Empowered by power

July 20, 2018
After college, one is usually lost and still figuring things out. Some fresh graduates take a year off to explore the world and take a break from nearly a lifetime of school, others dive right into what is called ‘the real world.’
John Michael Bernil (BS Biology ’18), Chief Executive Officer of Exora Technologies and only 21, is on his way to soaring heights. His startup, which he founded with two other Ateneo students, has already won twice in 2018—the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards National Finals and Techsauce Regional Competition.
“Exora” is a portmanteau of two Greek words, ‘excelcius’ and ‘agora,’ which translate into ‘power market,’ the subject matter of the startup itself.
Bernil shares that he got the idea to start Exora after attending the First Gen Energy Camp where he realized the difficulty of maximizing the capacity of power generators. In his desire to find a solution, he tapped the help of Sergius  ngelo Santos (B.S. Electronics and Communications Engineering ‘17) and Lorenzo Rafael Bautista (B.S.Management Information Systems with a specialization in Data Science and Analytics and A.B. Economics ‘17). Santos and Bautista were presidents thenof student organizations—Ateneo Electronics and Computer Engineering Society and Ateneo Management Information Systems Association, respectively. 
The trio’s first idea was a phonebook of sorts—a database that would list and collate all the contact details of all the suppliers of electricity around the country. With high hopes, they presented their proposal to a company.
“They hated the idea,” says Bernil.
Undeterred, they sought the help of the company’s engineers on how to improve their product. According to the engineers, what companies need is the ability to be connected to a power supplier quickly. 
Exora, which was originally conceptualized as a database, is now a website where interested parties can bid. Their online space is at exora.ph.
From there, they began work on Exora Technologies. 
“The vision when we started is that we just wanted to fix the industry,”he says. “Now, what we want is to make electricity affordable. When you make or create competition among suppliers, they will lower their prices.”
The company has also begun a partnership with the School of Science and Engineering (SOSE). As this project has certainly empowered Michael and aided in his development and growth as a person, he hopes to do the same for others. 
According to a report by newsbytes.ph, the Exora Internship Program (EIP) “aims to enhance the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values of science and engineering students by providing training to Ateneo SOSE students in the form of actual exposure in the various departments or units of the company.” 
“It’s great that I had this support coming from Ateneo. I really value the skills and the mindset of Ateneans,” he says. “Doc Banjo (Dr. Evangeline Bautista, Dean of SOSE) is so supportive, even while she’s on leave. When she found out about what we were doing, she backed us up, wanting to create a partnership with us immediately.”
Bernil, who just graduated last year, is often approached with a sense of wonderment and awe for his ability to accomplish as much as he already has. But, the fulfilment, he says,  doesn’t come in the form of compliments toward him, but rather, the fact that something is actually happening within the industry he is involved with. 
“It feels nice when people say you’re really good. I talked to a journalist and he said he’s been in the industry for so long but never thought of what I thought of. That gives me motivation and makes me think that I’m on the right track. Sobrang saya na I’m doing this not just by myself but with my team.”
Michael Bernil was an active member of all six orgs in the Science and Technology (S&T) Cluster, but his love will always be his home org, Ateneo Biological Organization – eXplore. eXperience. eXcel. (Ateneo BOx).

In the coming years, Bernil hopes that this kind of service be available to ordinary Filipinos. Exora currently serves big businesses but the company continues to invest in their research and development so that they can find a way to the household level. “Right now, we want the system to be polished before we give it to Filipinos because we don’t want to give them bad service. We hope that in the next two to three years, every household in the Philippines can choose their own supplier. With that choice, it comes with lower prices, savings, and better service.” 
Being a graduate of Ateneo, he keeps the university’s teachings close to heart. The concept of being men-for-others is deeply imbibed in him, and he takes this mindset with him every day at work: “Ateneo gave me the perspective that the bigger things in life involve other people. It’s not just about you.”
He also holds a Minor in Philosophy, and one of his favorite subjects—Poverty and Global Justice, taught by Dr. Oscar Bulaong of the Philosophy Department and the Ateneo Graduate School of Business—has influenced his approach in his work. 
“Most of the time, when we help people, we become paternalistic about it,” he says. “Ateneo gave me the idea that it shouldn’t be like that. It must involve giving other people freedom, letting them choose, and maximizing the autonomy that they have. Oftentimes, the ‘help’ we give other people doesn’t work because it doesn’t fit in their system and their context.”
Bernil says that didn’t always picture himself in this situation. 
“Business is something new for me. I never had a class related to business aside from Biology for Business—an elective for Bio majors.” 
While he’s still thinking about going to medical school, Bernil admits that in the next few years he still sees  himself in this same industry, doing what he loves and is passionate about. That, or going back to the academe, because of his love for research. 
When asked what advice he would give to young entrepreneurs diving into their own startups, the young  executive  had this to say: “It’s easy to be attracted to the glamour of the startup world. When we started this, we never really thought that we would be famous or successful; we just wanted things to be done in the way that we want it to. Whenever people want to create their own business, I would say to them that they should find their own problem and be passionate about it. If you try to do something that doesn’t solve anything, it’s going to be difficult. There are so many problems here that can be solved if you’re just curious enough.”