With AI startups in the Philippines emerging as significant players in the Southeast Asian tech scene, the Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER) placed Manila in the top 40 emerging startup ecosystems in 2020. The capital ranked next to major tech hubs like Xiamen in China and Houston in the USA, thanks in part to the success of the local AI companies. The country’s Trade and Industry Undersecretary for Competitiveness and Innovation, Rafaelita Aldaba, welcomed the news and commented that; “…the proliferation of fintech and e-commerce startups in the country is a testament to the abundance of opportunities in the Philippine market.”
In line with the country’s growth-based investment strategy, Kickstart Ventures, a Makati based venture capital firm, is now in pursuit of worthy AI startups in the region to invest $200 million USD in funding. Kickstart Ventures is well known for investments such as those it has made in Coins.ph, C88, Wattpad, and ZALORA, among many others.
Kickstart Ventures will focus on niches, such as cloud computing, augmented reality, enterprise solutions, fintech and payments. They will also fund startups working in the sustainability practices, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), e-commerce, logistics, and data analytics sectors.
Another significant investor in the AI startup sector is the Ayala Group, which intends to use $150 million USD to fund startups in the country’s burgeoning tech scene. They are on the lookout for battery technology, AI, and fintech companies requiring investment to bring them to the next level.
So, who are the most promising AI startups in the Philippines worthy of these investments? Here are the top five companies that are hoping to fit investor’s expectations and receive a financial boost.
Expedock, a Filippino startup now headquartered in the Silicon Valley, is an AI-based outsourcing service provider for logistics and freight. Its very promising concept has attracted the right kind of attention, and it has already raised $1.15 million USD pre-seed funding in a round recently led by Tencent Holdings’ Liqing Zeng.
Rumarocket, a platform that focuses on organisational wellbeing and AI-supported talent recruitment and management, is making waves in the HR tech sector. The platform provides AI-based analysis and reports on depression and anxiety scores in the workplace.
It also provides a forum that focuses on mental health initiatives, while offering free assessments and individual reports. This Manilla-based company was amongst ten winners of the ‘RESQUE: Startups vs. COVID-19‘, a nationwide competition, gaining a place on a support programme and over $20 thousand USD in funding.
Taking the chatbot experience to the next level is Aiah. Standard chatbots have a few definitive answers, and any further inquiry would need the assistance of a customer service representative. However, what is unique is that Aiah chatbots offer AI-based chat capabilities equipped to develop high quality and effective verbal content.
The Aiah chatbots can interact with the customers independently and return practical problem-solving solutions and initiatives. It also has the ability to take account of all new customers and access the history of those returning to the service. In this way, Aiah and similar startups have the potential to revolutionise the customer service industry. Aiah has already made over 1.5 million transactions for its customers in nine different locations, making it an impressive investment target for the right venture capitalists.
PhilCare is arguably the future of healthcare in the Philippines. It is famous for its high-quality health maintenance and healthcare insurance packages.
The net income of Philcare was almost $3 million USD in 2019, an increase of around $500 thousand USD compared to 2018’s figures. The company has also continued to show steady growth with a highly loyal clientele in influential organisations across the country.
Technology and data analytics company, FinScore, specialises in alternative data-based scoring solutions. It provides credit score services to banks and financial institutions, helping them to serve the 51 million under or unbanked Filipinos.
With 71% of the country’s adults still unbanked, fintech solutions are required to ease their financial access problems. FinScore is the first company in the Philippines to have successfully utilised telco data to extend credit and provide critical knowledge and insights about first-time borrowers’ creditworthiness.
All in all, these five promising AI companies are thriving and hold clear potential for the growing tech scene in the Philippines. Granted, Foursquare, Uber, and many other such ventures did not show this level of possibility in their early years and yet became massive tech giants.
Savvy investors should consider companies where the promise may not be apparent or obvious but have the makings of success within their local landscapes. They may need to cast a wide net in this new economic era and consider providing small but significant investments to AI startups as they strive to become the next big things. With Manilla providing a good ecosystem, AI startups in the Philippines have the opportunity to take their place amongst the tech greats of the world.