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Coins.ph acquisition by Go-Jek; startup growth lessons shared

Coins.ph makes it very easy for people to access financial services directly from their phones. We’ve crossed half a million customers in the Philippines.”

This was Ron Hose in December 2016, founder and chief executive officer of fintech startup Coins.ph, during a video interview arranged by one its investors — Kickstart Ventures, a corporate venture capital firm headquartered in Manila and investing in digital startups globally.

At that time, Kickstart had gathered a selection of digital startup founders to talk about why it’s a good time to invest and grow a business in the Philippines. After all, the Philippines, as oft-repeated in business and tech conferences, is in a demographic sweet spot: a young, connected, and tech-savvy population driving the adoption of mobile and internet products and services.

The video, entitled “#investPH,” introduced locally-based digital startups already showing growth and progress — while not massive successes yet, they are generating real traction in the market solving deeply felt problems of customers in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world. The founders’ objective: attract investors to invest in digital startups operating in the Philippines.

What is Coins.ph?

It is a digital wallet and mobile payments app for the unbanked looking for life-improving financial services. It allows users to easily send or receive cash across online and offline platforms, transact bills payments across registered and non-registered users, or buy mobile load top-ups.

Lessons Learned: Bringing Banking to the Unbanked

In the time since that fortuitous video interview, Coins.ph has successfully carved out a path to scale and profitability, thereby becoming a compelling fintech player for emerging markets.

However, this is not to say the journey has been easy for Coins.ph — Ron and his team at every significant step towards building a valuable business meant responding to customer demands at a scale and speed uncommon in a highly-regulated industry.

So while there is truth to the saying “fortune favors the bold,” Coins.ph is a representation of “fortune favors the prepared.” Here now are three startup growth lessons that helped Coins.ph transform from crypto exchange services to a suite of mobile wallet and payments services:

Growth Lesson #1: Solve a real problem. The bigger the problem, the better the opportunity.

Founded in the Philippines in 2013 by Ron Hose and Runar Petursson – CEO and CTO respectively – Coins.ph was built to address banking for the next generation of Southeast Asia customers.

They assessed the emerging economies and came up with these numbers: for SEA’s population of 618 million, 59% were still unbanked and 95% without a credit card ownership. But most were online or owned digital identities e.g. Facebook.

In 2013 Philippines with a population of 100 million then, two out of 10 households were banked and one out of 20 Filipinos owned a credit card. Amazingly, four out of 10 Filipinos were on Facebook.

Given this socio-economic environment where the majority of the Filipino population is unbanked, Coins.ph created a free digital wallet app that allowed mobile phone users to conduct domestic and international financial services transactions such as remittances, instant person-to-person money transfers, bills payment, mobile load top-ups, etc.

By the fourth quarter of 2015, Coins.ph had signed up 270,000 users and was steadily growing; also, almost 24,000 Coins.ph subscribers were actively using the company’s suite of financial services monthly, thereby allowing Ron and his team to handle cash transactions in millions of US dollars each month.

In 2015, Coins.ph expanded to Thailand. Within the same year, it launched the first-ever instant blockchain-based remittance service for the benefit of Filipino OFWs whose relatives based in the Philippines could claim money remittances instantly through a bank ATM.

Growth Lesson #2: Differentiate.

Coins.ph’s stickiness as a product is anchored on two key pillars: a powerful technology at its core and ease of use/low friction for customer adoption.

First, blockchain. The use of blockchain as its underlying technology for the Coins.ph platform has allowed the company to provide instant, global cross-border settlement, and access to a global network of fintech services.

Second, great user experience. The team regarded user experience as a product, not a by-product of a great design. Onboarding of new customers became more seamless, despite operating in a highly-regulated industry where “Know Your Customer” or KYC is a regulatory requirement for financial institutions. With faster KYC from Coins.ph, it allowed customers to spend more time transacting on their app than learning how to use it.

In addition to creating a great product with effective user experience, the efforts of Coins.ph to proactively work with government regulators and other relevant institutions deemed likely to impact the financial sector’s growth in the future mattered to Coins.ph to the extent that it allowed its founders to discover and address risks to the business.

The recognition that Coins.ph received — the first company in Southeast Asia to be regulated as a Virtual Currency Exchange and Electronic Money Issuer (e-wallet) as well as the first virtual currency provider based in the Philippines to be issued the “Virtual Currency Exchange” license by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) — these serve as testaments to the product’s compelling value proposition, and their differentiation from the earlier mobile wallets.

