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Jurassic World: Predatory investing behaviours we’d rather not see in today’s startup ecosystem

jurassic worldCaveat: like all opinion pieces, this comes with a perspective that not everyone will share, so let me state where this is coming from.

We hold an investor’s perspective. Our objective is to drive a return on our investment: not just the cash we provide, but the connections/market access we enable and the time and energy we invest in each deal. Our financial focus and the capital and relationship/reputation risk that we take aligns us closely with the founders’ own objectives:

  • Because we are not a charity, our key metric is neither funds deployed nor grants given. Our performance metric is not about Inputs: it is about Outcomes and Results. Which is what the founders most benefit from, ultimately.
  • Because we are not a PR machinery: our key metric is not the media mileage we as investors get. We value PR for the benefits it brings to a business and to our deal flow, and to evangelising to corporates and consumers. But our focus is investing; and we prefer to shine the spotlight on startups and founders.
  • Because we are not a development organisation, our capability-building initiatives focus on driving successful outcomes – liquidity events, in this industry. Massive development, advocacy are side benefits we seek, but these are not the focus of our investments.

All the above have consequences.

  • Our objective is to have some spectacular winners, the significant funding rounds and landmark exits that place our market on the global investment map. We double down on a few high-performers. But we do not have the bandwidth to invest in everyone who pitches to us. And while we do follow-on investments, we do not guarantee follow-on for every single startup in our portfolio.
  • Our strategy is a combination of straight-up venture investing, authentic community engagement and intensive portfolio development. We do not invest in advertising for the Kickstart brand. We don’t have sponsorship budgets. We don’t have an ad agency; we don’t even have a full-time marketing person. I moonlight as copywriter-slash-creative director (those Kickstart geek shirts? Yup, that would be my copy. Saved by Hannah’s great design capabilities!). Hackathons and business plan competitions are not our main source of deal flow. These have a purpose, but their purpose doesn’t perfectly align with our investing objectives; and other groups are better are staging these.
  • Our ethos is to aim for homeruns and moonshots. We like ambition, coupled with methodical execution. We’re not impressed by the wild uncontrolled swings, or avowals of passion as the sole driving force. We believe in planning, preparation, measuring and iterating. We practice rigour in our investing.

So having framed our position, here are a few investing practices we wish we hadn’t seen (but we have).

  1. Taking too much and giving too little
    1. Taking too much equity for too little cash. Our starting position for Philippine seed stage investments is a minimum $200K post-money valuation because we know that seed-stage startups need a longer runway, hard cash to hire talent, and multiple future rounds of investments. Taking 20% equity at this stage, for less than $40K in cash, is not a good thing for founders: it ruins their prospects for future funding because smart investors will see that the founders are close to losing control of their own startup. What investors value in founders is skin in the game: “owner behaviour,” not “employee behaviour.”
    2. Taking significant equity (>3%) for advice, introductions, and anything that is not full-time, has no concrete commercial outcomes (and no consequences for non-delivery), or is on a “best effort basis.”
  2. Confusing investing with commercial practices
    1. Mixing commercial and equity agreements – these are separate transactions, and should be dealt with in separate documents. This delineates which transaction is which, and allows founders to negotiate commercial deals in a fair environment.
    2. Taking collateral for investment. Yup, we’ve seen this kind of a term sheet.
    3. Any sort of revenue share deal for investors. We’ve seen this, too — in the Philippines, and overseas.
    4. Hidden conditions in investment documents or commercial agreements. Three words for founders to Google: “Entire Agreement Clause.”
  3. Using time, deliberately or not, as a means of control.
    1. Taking too long to decide. Or, having made the decision to invest, delaying funding for reasons outside of the agreed list of Closing Conditions (this is why founders need to pay attention to this part of the term sheet).
    2. Deciding quickly, then piling on the conditions after. We’ve seen startups suffer from vague term sheets and long-delayed Share Purchase Agreements. Even the ostensibly generous offer to “fund now, and sign SPA’s later” can be dangerous: by the time definitive deal documents are swapped, and founders are wanting to negotiate newly-introduced deal conditions, they may have already spent the cash. They are now not in a position to return the cash and walk away from what has become an onerous deal.
  4. Overly asymmetrical conditions
    1. Too stringent reserve matters. A burdensome approval process for standard operating decisions; or for too low a cost hurdle.
    2. Investor self-promotion at the expense of startups.

As startup ecosystems evolve, and more traditional investors and corporates come into the marketplace, they (we!) carry with us the DNA of our genesis. Some investors evolve and adapt more quickly to the startup ethos of generosity, collaboration and fairness. Others are slow to shed their more aggressive, predatory investing practices: after all, in the corporate world, we are trained to squeeze all value from a deal, to never miss a trick, and to leave no money on the table.

Investor self-promotion is also a potentially damaging practice for the ecosystem, especially for very young ecosystems such as the Philippines. The politics of corporate hierarchies and investment banking mean that some investors want to be the rockstars of whatever passes for the ecosystem’s version of Wall Street or Sand Hill Road (come to think of it, even Wall Street and Sand Hill Road are not immune to this). What people need to realise, though, is that what makes a startup ecosystem valuable is having (and hearing about) amazing startup founders, and high-performing startups and startup teams. Everyone else — investors, advisors, policy makers, event managers — we’re supporting cast. We don’t make the show better, or the ecosystem more valuable, by calling attention to ourselves.

