The Philippines has the fastest growing economy in the world, a high number of IT graduates, a young population that speaks English, a supportive government, and two thirds of its population regularly accessing the internet. It is, then, no wonder it has attracted the attention of startups and Venture Capitalists worldwide.
When a VC makes an investment choice, it often translates as a “vote of confidence” for the startup’s ability to grow and profit; therefore, a VC can be a big influence in the startup scene. Venture Captialists from China, Japan, Singapore, and the USA have already seen the investment potential in The Philippines and are investing heavily. And with the country’s very own unicorn, local VCs are becoming inspired to get in on the action. Venture Capitalists not only provide much-needed funding, but they can also provide expert knowledge, a support team of mentors, and they are also a valuable networking resource. Therefore, who better to back Philippine startups than a Philippine-based VC? Here we look at five VCs making an impression on the region.
Would you build your startup in The Philippines?
Top Active VCs Influencing The Startup Scene
Kickstart’s portfolio includes Kalibrr, an online job-matching platform that disrupted the traditional recruitment system providing recruitment to thousands of companies including, GRABTaxi, Ayala, and The Philippines’ government. Another investment is Coins, Southeast Asia’s leading mobile blockchain-enabled platform, providing people with or without bank accounts access to financial services and the ability to shop via their phone. They have over 63,000 merchants who accept digital currencies and are in operation across The Philippines and Thailand.
Investing mainly in digital startups, Kickstart was also responsible for creating three industry-impacting brands for the technology, entrepreneur, and startup communities.
A startup cluster, #area55 is in the most economically competitive region in The Philippines. The area is home to organisations such as Kickstart, Satoshi Citadel Industries, and GrabTaxi Philippines. The concentration of businesses in this area equates to a convenience of economic resources, connecting startups to suppliers and agencies to talent. The community promotes collaboration, commercial deals, and partnerships. Looking for a quick and efficient way to search for news, events, and people in the Filipino startup scene, #startupPH provides network resources for entrepreneurs. Hosted by Kickstart, the #raidthefridge is a monthly networking event where founders, investors, and corporations come together to debate, share and pitch ideas, and listen to guest speakers sharing their insights.
Future Now Ventures
Operating in Asia, Australia, and the U.S., Future Now Ventures has a focus on a global audience and market. Investing in technology with a background in SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, mobile, social media, and e-commerce, they tailor their support specifically to startups, from acting as board members to taking advisory roles.
One of their notable investments is Barhead, which was recognised in 2014 as the Microsoft Philippines Country Partner of the year. They provide Microsoft cloud services across every market segment helping businesses of all sizes to improve their production in The Philippines. Future Now Ventures is also backing SALT, a Philippine-based company that developed an alternative lighting system that can run up to eight hours on a glass of saltwater, responding to the need of safe lighting in the poor areas of the region. Interestingly, this system can also charge mobile phones through a USB port.
Narra Venture Capital
Narra Venture Capital has two separate investment funds, one focused on the U.S. and the other on The Philippines and around Asia. Investments in The Philippines generally focus on software services, electronic manufacturing services, design services, and information systems, customised for developing regions. It also founded the Brain Gain Network, an online gateway to a resource of professionals in different industries, with facilities to promote ideas, services, and networking.
Within their portfolio is Flyspaces, an online platform that provides short-term co-working and event spaces. Narra Venture Capital has offices in The Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Indonesia, and has successfully secured funding totaling $2.6 million USD.
First Asia Venture Capital Inc.
In operation across the region since 1977, First Asia investments provide startups with extensive business networking, cross-border linkages, and strategic management expertise as well as funding support. They invest across a variety of industries such as real estate and asset management, education, industrial ecozone development, hospitality, aviation, and construction, and have a hands-on approach involving management of the companies.
First Asia also founded Brainsparks, a startup hub and incubator that is connected to First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities. Although Brainsparks has their own list of startups in their portfolio, they are also open to working with companies outside of their programme with the aim of building a community of different players offering their expertise to solve tangible and meaningful problems, and to provide value and jobs.
Another First Asia investment is Qwikwire, a startup providing real estate solutions to brokers and property developers. Their services include SaaS property management solutions, SAP integrated billing and invoicing systems, cross-border processing via licensed remittance channels, and property listings through their in-house blockchain-based platform.
The retail disruption that is quietly happening in Southeast Asia
Gideon Venture Capital
Looking to capitalise on the burgeoning economic growth of The Philippines, Gideon invests in startups specialising in technology, business services, digital lifestyle and commerce, and social impact. They produced a 10-episode web series for startups to pitch their innovative ideas, and plan to capture the Filipino market. The web series is aptly named Unicorn Diaries, and companies who sign up to be part of the show are also given an opportunity to compete other Southeast Asian startups for a chance to attend Anchor Taiwan 2018, an entrepreneurial residency programme. Gideon is continuously on the lookout for companies with vision and grit, wanting to cause disruption in the industry.
Their portfolio includes ExpressPay, a payment and remittance service franchise on three transaction platforms: a physical store, a mobile app, and an online store, serving the under-banked market in The Philippines. Founded in 2011, ExpressPay began with four payment centres and has expanded to 1,300 branches nationwide, winning awards for the best Payment Centre Franchise in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Their services have expanded to courier services, travel and tours booking, personal accident insurance, and product retailing.
Also in the Gideon portfolio is Webgenie, a tech startup providing online media marketing services for the growing SMEs in The Philippines. With an understanding of the nuances of the local market and the needs of the Filipino entrepreneur, Webgenie is in a very good position to capitalise on emerging industries and help small businesses grow into impactful enterprises.