Growth Lesson #3: Scale.

Coins.ph, which last raised Series A funding from a group of investors that included Naspers, Quona Capital, Pantera Capital, Kickstart Ventures, has wisely used its fresh capital infusion to deliver new and competitive products that grabbed market share at a faster clip versus the entrenched incumbents in the Philippines. Certainly, the team has proven the ability to deeply understand the market it serves, and is skillful in partnering with different ecosystem players, even competing ones, whose own products and resources e.g. deep talent bench, geographical reach, etc. complemented Coins.ph. As a result, Coins.ph was able to triple its user base from 1.5 million to 5 million users in under a year, and has developed one of the largest cash distribution networks in the country with over 33,000 partner locations nationwide.

The Way Forward: GO-JEK and Coins.ph working together

When asked how he feels about the GO-JEK acquisition, Ron replied that “it was clear to us that there were strong synergies between the two companies. Together, we can work on creating a cashless society built on the backs of our products without sacrificing our respective missions, visions, and values.”

Ron is also keenly aware of the public’s interest in the Coins.ph and Go-Jek partnership. He responded by retelling the reasons he shared at a local TEDx event some time ago about creating his fintech startup:

“There were a few things that excited me about the Philippines, which led me to establish a fintech startup here in 2014: (1) the economy was growing at 6-7%, faster than other developing markets in Southeast Asia but at the same time, a large section of the population was not included in that growth — this offered me an open area to create social good; (2) there was low penetration of technology, and how technology was being applied that will bring real impact and change in people’s lives; (3) the operating cost here was low, which was conducive for innovation since the cost of experimentation was not so high; and (4) the Filipino culture and mindset, which made me and continues to make me feel right at home.”

What this means for the Philippine startup ecosystem is that in the absence of infrastructure and systems that work reliably, cheaply, and serve the people at scale, there is an opportunity for startup founders to create and offer new solutions to old problems. In many ways, these gaps and inefficiencies are what make scalable technology innovations more valuable and more viral.

Meanwhile, Minette Navarrete, Kickstart president and vice-chairman, viewed Go-Jek’s acquisition of Coins.ph — funded by Kickstart in 2016 —  a step in the right direction and should invite a closer look into the reasons that made Coins.ph a strategic acquisition for Go-Jek.

“While a lot of effort has been undertaken by many parties over the years, and we’ve seen progress in how both private and public sectors engage with startups, the universally accepted indicators that define a robust startup ecosystem have yet to manifest in the Philippines, i.e. high deal flow, large investment sizes, a critical mass of significant exits whether in the form of IPOs or acquisitions by global and regional giants like Amazon, or Google, or Go-Jek,” Navarrete said.

She added that “We’re thrilled for Ron and the Coins.ph team: the Coins.ph exit is an important win for the Philippines. For startup founders, it is both proof and a pathway for scaling technology solutions that create measurable market value; for investors, it’s concrete evidence that the Philippines presents attractive opportunities equally as a source of high-value investible startups as well as a compelling consumer market; and for the government and corporate sectors: the Coins.ph exit demonstrates how digital startups are not just a kind of MSME (micro-, small- and medium enterprise), so that the startup-specific policy and programmatic interventions that are being crafted now can genuinely increase tech startups’ chances of massive success.”

The Coins.ph represents one of the first large exits for a startup founded in the Philippines in recent years. It leads the way, for what we hope will be many more to come.

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IN PHOTOS: 2015 Raid The Fridge

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“It is entrepreneurs that lead a startup community while everyone else feeds the community.” – Steve Blank

Truer words were never spoken. And this is why Kickstart continues to deliver its signature community mixer “Raid The Fridge,” a monthly open event that gathers startup founders for opportunities to learn, engage, or collaborate with investors, developers, corporations, the government, and even with media.

In 2015, Raid The Fridge hosted twenty speakers ranging from a Chief Startup Scientist hailed as “Top Startup Mentor” in Australia by Founder Institute; startups from Manila, San Francisco, and Vienna; a Japanese VC firm; innovation thought leaders and an accelerator program, both working with startups across Asia; a telco CEO; to a Philippine Senator championing entrepreneurship and SMEs.

Why do we keep doing Raid The Fridge?