Thankfully, we’ve also seen investors — traditional and otherwise — who genuinely strive to understand the ecosystem, who listen and learn, who don’t hard-code overly aggressive practices into startup investing. These are the early days; and many of us are learning, too. With any luck, most of us will evolve quickly enough to help the ecosystem grow healthy and robust. And maybe Darwin’s theory applies to startup investing, too.

 

Image credits: www.jurassicpark.wikia.com

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SlingshotMNL Opportunities in Tech Investing

[vc_row][vc_column text_color=”” animate=”” animate_delay=”” width=”1/1″][vc_column_text](null)Monday, 6th July 2015, saw the Philippines hosting the largest ever tech startup gathering in the country: SlingshotMNL, the official APEC-related tech startup conference, which attracted 1,200 participants and 120 startup exhibitors. People trooped to the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) to listen to key government agencies, global tech companies, local startups, academics, investors and other key ecosystem players participate in a two-day conference that aimed to help build a bridge between the public and private sectors in the country who had an interest in building a more robust startup ecosystem. The Department of Trade and Industry was the key government agency here; but the Department of Science and Technology was visibly present and supportive.

I moderated a panel on “Opportunities in Tech Investing” in the afternoon of Day One. I had a great panel!

The panelists, in alphabetical order:
* Jay Fajardo – CEO and co-founder, Proudcloud; and our partner for the Launchgarage acceleration program from 2012-2014
* Justin Hall – Principal, Golden Gate VC (SG)
* Daniel HerssonCleantech VC/PE Team Leader and Consultant, Asian Development Bank
* Hugh Mason – CEO and co-founder, JFDI
* Shyan Menon – Investment Director, Infuse Ventures (India)
* Koichi Saito – Founder and General Partner, KK Fund

I sent the panelists an advance email with the themes I planned to cover. Brilliantly, the startup community pitched in over the weekend with questions of their own! Which was great, because whilst the panel’s original intent was to point out opportunities for investors, clearly the founders’ perspective was key to a balanced discussion. Shoutout to Vin Dancel, Pavan Challa, Eric Clark Su, Maoi Arroyo, Gian dela Rama, Alvin Edwald Chan, Valenice Balace, Marielese Tan, Carlo Valencia and Gerry Cruz, who gamely joined my weekend prep for the panel!

We got quite positive feedback about the panel and the flow of the conversations, so I thought I’d share the content here. I won’t edit the draft: you’ll see the original thoughts, and can compare them with the actual discussion. Like a good startup, a good panel moderator has to be agile, and pivot when the situation calls for it!

First, the questions:

  • A quick round of introductions: maybe 2 minutes each, to say what you do, and what you want to get out of SlingshotMNL
    • After the round, we could do a quick show-of-hands summary: who’s been a founder / who’s worked for a startup / who’s invested in a startup outside of their own / who’s worked in corporate / who’s worked in VC — it’ll be “raise your hands for all that apply” to help the audience remember the context of each panel member
  • Investing is a tough profession, subject to both the company execution as well as market shifts; and tech is a sector that has shown rapid shifts. Why invest in tech?
    • What are the upsides investing in tech vs traditional industries?
    • What are the risks? How do the opportunities outweigh them?
    • How do you mitigate this kind of risk?
    • Do you have different criteria for investing in different regions / markets?
    • Which KPI matters most to you for valuation, and does this change from seed to Series A and beyond?
  • The literature on tech investing suggests more generosity, transparency and collaboration than is prescribed for traditional industries.
    • Do you subscribe to this when you make your own investments? How?
    • Have you seen bad investor behaviour, and how do you deal with it?
  • People say “tech investing” as if “tech” was a single category, subject to a single set of factors. But the truth is that tech has a broad spectrum of sectors, each of which is its own universe. Are there sectors that you are currently focusing on?
    • Any global tech trends that you are observing?
    • Any regional shifts that you anticipate coming to SEA?
  • Thoughts about specific regions / markets:
    • In your current investment portfolio, where do you have the most exposure, and why?
    • Do you favour any market or region for your current investment activity? Would you start to shift in or out of any particular region?
  • Are there government or regulatory policies that the SEA region needs to accelerate the development of innovation ecosystems here? Any best practices we should adopt?
    • In fact, should governments get in on the act at all?
  • In SEA, we talk about a gap between early stage to Series A, and we see a number of startups raising bridge rounds to get them to milestones that will allow an A raise.
    • Do you believe this is a systemic gap, caused by smaller seed rounds, more modest valuations in the region, or slower growth due to inherent market characteristics?
    • Or do you think this is par for the course, and not unusual given that only exceptional startups in any market achieve the kind of traction that gets them to a Series A without a bridge round?
  • There are growing concerns of a possible tech bubble, in the US and in a few other regions.
    • Do you believe there is a bubble? Why or why not?
  • Last: What is your fearless forecast for tech investing in the ASEAN from 2015-2020?

It wasn’t meant to be a punchlist to be checked off in sequence. The panel’s perspective was to share experiences and insights that could be useful to public and private sector participants who care about accelerating the development of a Philippine startup ecosystem. We kept a brisk pace, provided differing perspectives, and tried to keep things interesting and fresh for the audience. I certainly enjoyed, and I hope the panelists and the audience did, too.

Next up: the discussion highlights.

(You may also view the session below beginning at 33:29)

 

 

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4YFN: 7 Subtle Shifts That Will Change the Shape of Business

“The future is already here: it’s just not very evenly distributed.” – William Gibson, American-Canadian writer who has been called the “noir prophet” of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction

Attending the GSMA 2015 conference in Barcelona illustrates William Gibson’s observation in rather dramatic fashion: in Fira Gran Via, the main event, dominated by guys in suits, walking around 500sqm exhibits of large global brands, presenting in slick, full-on fashion the future of telecoms: Apps! Internet of Things! Wearables! Big Data! Smartphones/watches/kitchens! Amongst the big brand exhibitors, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, marketing budgets, and market capitalization. All very much in the mainstream future.

