I’ve been with the bank for this long. If you go to their online site, you see a home loan application there—step-by-step—and it’s overall easier to bank.

How did you become a client of Security Bank?

We work with Security Bank because they are one of the most forward thinking banks in the country.

When you’re running a startup business and you have too many things to mind, the least thing you want to worry about is your finance.

I especially like how Security Bank has DigiBanker where we can do all our transactions fast online. Security Bank made it easy for us to set all of these up as a new company and they were also very accommodating in getting us corporate credit cards. People in Security Bank are more open-minded in terms of working with new companies. They are helping us grow and they’re allowing us to prove our track record.

What’s next for Chow?

What’s next for me? I’m gonna be here in this industry until I make it. It’s my personal industry even before I had ZipMatch. It’s an industry close to my heart and I’ve always wanted to be with people like me.

I really want ZipMatch to win the Philippines. When I say win, I envision it to be the top of mind or place to go to when you want to purchase or find a home—whether it’s leasing or buying. I want it to be the go-to, reliable and trustworthy online marketplace for real estate in the country.

You know they used to call owning your own home the ‘American Dream.’ I think there’s a Filipino dream that’s emerging. Back in the day, people just expected na magmana ng bahay, but people are smarter now. People are investing in their own homes and it’s changing. And I think every Filipino deserves to be presented the right information so that they can make smart choices with their money.

Like Chow, you can make your startup dream a reality with Security Bank.

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