Kickstart president Minette Navarrete, in her February 2015 blogpost, explains:

  • 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

Every country aspires to create a vibrant startup ecosystem to help accelerate economic growth through innovation and entrepreneurship. The Philippines is no exception.

In a few weeks from today, on January 28th, we’re kicking-off Raid The Fridge 2016We hope to see you again at Area55 for another round of learnings, of meeting new startups and founders, and renewing friendships. Salut![/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner columns_type=”default”][vc_column_inner text_color=”” animate=”” animate_delay=”” width=”1/1″]
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29 JANUARYSan Francisco-based startup co-founders Kyle Lin and Dip Ghuman (not in picture) talked about NEAR, their anonymous and location-based messaging startup: it allows you to start or join conversations with people nearby, with a twist!

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26 FEBRUARYPhil Morle (Pollenizer), Phil Cahiwat (Level Up!), Gabby Dizon (Altitude Games): startup founders who have weathered early challenges, stood their ground, and built some of the most solid startups today shared their lessons on — (1) pivoting through time to remain in front; (2) starting a business where there was no prior experience; and (3) starting a business that’s already full of competition. They were later joined by Amazon Web Service’s Jonathan Limbo, who talked about AWS support programs for startups.

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25 MARCHGlobe Telecom CEO Ernest Cu, doing away with the usual presentation format, gamely shared his insights on innovation and leadership in a Q&A format. What were the questions like? How about this: “Startups are disrupting telcos globally. So why even support startups?” (Kickstart is the corporate venture capital arm and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Globe.)

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30 APRIL: Manny Ayala, Managing Director of the Philippine office of Endeavor Global, a non-profit organization headquartered in New York with a “super connector” reputation for promising startups and founders, talked about “entrepreneur mafias” and why they’re important in growing vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems.

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28 MAYTwo institutions working across Asia in search of startups to support joined Raid The Fridge: (1) Coca-Cola Founders Network, an innovation platform leveraging on Coke’s assets to help startups scale; (2) Muru, a startup accelerator progra backed by Australia’s telco, Telstra.

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25 JUNE: Two SaaS startups – one homegrown (Innovantage), the other built in Copenhagen (Zendesk) – shared theirinsights and learnings on developing and rolling out SaaS products. Cogito by Innovantage and Zendesk were created to help improve organisational efficiency in businesses by  using a responsive software that lets you systematise, automate, and scale up or down business workflows.

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30 JULY: Switch.co, a San Francisco-based tech company with a fascinating history: launched by Google Voice co-founders offering a cloud-based phone system that gets you a phone number that rings all devices.

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19 AUGUST: We moved the Fridge to Boracay in support of Geeks On A Beach 3!

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10 SEPTEMBER: The Fridge flew out of Manila again and landed in Cebu City with Kickstart mentor Joe Rouse, who has 15 years of experience in technology business operations, VC investing, and consulting. Joe talked about “Startup Fundraising; The Stages of Pain” for the Cebu startup community.

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24 SEPTEMBER: Facebook’s internet.org is relaunched as FreeBasics.com and explaining it to the #startupPH community was Jackie Chang, Product Partnerships Manager for internet.org at Facebook. Startups learned from Jackie how their developers can begin offering the services of their startups (or their own advocacies) to a wider market through integration with FreeBasics.com.

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29 OCTOBER: A meet-and-greet between locally-based startups and Yasuhiro Seo from IMJ Investment Partners, a VC firm established by IMJ Corporation, Japan’s leading web integration company. IMJ Investment Partners started investing in startups from Japan and the Silicon Valley in 2012, and is now looking into Southeast Asia’s startups working on “internet, mobile, and software sectors.”

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26 NOVEMBER: Kerstin Trikalitis, CEO and Co-Founders of Out There Media, a global leader in mobile advertising, shared her life lessons as a startup founders (a.k.a. Do’s & Dont’s) while Philippine Senator Bam Aquino, IV talked about legislation, policies, and programs intended to elevate SME development as the key to unlocking inclusive growth.

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#TBT: Startup Weekend Manila 2011

Fortuitous and life-changing. These two words capture best this day, October 1st, for two startup founders in the Kickstart investment portfolio.

  • Fortuitous because today is the first day of October, which falls on a Thursday, and it brings back memories of the 1st-ever Startup Weekend Manila held at MINT College, October 21-23, 2011.
  • Life-changing because little did two registered participants know then that Startup Weekend Manila 2011 would be their first step out of their corporate cubbyholes and into the crazy cool world of co-working spaces for startup founders.