Image Credit: Minette Navarrete
Image Credit: Minette Navarrete

In another part of the city, in Fira Montjuic, a rather different and no less exciting GSMA event – 4 Years from Now (4YFN), the segment of the MWC devoted startup innovation ecosystems, i.e. founders and investors. Significantly smaller in scale and much lower key, its attendees walked around in jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers (socks optional). Wearables were very much on display: not in exhibition booths, but on people’s wrists. The booths themselves were similarly low-key: standard-issue two-by-three metre spaces manned by startup founders and team members, eagerly pitching to the attending investors, corporate executives, and to each other. Here, everyone was similarly enthralled by thoughts of the future – but a future not yet defined by devices, products and software. In 4YFN, the future was something coming in waves: tangible and unrelenting, but not something one could hold in the palm of one’s hand.

Some of these waves:

1. We are evolving into “Homo Digitalis.” – John Lunn, Senior Director of Developer and Startup Relations, PayPal / Braintree

a. Current notions of usability are that tech is designed around intuitive user experience and real-world usage habits (eg food delivery apps built upon the traditional food delivery business). But these habits are changing, too, as the use of tech modifies the way we do certain processes (reading a book, getting directions). We are building new habits as technology allows us to do more and different things (selfies; obsessive checking of email and social media).

b. Beyond our behaviour, technology is being developed around human physiology and psychology. Many of us would’ve heard of Google’s contact lens, developed with Novartis, that has a built-in blood sugar meter. Perhaps less popularly known are developments around identity authentication using heartbeat patterns (Bionym’s Nymi), brainwaves (UC Berkeley) and arterial/vein configuration, or in-ear and subcutaneous magnets to bring hearing to deaf people, and possibly deliver music in the future.

c. Much has been written about how the present and future generations use technology for self-expression. At the fringes, we are seeing how hardware + software + biology “splices” can be used for auto-identification, as well as to address a number of other health-related issues.

2. Technology is ambient. And it needs to be magical.

a. The broad base of the current generation in both developed and emerging markets are no longer impressed by tech; it’s just the way things are.

b. Corporations cannot keep up, or claim to be innovative, simply by “going digital” (ie being present in online/social media). To truly engage their customers where they are, companies need to rethink workflows and re-design product and service offers around their customers’ evolving habits.

c. Tech needs to be invisible. And even as an invisible underlying layer, it is expected to…

i. offer a broad range of options for users (who want to express themselves, discover solutions, etc);

ii. and protect their interests (privacy, security, trustworthiness built through experience rather than conferred by authority);

iii. whilst creating magical experiences (high usability and reliable delivery on promises).

d. Beyond reliability and efficiency: there is a return to purpose, meaning, beauty, design. Notegraphy, a Barcelona-based startup styles itself as the “Instagram of words,” i.e. an app providing a range of striking original graphics and typography to add beauty to the words that people post on their social media, or save to their personal galleries. A proposition built upon beauty. And they have raised a total of €575,000 based on this proposition.

3. Access is the new Ownership. Contribution is the new Conversion.

a. Our beliefs about how we derive utility and benefit from things – our relationships to objects and service providers – is changing.

b. Services delivered by companies are now being delivered by networks of individuals and organisations. Similarly, the way we used to rely upon financial institutions is shifting to FinTech (algorithms used in everything from stock purchase recommendations to credit ratings and loan qualification).

c. Platforms and companies are shifting from being merchants to enabling marketplaces. Like typical marketplaces, the motivations are a combination of economic and non-economic factors. There is value beyond pricing; and community standing is a valued attribute.

d. Community standing and reputation are gained not necessarily through purchasing the most goods or flashing the most prestigious brands. In many marketplaces, individuals strive to be recognized for how they support other people’s goals (crowdfunding), or how they serve the community in general (reporting potholes and bribes).

4. Data is the new oil.

a. Data is a high-value commodity: many people sitting on large sets of data, but not everyone realizes it’s there, or knows how to extract/use it. Over the long run, however, data could hold the same value for everyone once everyone starts to use it well – however, until then, those who control the data and the tools for extracting analyses have a distinct competitive advantage.

b. Having said that, in some respects, there is a shift from Big Data Hype to Big Data Hangover: having bought into the proposition, some companies are learning that the hockey stick is not about the increasing income they derive from analytics, but the increasing investments they have to make in order to remain competitive!

c. So why is it so valuable? Because everyone needs data to fuel better management strategies and tactics, to engineer operating efficiencies, to deliver customer delight. Going into the future, companies will stay relevant through intelligent use of data, or they will overlook their customers’ early warning signals, and slowly make themselves irrelevant.

5. There are serious constraints in the Internet of Things (and humans are a necessary part of the solution).

a. The Internet of Things was on everyone’s mind: sensors, meters, wearables, devices and networks that are auto-managed through pre-set parameters and algorithms.

b. However, far from being utopian and Jetson-esque, there is a maturing view that this exists within a universe that is resource-constrained (eg size, power, in situ durability), dynamic and distributed, making security more necessary but also more difficult.

c. Operating in the real world is unpredictable: hence choosing which conditions to monitor, and creating the decision framework for automatic (ie non-human) triggers, are necessarily more probabilistic rather than deterministic.

d. A key insight regarding data: the intelligence and security in the Internet of Things will need to be self-configuring. Hence, the architecture and hierarchy of decision processes will need to be deeply thought-through from the beginning. By humans, of course.

