Local, global investors keen on supporting PH startups

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by SMART Public Affairs Aug 29, 2014

[29 August 2014] With the stronger presence of investors, community supporters, and ecosystem players, there is no better time to be a startup in the Philippines than now.

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GEEKS ON A BEACH, LITERALLY. Hundreds of ‘geeks’ join the 2nd Geeks on a Beach Startup Conference in Cebu, which hopes to empower and energize the Philippine startup community. Photo courtesy of Arup Maity.

With the stronger presence of investors, community supporters, and ecosystem players, there is no better time to be a startup in the Philippines than now.

And with the country getting the attention of international investors from the region and all the way from Silicon Valley, capital inflow toward locally-established startups is as abundant as ever.

“For the first time in history, there’s now a funding path for every startup—from research and development to ideation, from market to scale, and from distribution to expansion,” said Earl Martin Valencia, President and Co-Founder at IdeaSpace Foundation, Inc. (IdeaSpace), the largest privately-backed technology incubator and accelerator in the country.

Ideaspace, along with mobile leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and Smart Bro, were the co-presentors during the 2nd “Geeks on a Beach” startup conference held recently in Cebu. Around 40 local and international investors, plus some 400 startup founders, developers, and participants, flew to Lapu-Lapu City to attend this year’s event.

During his speech, Valencia emphasized how startups can leverage on skyrocketing economic growth, the upcoming ASEAN integration, and the unique ideas that emerging-market startups can present to the world.

“Not a lot of people are looking at areas like agriculture, transportation, water, utilities, and the like. So we really have a chance to leapfrog our neighboring countries in terms of these kinds of innovations,” he added.

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Earl Valencia of IdeaSpace shares that now is the best time to be a startup founder, with funding opportunities streaming in to the country.

 

No missing ingredient

Truly, there is nothing holding Philippine startups from making it big around the world. This sentiment was echoed by big-time Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure, founder of 500 Startups, a venture fund that has invested in hundreds of startups all over the world, including the Philippines.

“People ask me, ‘what’s missing in the Philippine startup world?’ I say: absolutely nothing,” McClure, who was also at the Geeks on a Beach conference, stressed. “But you have to make a community that believes in the ideas your founders create.”

McClure said what lures people to the “magic” of Silicon Valley is the belief that they can make their startups successful while in there. “Silicon Valley is not a place, it’s a state of mind,” he shared to the crowd. “It’s the confidence and belief in yourself and in other people, that you and that they can also succeed.”

Coopetition’

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CORPORATE ‘GEEK’. Voyager Innovations COO and Smart e-Money, Inc. Managing Director Benjie Fernandez shared time-tested lessons on how local startups can succeed in the quickly evolving tech landscape.

 

Fernandez said there are a lot of opportunities for collaboration between and among startups and big corporations, but competition is what drives the successful ones to think outside the box.

To fast-track the local ecosystem’s road to success, Voyager Innovations Chief Operating Officer and Smart eMoney, Inc. (SMI) Managing Director Benjie Fernandez said local founders must espouse what is dubbed “coopetition,” a play on the words “cooperation” and “competition.”

“‘Coopetition' is the new meaning of convergence where synergies are not a forward or backward integration, but an encompassing whole,” Fernandez said during his keynote speech at Geeks on a Beach.

Fernandez is the captain of Voyager Innovations, a subsidiary of Smart that focuses on upcoming digital innovations and of SMI, the mobile financial services arm of Smart. He said one key example of “coopetition” is the strategic partnership launched by the PLDT Group with Berlin-based Rocket Internet, which aims to boost the creation and global execution of innovative solutions for the unbanked, uncarded and unconnected with focus on emerging markets.

PLDT, thru its subsidiary SMI, is a global pioneer on mobile banking and mobile wallet services. The partnership will leverage on Rocket Internet’s platform for rapid creation and scaling of consumer Internet business, and best represents the intersection of financial inclusion and digital inclusion around the world.

Fernandez added that there are a lot of opportunities for such collaboration between and among startups and big corporations, but competition is what drives the successful ones to think outside the box.

“It is the dynamic synergy of these two opposing interests - cooperation and competition - which fuels innovation, disruption and progress. As entrepreneurs, we have to find that balance,” he added.

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