And following the modern tradition of #tbt posts, below is a repost of an original blog written by GiftLauncher co-founder Kenneth Reyes-Lao. Together with co-founder Shiela Marie Jocona, the unfolding story will take you back to Startup Weekend Manila 2011: what Ken and Shiela experienced, what they learned, and who they’ve met.

The blog accurately captures what makes Startup Weekend a great 54-hour bootcamp for wannapreneurs, the fledgling entrepreneurs, and anyone who willingly embraces entrepreneurship and digital innovation as a way of life.

And what’s heartening? Some folks from other teams Ken and Shiela were in competition with to earn the distinction of being the best  “No Talk, All Action” team of SWM 2011 reunited at #area55 — as founders of early-stage startups Kickstart invested in.

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STARTUP WEEKEND MANILA 2011
by Kenneth Reyes-Lao, Co-Founder and CEO, GiftLauncher

 

SWM2011

Startup Weekend events have been a staple tech event in the Philippines since 2011. The very first one was Startup Weekend Manila which was held in Mint College back in October of 2011. This year’s Startup Weekend Manila will be held in iAcademy in Makati City on October 10–12, 2014.

There are a lot of conflicting opinions on when the startup phenomenon really began in the Philippines but for us, Startup Weekend Manila 2011 was the starting point of our Startup Journey. This is a #throwback post to our Startup Weekend experience and what we’ve been doing since then.

Ground Zero

Back in 2011, Shiela Jocona and I used to work for a company calledTransnational Diversified Group (TDG). One of the enjoyable tasks that we were assigned to do was to conceptualize new businesses for the company and organize and mobilize resources to execute that new business.

On our spare time we were toying with a business idea that revolved around Crowdfunding and if we were to pull it off, how would that be implemented. A few weeks before Startup Weekend Manila, Patch Dulay told us about the event and that we should join. We took a look at the event page and decided to jump right in.

What I liked about Startup Weekend was that they invite people that come from different industries and have different expertise who try to work and learn together during the event.

Shiela and I enjoyed every minute of Startup Weekend Manila. We met a lot of interesting and cool people from different industries and backgrounds. And most importantly we learned a lot within that 54 hours and kept it close to our hearts until today.

Walk In Our Shoes

Let me take you back to what we’ve experienced, what we’ve learned and some people that we’ve met during Startup Weekend Manila 2011.

Getting Picked Last 

Shiela and I joined Startup Weekend with the intent to work on our idea. Back then, joining another team was out of the question. We wanted to pitch our idea and look for technical people to work with us over the weekend. And on that Friday night, we nearly walked out on this amazing experience twice…

Startup Weekend (for those of you who don’t have a clue) works like this:

  1. The Pitch Fire — Friday night, if you have registered to pitch an idea, you will only have 60 seconds to pitch your idea. In that 60 seconds, you need to have shared the following information: a) Introduced yourself b)The Problem you are trying to solve c) Your Startup Name and how it is going to solve the problem, d) And most importantly what you need for your team (ex: Designer, Developer etc)
  2. The People’s Choice — After the Pitch Fire, people from the audience gets to vote for the startup idea that they found interesting and would like to support. They then announce the top ideas from the Pitch Fire.
  3. Teams — Startup teams start looking for possible team members that they need.
  4. No Talk All Action — Once teams are formed, they have until Sunday to, learn from the mentors and work on the prototype.
  5. Final Pitch — Sunday evening is the final pitches for the teams and judging of the winners.

The main gist of the concept was to give better gifts that couples will love by pitching in with family and friends.

After the Pitch Fire session, there were 60+ startup ideas which were posted up and were voted upon during the People’s Choice segment. Of course we were biased and bullish about our idea and felt a bit of a heartbreak when we saw that we just got less than 10 votes (I vaguely remember how many votes exactly because I was trying to erase it from my memory haha).

We thought that if your startup idea did not garner enough votes then you’re out. Shiela and I are introverts but are foolishly competitive, and at that moment we were stubborn as well. We came to this event wanting to only work on our idea and no one else’s. We were about to leave when I had the urge to ask someone from the organising committee if we can still join and work on our idea over the weekend. Our eyes lit up when he said that as long as you can convince a developer to join your team to help the prototype then you’re good to go. In my mind I was thinking, “How hard can it be?”