6. The world is my backyard. “Global is the new Local.”

a. There is an emerging broader understanding of how inter-connected our markets, and our lives, are. For more evolved societies, this results in a greater sense of responsibility for the impact that we have on the planet, and for other countries and people around the globe.

4FN: Hamburg Future City 2015
Image Credit: Minette Navarrete

b. In parallel, there is a sense of a bigger opportunity for corporations, startups and investors – geographic boundaries are not the constraints to create value through collaboration; other factors – economics, culture, regulations, etc. – are. Both of the above underscore the importance of connectors to link problems and solutions; innovators and innovation investors; inventions and go-to-market; agility and scale.

c. “Global is the new Local” is an acknowledgement that we operate in a more complex environment, with risks as well as opportunities. Not just “the world is my oyster” but also “the world hosts my competitor.”

7. Corporations and Emerging Markets: Not your typical VC.

a. Aside from the usual suspects (ie startup founders and investors), an atypical and prominent presence in 4YFN consisted of large established global corporations: Banco Sabandell, Bayer, Telefonica, Ooredoo, El Pais, Audi. Unsurprisingly, a common thread is that their traditional business models – retail banking, branded pharmaceutical, telecommunications, newspaper, automobile manufacturing — are under threat from their customers’ changing views about the utility of their products and services, and the emergence of non-traditional competitors.

b. Emerging market public players (cities and national governments) and educational institutions are also surfacing as stakeholders in driving the innovation ecosystem forward. With no legacy interests, and the prospect of leapfrogging long-established markets and players, these unconventional investors are turning the fast-changing environment to their advantage. Whilst they understand that the entry ticket is usually via discount pricing, they recognize that pure price plays are a race to the bottom. Innovation, on the other hand, creates customer value beyond price.

c. How can these non-traditional players compete? They recognize that the Big Business’ inertia is not apace with a fast-changing world and a fickle consumer. Boards of directors, project management teams and decision committees will be too slow and too conservative, and “this is the way we’ve always done it” is a death knell for innovation and attracting innovators. Recognising that speed confers competitive advantage, large corporations are building new capability – usually through hiring external talent, creating new processes, and respecting the differences in skills, metrics and culture that these new teams require to operate effectively within the systemic shifts, even before these shifts are obvious to mainstream business.

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#startupPH: Inventing the future together

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator type=”” size=”” icon=”” text=””][vc_column_text]The Department of Tourism’s campaign, “More Fun in the Philippines,” is one of the most successful promotional initiatives for the country. Campaign photos and videos of azure skies, pristine white beaches, colourful fiestas, and warm, smiling locals have gone viral, drawing increasing benefits for the country. International arrivals increased at a CAGR of 6.8% from 2011-2014, with tourism receipts growing more than 7% last year, to reach nearly $4Bn – burnishing the Philippines’ image, and creating jobs, businesses, and greater pride in what we have and do in these 7,107 islands.

Less well-known is the Philippines’ nascent but vibrant startup movement, developing in a number of cities in the country. Branded #startupPH after a piece of advice given by Pollenizer Chief Startup Scientist Phil Morle, speaking at one of Kickstart’s Raid the Fridge evenings in 2013, the local community has grown by leaps and bounds – in terms of the number of new startups emerging each year, the number of startups funded, and the milestones achieved by these intrepid souls.

Consider these milestones in the last few years:

  • Kalibrr, founded by Paul Rivera and Dexter Ligot-Gordon, became the first Philippine startup to make it into the globally coveted Y Combinator program; and their online assessment and recruitment platform has been signing up a number of corporations in their business development drive;
  • Lenddo, of Jeff Stewart and Richard Eldridge, successfully raised their Series “A” and have expanded from the Philippines to Latin America. They have proven their algorithm works; and the social scoring technology is now usable by banks and other financial institutions;
  • Sulit, now called OLX, is probably one of the best-known trade sale exits in recent memory; and over the past few years, c0-founder and managing director, RJ David, has continued to sharpen the company’s strategic focus, and refine its execution;
  • Xurpas, the mobile content company founded by Nix Nolledo, Raymond Racaza and Fernando Garcia, listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange, and became the first mobile content tech startup to do an IPO;
  • and just today, Judah Hirsch happily shared that his accounting and human resource software company Salarium was selected as the best startup in the Seedstars World 2014 competition.

We estimate that close to 100 startups have been funded or given grants by institutional investors in the last three years, with maybe the same number supported by the various angels who are supporting entrepreneurs in a private capacity. A number of these funded startups have received follow-on funding (about 40% of Kickstart portfolio companies have gotten third-party follow-on funding), and reputable investors from overseas have started to participate in these early funding rounds.

Bootstrapped startups are also making progress, demonstrating that external funding is a boost, but not a necessity, for success.

The good news is rolling in, with each achievement pushing the entire Philippine community forward. And whether or not Kickstart is invested in these startups, we are thrilled to see the progress each one achieves. A win for any startup here is a win for the entire community. Not just for the emotional pride thing (and there is admittedly tons of that), but also because, pragmatically, each achievement helps the rest of the world reconsider what a Philippine startup is and does.

As Lifebit founder, Eric Clark Su, enthused when Paul and Dexter shared their YC news, “Great! That means that startups from here will be viewed with a better lens each time we apply for any global program.”

It’s good momentum, and it’s momentum we need.

