Area 55 – How ‘Campus Style’ Startup Collaboration Starts and Becomes Cultural in the Philippines

I started to write an article about ManilaAngels, the people behind it, the group’s intention but mid-way I thought: Hold on, it wasn’t only the alcohol beverages served at a very popular Startup gathering that triggered the creation of this new Angel network in town. What triggered it was something way more fascinating, the spontaneous but continuous exchange of thoughts between people located in one single space.

That space is located in Paseo de Roxas 55, home to The One School and also home to Kickstart Ventures. I am one of the co-founders of the latter, so I won’t blow my own horn here but our investment track record speaks for itself. Yes, go and Google it!

Image credit: Kevin Velasco, Kalibrr

Photo credit: Kevin Velasco, Kalibrr

Our new home got one big makeover, turning the house’s basement into a simple but stylish co-working space for our portfolio companies and friends. Our mothership flexed its muscles and equipped us with two 100Mbps Internet pipes. I am close to tears when I look at my lousy 10Mbps DSL at home. And, let us not forget our fridge, one magic box that refills itself with beer.

My point here, all the key ingredients for a Startup-community-in-a-box were all of a sudden in place, similar to those acids and bases that formed the key ingredients for life on Earth. An investment fund willing to take a risk (a.k.a. betting on high-risk early-stage Startups) provides its portfolio companies (and their friends) with a nice and creative co-working space (at zero-cost, equipped with awesome Internet and beer).

About two to three months later, a Startup moved in the empty office space across the hallway (the Startup is called Kalibrr, you might have heard of them). I tell you, it was the temptation of free and freshly brewed coffee that brought them here, besides the outlook of having free and almost unlimited Internet.

With more and more founders stopping by on an almost daily base, you are granted with two opportunities. First, you have a constant stream of feedback, painpoints, and challenges – imagine Facebook’s timeline filled with the concerns of various Startup founders (in real-time). Second, you do constant route optimization or better said: how to make it to the coffee machine before everybody else!

With Startups come mentors and partners, providing a new perspective, the latest insights, and food for thought.

Again, all this happens in one single space, leading to a frictionless exchange of thoughts.

ManilaAngels members (L-R) Martin Pascual, Mikko Perez, Nix Nolledo, and Manny Ayala at #area55.

ManilaAngels members (L-R) Martin Pascual, Mikko Perez, Nix Nolledo, and Manny Ayala at #area55.

All it takes then is a spark to bring an idea to life. In the case of ManilaAngels, it was a discussion with Paul Rivera (Co-founder of Kalibrr) as well as a few beers with Phil Morle (CEO & Co-Founder of Pollenizer) and Andrew Broad (Angel investor).

A few months later, about 25 Angel investors gathered in Kickstart’s space in 55 Paseo De Roxas – ManilaAngels was born.

I think such a special space deserves a special name. We are far away from the size and impact of Startup clusters like Blk 71 in Singapore but also, they started out small. Let’s call it Area 55 – home to Kalibrr, Kickstart, and a few other Startups. Now, also the birthplace of ManilaAngels.

Come over and check it out yourself. The next #raidthefridge is happening soon!

PS: Credits for the name Area 55 go to my colleague Dan Siazon!

(This article originally appeared in theBobbery last 11 January 2014.)