It was pretty damn hard! We were walking around in circles in the halls of Mint College trying to convince developers to join our team and work on our Wedding Lab idea. I guess our idea was not that cool to work on and at that moment we were beginning to lose hope again. It was 11:30 pm and teams were already working on their ideas. They close the doors at 12:00 midnight and once again we were about to leave empty handed.

We were standing in the hallway near the exit with one foot already out the door. We were both tired and depressed being shut down through out the night that all we wanted to do was go home.

Shiela
Shiela Marie Jocona, GiftLauncher co-founder. Pictured here at MINT College, the venue partner of SWM 2011.

I told Shiela that we will wait for a couple of more minutes and ask the next developer that walked by if they would be interested to work on our idea. We ended up meeting two amazing developers who were willing to work with us over the weekend. Their names are Rod Coronel and Jose Asuncion. Looking back, waiting for a few more minutes and getting to meet these guys was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made in our Startup Journey.

No Talk, All Action

Out of the 60+ startup ideas that was pitched, it was down to 28 teams. Some teams made a conscious decision to merge with another team who was working on the same idea. Others did not get enough members on the team to be eligable to participate. I guess we owe it to our stubborness and a bit of luck to be able to work on Wedding Lab and learn from mentors and fellow participants.

I will limit my sharing during this part of the event so that first timers to Startup Weekend will get to experience it without any spoilers from me. Startup Weekend Manila has been running for a good four years now and I guess it wouldn’t hurt to share some learnings that we have taken to heart.

Learning Points

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) — In the corporate world an MVP would be your Most Valuable Proposition. This was the first time we heard the term in Startup speak. Having an MVP is to be able to build and deploy the core product to early adopters. MVP here does not mean the cheaper version of your product but a process of iteration where you are able to learn from your early customers. You iterate until you find Product Market fit or you find your product to be non-viable

Problem Solution Fit — Problem Solution Fit is having to validate your solution to the existing problem that you have proposed. Sometimes you find out that the solution to the problem does not fit. And sometimes it does but the problem is not big enough to merit you spending time on it. You need to constantly validate the problem against your customer and your proposed solution

Customer Validation — Based on our corporate experience, we tend to build products and solutions based on certain assumptions that may or may not be validated. We end up building a bulky system with all the bells and whistles either because your boss wants you to or your team is just working blindly based on assumptions. Building a startup means having a two-way conversation between your team and your customers. In this way, you can validate if you are still on the right direction or not.

Monetization — In simple terms, how are you going to make money out of your startup idea. This is usually my favorite part of the conversation. I love analysing business models. We don’t necessarily have a killer monetization strategy but I will always be interested in how other startups or businesses makes money. Based on our observation the usual suspects are having and ad-based revenue or subscription based revenue.

There are a lot more things that you’ll pick up when you attend this Startup Weekend Manila 2014. You will not learn everything in a weekend because it will be an information overload kind of weekend. I suggest that you listen to the mentors, take note and take it home with you. I advise that you guys constantly study and learn beyond this event.

Final Pitches

Christian, Jonathan
SWM 2011 co-organisers Christian Besler and Jonathan Lansangan. Taken during the counting of votes for best ideas pitched.

We are nearing the final pitches. You can feel the excitement and anxiety around the room. I’ve presented to a lot of top level executives even to CEOs and it came out easy for me but this time was different. I was nervous and anxious to do the final pitch with Rod. I guess the reason behind it was this was personal.

We did not win any of the Startup Weekend categories but the things that we’ve learned and the amazing people that we’ve met helped pave the way to where we are today.

Beyond Startup Weekend

We were still working in our previous company after Startup Weekend. During our spare time we were constantly working on WeddingLab. It took us a year to develop WeddingLab.

We were able to launch WeddingLab around April 2013. And by July 2013, we got in to Kickstart Ventures and Proud Cloud’s Accelerator Program called Launch Garage

Since joining the program, we’ve learned a lot and with our continued startup education we have decided to open up the platform and allow group-gifting beyond the wedding vertical.

We launched GiftLauncher.com so that we can pitch in for amazing gifts for any occassion.

Collectively we’ve processed over 700,000 pesos in gifts for our customers.

We are about to release version 2 of GiftLauncher.com and will continue on and develop mobile applications so that you can easily launch and pitch in for gifts as easily as sending a message.