For many years, the Philippines has been a source of creative and technical talent. The liberalisation and privatisation of a number of industries in the 1990’s has allowed that talent to flourish, yielding positive results for the country. By breaking the monopolies held by historically entrenched interests in power, water, and telecommunications, consumers have enjoyed improvements in the service quality, cost efficiency, pricing, and usage; and innovation is picking up. Of economic significance, we are seeing new businesses with specialised capabilities starting up and participating in the value chain, whether as enabling platforms, as complementary services that run over the existing infrastructure, and even as competing alternatives to traditional industry leaders.

The mobile content industry – with Information Gateway (IG), Entertainment Gateway Group (EGG: now Yondu), Wolfpac, Chikka, and of course Xurpas, and about 100 other companies of varying size – exemplifies the rise of an entirely new industry, built upon the mass adoption of mobile phones here. And they illustrate the kinds of exits that this market has seen in the last decade.

“Startup is the new hipster.”

From where we sit, we can see how the term “startup” is becoming mainstream. Large corporations use the buzzword to try and infect bureaucracies with more innovation and entrepreneurial energy; and they make acquisitions in the interest of accessing new technology and creative talent. Government policy-makers are trying to understand how to support a potential platform for job creation and economic development. Harvard Business Review has featured articles on startups and startup culture in enterprise. Consultants are coming around, event organisers are running startup-themed events, and new startup interest groups are sprouting everyday. Heck, even Dilbert is having startup fantasies from the confines of his cubicle.

There’s a lot of hype, and a lot of hipness.

But beyond the cool factor, there is a lot of work involved, and numerous challenges to overcome.

We need infrastructure that supports startup enterprises: modes of communication and transportation that can help connect startup founders to each other, and to the rest of the world.

We need more talent to develop, mature, and participate: the technical geeks, the cultural creatives, the business mavens — all have a place in the community.

Beyond talent, we need a hardcore work ethic, integrity, and generous spirits. We need a culture that values performance above personalities, and offers results rather than excuses.

We need mentors with current, pragmatic, relevant real-world experience. We need them to be patient, and present.

We need investors of all kinds – angels, super-angels, institutional. We need the investment networks that connect sources of capital with appropriately-matched founders. And we need them to be generous with their time as well as their funding.

Most importantly, we need results. Traction. User numbers. Usage. Business relationships. Revenues. And we need ambition: startups that want to solve people’s big problems. And who want to operate at a regional and global level. Solve the world’s wicked problems, create lasting value. Serve the emerging markets, engage the customers of the future.

Oh, and ideally, demonstrate a return on investment.

From an investor standpoint, it is tempting to fire and forget. Some startups have made it without our help in the past; others can do the same, for sure. The mentoring and market access that we provide consumes more than 50% of our time, and no hardcore VC will understand why we would choose to be quite so inefficient, especially as the returns are most obviously created by deal-making. Mentoring, after all, is by definition one-on-one: it isn’t a scalable activity. And market access puts our company and personal reputations on the line: we have made high-level introductions for startups to large corporations, and pushed our corporate contacts to engage with startups for business development. Some startups deliver shining performance; others flake and fizzle out.

It’s also difficult to quantify the contribution of community development and ecosystem promotion to ROI. Large corporations tend to look at this as “the cute stuff” of our work: there is little depth of understanding about how critical it is to build the underlying foundations of the innovation ecosystem today – culture and norms, depth of thought, opportunities for collaboration – these are not typical in the large-scale industries whose experience of collaboration is founded upon trade associations and lobby groups, and for whom market-making is executed via massive marketing budgets.

So why do community development and ecosystem promotion at all? Why do things that don’t scale?

We do it because the community needs it, and the country would benefit. There are too many hurdles that startup founders need to overcome, and too many gaps they live with. Collaboration helps overcome some of these hurdles.

We do it because we need a favourable environment for startups: a longer runway, more corporate allies, more talent on the ground, more mentors, more investors, a more supportive policy environment. The right conversations help shape a more favourable environment.

We do it because we believe that building bridges is as important as breaking down barriers: and that disruptive innovation requires mass adoption and scale to have real impact. Opening our networks builds a broader base of support to help startups scale.

We do it because we recognise that value can be created, one startup at a time. For the Philippine startup community to get to the landmark exit that propels the country further than it’s gone before, we all need to pull together. It’s a long road, and a lot of roadblocks: but there, in the distance, is the ROI.

We want the startup equivalent of the “More Fun” campaign: the catchy materials on the surface, as well as the improvements in infrastructure, culture and capabilities underneath. We want to drive the country’s startup-related stats upwards, faster and further than they’ve ever gone before. We want to support groundbreaking innovation, and record-breaking exits.

#startupPH – it’s a thing. We’re happy to be part of it, and to be with everyone else.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Building an Innovation Ecosystem: Lessons from Area 55

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][vc_video link=”http://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/38197423″ ratio=”16-9″][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]The Philippine startup space is developing atop an economic boom. Beyond funding, community development is a key role: while the “Silicon + landform” formula doesn’t apply, an emerging market must figure its own formula for growth. Here are some lessons from Area 55, a developing innovation ecosystem in the Makati-Fort Bonifacio cities. #area55[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Minette B. Navarrete

President

Minette is Vice-Chairman and President of Kickstart Ventures, Inc., the corporate venture capital subsidiary of Globe Telecom.  She is a member of the Ayala Corporation’s Innovation Advisory Council, and of Globe’s Innovation Advisory Board.  She is a Senior Vice President at Globe Telecom, focusing on New Business, and a member of the Board of Directors of AdSpark, Globe’s wholly owned digital advertising subsidiary. 

