After several visits to Silicon Valley, Carol Dominguez, CEO of John Clements often wondered why the start-up community in the Philippines has not been as robust as what she has seen in neighboring countries like Indonesia and Vietnam. Over three years ago, she organized a two-day workshop on “Building Disruptive Businesses: A Silicon Valley Approach to Solving Strategic Challenges” in order to learn more from the experts at Silicon Valley.
Recently, Danny Ibasco from Fortman Clein invited her to co-organize an event on “Sinigang Valley,” a burgeoning new neighborhood full of techies in the middle of Poblacion, Makati together with Franco Varona, Managing Partner of Foxmont Capital. The main objective was to educate participants about the start-up ecosystem. Carol, as always invite the Filipina CEO Circle (FCC) ladies to her informative and relevant webinars. As I found the Sinigang Valley interesting, I wanted to attend, but due to schedule conflict I asked Carol to send me the highlights of what transpired.
At the Sinigang Valley event, Carol said that forward-thinking entrepreneurs gathered in a meaningful discussion on fostering the Filipino entrepreneurial spirit towards developing a collaborative community, cultivating innovation and technology, specifically for the Philippine start-up ecosystem. Dubbed “Sinigang Valley, ”this was not only the name of a techie neighborhood in Poblacion, Makati, but even more is the collaboration and working together for the digitalization of the Philippines.
The session kicked off with Stanford University’s Pedram Mokrian, Global 1000 advisor and expert in entrepreneurship, business model disruption, and technology innovation strategy. Mr. Pedram referenced his personal experience, having lived in the most prolific and prominent innovation hub – Silicon Valley, as he advocated the need for an innovation mindset and outlined the key factors necessary to develop a successful innovation ecosystem from inspiration, support, integration, and eventually, expansion. On the one powerful construct of Silicon Valley, he said “it is not technology, it is not capital, it is mindset, innovation mindset.” He also said on innovation economy that disruption is not necessarily a bad thing because without disruption, you seldom will have change. Disruption and opportunity go hand-in-hand. He said that “the best way to predict the future is to create it”, challenging the audience to dismiss the notion of an inevitable future, and instead “seek opportunities to create and realize the future by supporting, uplifting, and empowering innovators.”
Franco Varona, alongside Brian Cu, CEO & Co-Founder of Biyahe Transport, and Anthony Oundjian, Managing Director of BCG Philippines, gave a macro overview of the start-up ecosystem and spoke about the potential value-added of Sinigang Valley in the rapid development of the local start-up and innovation landscape from its emergence in the early 2010s up to date.
Mr. Brian says that the Philippines is a great place for tech enabled businesses. This was echoed by Mr. Anthony as the Philippine market is not only large, young and digitally-savvy but that there are pain-points such as the lack of access to banking and credit, lack of organized transportation systems and traffic, and companies such as Mynt, Grab, Angkas are the ones solving these pain points.
Furthermore, new and exciting founders within the Philippines start-up ecosystem: Victor Lim,- Co-Founder of Kraver’s Canteen, Alexander Friedhoff, Co-Founder of Etaily, and Bela Gupta D’Souza, Founder of Edamama, elaborated on the challenges – and opportunities – that have been brought about by the pandemic and subsequent Philippine digital evolution and the need for a disruptive community like Sinigang Valley to cultivate the entrepreneurial mindset and encourage the pursuit of innovation. Mr. Lim said that “what the customers want always comes first and founders must keep on innovating accordingly.” Mr. Alexander gave five important factors of an ecosystem: accelerators, tech-focused start-ups, established businesses, ongoing engagement and universities/schools all collaborating together. Mr. Bela said that “the pandemic is an analogy to operating under uncertainty. Make your challenges your opportunities. “
Having fostered a diverse group of thought leaders from different industries to collaborate and realize the vision of Sinigang Valley, the group aimed to push for positive changes in the community. Mr. Franco concludes Sinigang Valley is not just the physical street, but Sinigang Valley embodies the Filipino entrepreneurial spirit and the shared vision to uplift Filipinos through innovation and technology. Incidentally, Foxmont Capital Partners is an independent venture capital firm structured to take external capital, giving investors a chance to participate in this fast-growing sector.
Now is the opportune time to invest in the Philippine ecosystem. Looking forward to Philippines reaching an inflection point soonest.
Ms. Tarriela was the first Chairwoman of the Philippine National Bank. She was the first and only independent director chairwoman in the commercial banking industry. She is a former Undersecretary of Finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A. She is a trustee of FINEX and an Institute of Corporate Directors fellow.
A gardener and an environmentalist, she established Flor’s Garden in Antipolo, an ATI Accredited National Extension Service Provider and a DOT Accredited Agri Tourism Site.
(The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of these institutions.)