Words of Advice

We wanted to share our story to be able to give back to the Startup Weekend community in the Philippines. This is how we started and for most of you Startup Weekend might also be your starting point.

For those brave enough to continue to work on their idea beyond the weekend we wanted to share some advice.

  1. Keep It Simple — Starting out with limited resources is very difficult. Flesh out your idea and build an MVP. Adding features to set yourself apart will be tempting but as much as possible focus on the core and it will be much easier for you when you iterate.
  2. Be Flexible on Execution but Be stubborn on the Vision — If you have a grander vision for the solution that you are building, you need to be stubborn about it. There are a lot of curve balls that will be thrown at you while building your startup. Always go back to the vision and be flexible on how you execute that vision.
  3. Get out of the Building — You will hear this a lot. It just means that never work in a silo. Go out and meet your customers and constantly validate. Talk to strangers and random people about your idea, they might provide you with a much more uncensored feedback that would be very valuable in the future.
  4. Have fun and love what your doing — It’s a bit of a cliche but it works for us. Have fun on your Startup Journey. There will be ups and seemingly long series of downs but if you love what you are doing it will definitely tide over those down days.
  5. No better day than today — There is no better day to start working on your startup idea than today. Jump in.

 

NOTE: GiftLauncher is a Kickstart-funded startup, which was first pitched as Wedding Lab PH on June 24, 2013 for LaunchGarage Mission 02 —the early-stage incubation program of Kickstart Ventures and ProudCloud

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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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Healthcare is changing dramatically. Find out how and why.

[vc_row][vc_column text_color=”” animate=”” animate_delay=”” width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]On June 29, Goldman Sachs for the first-time ever published a comprehensive report on the potential impact of the next wave of digital healthcare on the United State’s overall healthcare sector.

A key statement from the Business Insider article: “Goldman analysts predicted that digital healthcare will revolutionize the industry, both by increasing access to diagnostic, treatment, and preventative care, and by dramatically reducing costs.”

In summary, the report outlines that a healthcare revolution is inevitable and could potentially save the US $300 billion alone. Yes, that’s a 300 followed by 9 zeros. One can assume that this number reflects potential savings over a span of years, again, for the US alone!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Emerging Markets like the Philippines, it is not just about potential savings the arrival of digital healthcare could provide, but more about access (besides affordability) to any kind of healthcare for a large and underserved population.

Typically, topnotch hospitals providing state-of-the-art healthcare are geographically as well as financially out of reach for a majority of the population in emerging markets like the Philippines. However, rapid advances in digital healthcare could very well  bridge these gaps such as giving people access to doctors through telemedicine and remote diagnosis. Also, the increasing number of low-cost smartphones in Emerging Markets opens up new alleys to make quality medical advice swiftly available anywhere in the Philippines.

Serendipitously, we held our 2nd HealthTech Forum here in Kickstart@Paseo just a day after Goldman Sachs released their report.

Our guest speaker last June 30th was Julien De Salaberry – the founder of The Propell Group, a boutique venture investor and advisory firm based in Singapore focused on HealthTech; they have over 15 years of experience in healthcare with leading brands Eli Lilly, Boston Scientific, Baxter, GSK, Merck&Co, among many others. Julien also serves as advisor to startups and incubators in healthcare and technology in emerging high-growth markets and being a private investor in early stage and promising SMEs.

He gave a fantastic overview on the HealthTech trends in the region as well as on a global level. Wanna find out what are the hot topics for HealthTech investors in the region? Come check out our video of Julien’s talk as well as his presentation slides below.

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Brand hacks that promote PH startup scene

Brand HacksWe take our role as a startup community builder seriously, the same way when we invest time, talent, and resources for our portfolio companies. Today, we are responsible for three industry-impacting brands that promote the Philippine startup scene:

  • #startupPH– widely adopted as the brand for the Philippine startup ecosystem, and a quick hack to search for news, events, and people in the Philippine startup community;
  • #area55 – an identity for the nexus of the Philippine startup scene (similar to “Silicon Valley,” or Singapore’s “Block 71”), and the gateway for meeting the most prominent startups and investors in the country; and
  • #raidthefridge – Kickstart’s signature community mixer for startup founders and investors, this is a monthly open event that gathers the startup community and visitors for relevant speakers and opportunities for collaboration.

So, you might ask, how did we come up with Area 55? The answer is best captured in this TechinAsia article.

 

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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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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.