Minette has held a number of CEO/COO positions in various industries, ranging from scrappy Philippine startups to iconic global companies.

Dan I. Siazon

Senior Vice-President & Treasurer

Dan is a co-founder as well as the Senior Vice-President and Treasurer of Kickstart Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Globe Telecom. He also concurrently supports Globe in M&A activities, which in the past have included acquisitions of Yondu (formerly Entertainment Gateway Group) and Bayan Telecommunications. Dan’s career track has mostly been in global tech-related companies, particularly in telecommunications, personal portable computers, and over a decade in tech venture investing with JAFCO Asia, with senior-level stints in key global markets including the US, Japan, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia.

Dan holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA, and dual master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania’s Lauder Institute in International Studies (MA) minoring in German studies, and the Wharton School of Business (MBA).

Joan Cybil Yao

Vice-President

Joan is Vice-President of Kickstart Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Globe Telecom. She is a member of the Kickstart Deal Team.

Prior to Kickstart, Joan was Investment Manager for Southeast Asia at LGT Venture Philanthropy, a global impact investing firm headquartered in Europe. For six years, Joan was primarily responsible for the sourcing, screening, execution, and management of LGT VP’s deals in the region. In 2015, Joan also served as a consultant to the Department of Trade and Industry of the Republic of the Philippines, advising the Office of the Secretary on matters related to MSME development, tech startups, innovation, inclusive business, and social enterprise.

Joan holds a BS in Management Engineering with a minor in English Literature, cum laude, from the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines.

Bit Santos

Portfolio Director

Bit Santos is the Portfolio Director at Kickstart Ventures where he leads the efforts to support portfolio companies and to nurture the local startup ecosystem. He has been a software product development leader for more than 10 years.

Prior to joining Kickstart, he was the Chief Technology Officer of OLX Philippines, an online classifieds platform company. He was primarily responsible for the product and technology strategy and operations of the Philippine team, but he also worked on global and regional initiatives within the OLX Group.

Pia Angeli C. Bernal

Community Manager

Pia joined Kickstart Ventures in September 2012 as its manager for social enterprise investments. Beginning May 2017, she serves as Kickstart’s Community Manager where she oversees PR/communications and external relations with the startup ecosystem stakeholders and enablers.

Before Kickstart, Pia held key Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) roles in both the not-for-profit and corporate sectors, specialising in resource mobilisation, project management and comms, employee volunteerism, community relations, and public-private partnerships. In Globe Telecom from 2006 to 2012, she owned the Education and Social Protection Services CSR portfolio, which saw the application of telco assets -- mobile, broadband, and value-add services -- to bridge resources to communities in need. This role in particular prepared her for Kickstart, as it allowed her to experiment and become an early adopter in the use of digital technology for public good at a time when smartphone and broadband adoption were still early, and the gains from the use of digital assets, technologies, and skills were still evolving. 

Pia holds a BA in Development Studies from the University of the Philippines in Manila, Philippines.

Frances Barsana

Business Development Manager

Frances Barsana is Kickstart’s Business Development Manager, who drives value creation in our portfolio companies by building strategic and commercial partnerships between best-in-class tech startups and top1000 corporations in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.

With her deep understanding of both sides of the opportunity: the innovation and speed of tech startups, and the scale and stability of large corporations, Frances is the conduit for high-impact collaborations that help shape and define digital transformations within the ecosystem.

Frances was previously Business Development Director at PHAR Partnerships Singapore, an international media and marketing consultancy with offices in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines, Baguio where she majored in Journalism.

Camille Cua

Investment Associate

Camille joined Kickstart Ventures in 2014 and is a member of the Kickstart Deal Team, with a primary focus on making strategic investments into promising startups in the region and globally.

Camille seeks out entrepreneurs building the next generation of category-defining digital companies, who offer innovative solutions to deeply felt problems, especially in Southeast Asia. She is also responsible for Semaphore, a Kickstart-owned SMS API.

Camille holds a B.S. in Mathematics from Fordham University and is both a voracious reader and eater.

Janis H. Nolasco

Office Manager

Janis is Kickstart office manager and the designated grown-up(!) in view of her 15+ years of experience in office management systems and administration.

She holds a BS in Clinical Psychology from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Merivita Marasigan

Accountant

Bavi is the Kickstart accountant.

She is a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy graduate from the University of Batangas in Southern Luzon and has 14 years’ worth of experience in accounting working with small and medium enterprises, manufacturing companies, and government agencies.

Ernest L. Cu

Kickstart Investment Committee Chairman; Globe CEO

Ernest is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Globe Telecom. Joining the company on 1 October 2008, he brings with him over two decades of general management and business development experience spanning multi-country operations. In 2010, he was declared Best CEO by Finance Asia and was conferred the International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC/Philippines) CEO EXCEL Award for communication excellence in telecom and IT. In 2012, Ernest earned international accolade as CEO of the Year by Frost&Sullivan Asia Pacific.

Prior to joining Globe, he was the President and Chief Executive Officer of SPI Technologies, Inc., where he earned the Ernst & Young ICT Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2003.

Ernest earned his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management Engineering from De La Salle University in Manila and his Master of Business Administration from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University.

Alberto M. de Larrazabal

Kickstart IC Member; Globe Chief Commercial Officer

Alberto de Larrazabal is the Chief Commercial Officer of Globe.

As CCO, Albert drives the integration and execution of Globe’s strategies across all commercial units, including marketing, sales and channels, and product development for all segments of business. He joined Globe in 2006 as Head of the Treasury Division and became Chief Finance Officer in April 2010. Albert has had over two decades of extensive experience as a senior executive in Finance, Business Development, Treasury Operations, Joint Ventures, Mergers and Acquisitions, as well as Investment Banking and Investor Relations.

Prior to joining Globe, he held positions such as Vice President and Chief Finance Officer of the Marsman-Drysdale Corporation, Vice President and Head of the Consumer Sector – JP Morgan (Hong Kong), and Senior Vice President and Chief Finance Officer of San Miguel Corporation.

Minette B. Navarrete

Kickstart IC Member; Kickstart President

Minette is Vice-Chairman and President of Kickstart Ventures, Inc., the corporate venture capital subsidiary of Globe Telecom.  She is a member of the Ayala Corporation’s Innovation Advisory Council, and of Globe’s Innovation Advisory Board.  She is a Senior Vice President at Globe Telecom, focusing on New Business, and a member of the Board of Directors of AdSpark, Globe’s wholly owned digital advertising subsidiary. 

Minette has held a number of CEO/COO positions in various industries, ranging from scrappy Philippine startups to iconic global companies.

Peng T. Ong

Kickstart IC Member

Peng T. Ong is a Managing Director at Monk’s Hill Ventures, a technology venture fund. He sits on the boards of YY Inc. and Singapore University of Design & Technology, and also on the advisory board of the Chancellor of the University of Illinois.

Until recently, Peng was also on the boards of SingTel and Singapore’s National Research Foundation, and chaired Infocomm Investments. Peng founded Match.com (bought by IAC), Interwoven (now part of HP), and Encentuate (acquired by IBM).

The businesses he created now generate annual revenues that total more than US$1 billion. He has a master’s in Computer Science from UIUC and a BSEE from UT Austin. Peng is also an avid audiophile.

Myla Crespo-Villanueva

Kickstart IC Member

Myla Crespo-Villanueva is a technology entrepreneur. She has founded five startups and corporations in Asia over the past twenty-five years, and is a leader in the Philippine IT industry.

She is Managing Director of MDI , a pioneer and leading systems integrator and distributor for Dell, Cisco, IBM, Juniper, VMWare, Fireeye in the Philippines. MDI has introduced many innovations and firsts in its proud history.

Myla co-founded Wolfpac in 1999, a pioneer in Mobile Value-Added Applications and Services during the growth spurt of mobility in Asia. She also founded Meridian Telekoms in 2000, the first nationwide broadband wireless internet provider serving 7,100 islands. In 2005-2006, both companies were acquired by Smart Communications , the incumbent telecommunications company in the country with over 65 millions subscribers.

After acquiring two of her companies, Myla represented Smart Communications in the GSM Association in 2005-2010. GSM Association is the industry trade body representing 800 operators in more than 220 countries. She was part of its Executive Management Committee and was also named Chairperson of the GSMA Mobile Innovation Forum from 2007 to 2009, which linked an ecosystem of Venture Capital, Telecom Operators and mobile technology startups.

Myla was named Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004, by the Entrepreneur of the year program of Ernst and Young, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine Stock Exchange, Bankers Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Securities Exchange Commission. She was also named one of the Ten Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service or TOWNS in 2010 for her pioneering work in the use of Information Technology in nation-building.

In 2006, she co-founded Novare Technologies with Craig Ehrlich, former GSMA Chairman and Mohan Gyani, former CEO of ATT Wireless. Novare is a consulting and solutions provider for telecommunications and banking in areas of customer lifecycle management, transformation technologies and mobility.

She is Regional President for Asia Pacific of the Global Telecom Women’s Network (GTWN), a global organization spearheading a yearly forum of for executive women active in telecommunications to ‘network’ and discuss current issues in the industry. Recently, she was also appointed as one of the chapter founders of Women Corporate Directors (WCD) in the Philippines.

Myla is a trustee of Go-Negosyo, which advocates entrepreneurship among Filipinos. She was a technical advisor to the PPCRV Chair (Philippine Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) in the first-ever automated election in 2010 and is now part of the Board of Trustees.

She is a graduate of Santa Clara University, CA with a BS in Economics. Myla is married to Jun Villanueva with two children, Blanca 18, and Luis, 12.

Alberto M. de Larrazabal

Chairman of the Board

Alberto de Larrazabal is the Chief Commercial Officer of Globe.

As CCO, Albert drives the integration and execution of Globe’s strategies across all commercial units, including marketing, sales and channels, and product development for all segments of business. He joined Globe in 2006 as Head of the Treasury Division and became Chief Finance Officer in April 2010. Albert has had over two decades of extensive experience as a senior executive in Finance, Business Development, Treasury Operations, Joint Ventures, Mergers and Acquisitions, as well as Investment Banking and Investor Relations.

Prior to joining Globe, he held positions such as Vice President and Chief Finance Officer of the Marsman-Drysdale Corporation, Vice President and Head of the Consumer Sector – JP Morgan (Hong Kong), and Senior Vice President and Chief Finance Officer of San Miguel Corporation.

Ernest L. Cu

Board Member

Ernest is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Globe Telecom. Joining the company on 1 October 2008, he brings with him over two decades of general management and business development experience spanning multi-country operations. In 2010, he was declared Best CEO by Finance Asia and was conferred the International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC/Philippines) CEO EXCEL Award for communication excellence in telecom and IT. In 2012, Ernest earned international accolade as CEO of the Year by Frost&Sullivan Asia Pacific.

Prior to joining Globe, he was the President and Chief Executive Officer of SPI Technologies, Inc., where he earned the Ernst & Young ICT Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2003.

Ernest earned his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management Engineering from De La Salle University in Manila and his Master of Business Administration from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University.

Minette B. Navarrete

Board Member

Minette is Vice-Chairman and President of Kickstart Ventures, Inc., the corporate venture capital subsidiary of Globe Telecom.  She is a member of the Ayala Corporation’s Innovation Advisory Council, and of Globe’s Innovation Advisory Board.  She is a Senior Vice President at Globe Telecom, focusing on New Business, and a member of the Board of Directors of AdSpark, Globe’s wholly owned digital advertising subsidiary. 

Minette has held a number of CEO/COO positions in various industries, ranging from scrappy Philippine startups to iconic global companies.

Peng T. Ong

Board Member

Peng T. Ong is a Managing Director at Monk’s Hill Ventures, a technology venture fund. He sits on the boards of YY Inc. and Singapore University of Design & Technology, and also on the advisory board of the Chancellor of the University of Illinois.

Until recently, Peng was also on the boards of SingTel and Singapore’s National Research Foundation, and chaired Infocomm Investments. Peng founded Match.com (bought by IAC), Interwoven (now part of HP), and Encentuate (acquired by IBM).

The businesses he created now generate annual revenues that total more than US$1 billion. He has a master’s in Computer Science from UIUC and a BSEE from UT Austin. Peng is also an avid audiophile.

Rizza Maniego-Eala

Board Member

Rizza is the Chief Finance Officer, Treasurer and Chief Risk Officer at Globe Telecom.

She joined Globe in February 1998: her previous positions in the company included being an Assistant Vice-President for Financial Planning and Analysis, President of G-Xchange Inc. (mobile-commerce subsidiary), and Senior Vice President for International Business.

She has had extensive experience in financial planning and analysis, capital markets fund raising, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, investor relations, strategic planning, business development, and setting up and managing start-ups.

Prior to joining Globe, Rizza was Deputy Research Head for Natwest Markets. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Management Economics from the Ateneo de Manila University.

Vince G. Tobias

Strategy & Partnerships Director

Vince Tobias joins Kickstart as Director of Strategy and Partnerships reporting to Kickstart president Minette Navarrete. This will be concurrent to his role as head of Ayala Innovation, which he has led since its beginnings in 2012. Outside the Ayala walls, he has been a pioneer of the nascent corporate innovation community, and has been onstage in  dozens of key international conferences, alongside other leading thinkers and practitioners. Vince serves on the Board of Directors of the Global Innovation Management Institute (GIMI), the world-wide standard professional certification body, with the mission of developing innovation management as a management discipline, while democratizing innovation capability and catalyzing corporate culture.

Vince draws from eight years of management consulting experience — most recently with the Monitor Group, a top-tier strategy and innovation consulting firm founded by Harvard Business School Professor Michael E. Porter; and much earlier with Arthur Andersen’s Strategy Consulting practice in the Philippines, across the Asia-Pacific, and with AA’s Revenue Enhancement Competency Center headquartered in Chicago.

Vince also takes from experience in the startup world, where has led scale-ups internationally: as Managing Director (Malaysia) of K2, a pioneer digital agency now part of media giant the Publicis Groupe; as Regional Manager (Asia) of Intermedia Games UK, then the world’s biggest creator of cross-channel interactive games; and as co-founder of companies in the media, computing, and energy spaces.

Paolo B. Monteiro

Innovation Associate

Paolo “Monty” Monteiro joins Kickstart as Innovation Associate reporting to Vince Tobias, while continuing his role at Ayala Innovation where he helps drive disruptive thinking through trend analysis and new opportunities research; capability-building activities; and by organizing and participating in various internal and external innovation events, including Ayala’s annual Spark Innovation Conference. Monty also works with the Ayala Corporate Strategy team for special projects, group-wide strategic initiatives, and supports communications requirements of the Ayala leadership and Group Mancom.

Prior to joining Ayala in 2016, he was with the Makati Business Club for five years, where he specialized in communications, project management, and policy research and advocacy. During the Philippines’ hosting of the 2015 APEC Conference, he was appointed one of the leads of the Philippine youth delegation to APEC’s Voices of the Future Program and helped draft the APEC youth declaration statement.

Monty holds a  bachelor’s degree in Legal Management from the Ateneo de Manila University and studied on exchange at Mahidol University International College in Thailand.

Prior to joining Ayala in 2016, he was with the Makati Business Club for 5 years, where he specialized in communications, project management, and policy research and advocacy.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in Legal Management from the Ateneo de Manila University and studied on exchange at Mahidol University International College in Thailand. During the Philippines’ hosting of the APEC Conference in 2015, he was selected to be one of the leads of the Philippine youth delegation to the APEC Voices of the Future Program, where he was also part of the international team that drafted the conference’s youth declaration.

Jecky G. Pelaez

Legal Consultant

Jecky is Kickstart’s Legal Consultant, providing legal advisory and consultancy in areas such as company operations and systems, human resources, and corporate and regulatory compliance. He also supports the Kickstart Deal Team in deal screening, investment analysis, and due diligence.

Prior to Kickstart, Jecky was a lawyer with Siguion-Reyna, Montecillo & Ongsiako Law Offices and with Picazo, Buyco, Tan, Fider & Santos Law Offices, focusing on corporate and labor matters.

Jecky holds a BS in Management from the Ateneo de Manila University; a Juris Doctor from the University of the Philippines; and an MBA from the Said Business School, University of Oxford.