The Philippines startup scene has been out in full force recently to raise awareness about the country’s ascendance as a tech business hub. This is understandable and necessary, given that the ecosystem is more nascent than their equivalents in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.
Their enthusiasm was most evident at Echelon 2013, a recently-concluded Singapore startup conference which had the largest contingent of Filipino startups ever in the history of the signature event.
Paul Rivera from Y-Combinator startup Kalibrr and Peter Bithos from Globe Telecom took the stage in panel discussions, while Zap and MyLegalWhiz pitched to an audience in Echelon’s startup competition. Seven startups from Philippine accelerator Kickstart‘s portfolio attended the conference.
The publicity blitz did not end there. With much pomp, Kickstart held a press conference with Australian incubator Pollenizer to announce a partnership that will bring the latter’s unique incubation model to the Philippines.
It’s the latest in a string of local-foreign initiatives for Kickstart. As a part of SingTel Group’s global network, it has close ties not just with the telco but with Innov8, SingTel’s very own venture capital firm. It announced a partnership with Plug and Play Tech Center, an incubator in Silicon Valley that was founded by Filipino Jojo Flores.
But while these moves could benefit the country’s startup ecosystem, wizardry alone won’t attract investors without compelling startups to work with in the first place.
Which makes Pollenizer@Kickstart particularly compelling. Christian Besler (LinkedIn), vice president of Kickstart, says that the initiative complements its existing Launchgarage program by drawing a different crowd.
The region’s accelerators — like Launchgarage, JFDI.Asia in Singapore, and Hong Kong’s AcceleratorHK – provide small seed funding for startups to get off the ground, typically drawing the younger set with less financial commitments.
On the other hand, Pollenizer’s model provides funding, a monthly salary, a structured incubation process, and a work space in exchange for more equity and control. This makes it potentially more attractive to mid-career executives with mortgages to pay and families to care for.
“These professionals might actually have the experience and willingness to build something awesome — we just need to balance the risks for them,” said Christian.
Kickstart’s two-prong approach of building bridges overseas and boosting the talent base locally could be what the Philippines needs to create a vibrant startup scene.
The country has a sizable population of 94 million, significant enough for startups to establish a strong home base while expanding to other markets with similar profiles.
Some unique problems remain to be solved, and Pollenizer@Kickstart has identified eight areas — ranging from healthcare, remittance, and overseas Filipino workers placement — on its application page.
Now comes the test of whether successful professionals out there will answer the call.
Aligned to the vision of being a regional event, this year’s Echelon traveled to over 10 countries and saw over 300 submissions from the region. Over 100 were chosen to present at various Echelon Satellites, out of which 10 were shortlisted to vie for the title as the region’s next Most Promising Startup.
Most Promising Startup – Waygo
Faced with this year’s strong line-up, Waygo – a visual translation mobile application, emerged to clinch the title. Waygo is a patent-pending real-time computer vision platform on mobile devices. Its first products are a suite of visual translation apps for users on the go. All that is required is a phone camera to instantly translate text — no internet connection needed. Waygo has currently about 40,000 users and is in talks to work with Lonely Planet and American Airlines. Try the app out yourself using their sample menu.
Waygo – Visual mobile translator
When I asked SGE Scout Albert Mai to compile a directory of coworking spaces in Sydney (he’s seeking internship opportunities there), he launched into the task with aplomb. Instead of merely giving me what I asked for, he went above and beyond, doing up a map covering the whole of Australia.
That’s dedication and effort. So, without further delay, I present you a handy guide to coworking spaces in Australia — 43 of them (also check out our map of Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). To be clear, a coworking spaces should possess these characteristics:
- A shared work environment with residents that don’t belong to the same organization.
- Social gatherings, shared values and synergies.
- Building of a community through interactions and events. Read more
With contributions from Albert Mai.
The new Reebonz store in George Street, Sydney. Photo: Albert Mai
Since getting millions in venture funding from Intel Capital last year, Reebonz has been busy expanding into Australia and launching its online sales Down Under.
The Singapore startup, which offers members-only private sales of branded fashion goods, has also been preparing its flagship physical store in Sydney for a public debut. Read more
Canva, an Australia-based startup that is aiming to disrupt the desktop design industry, has announced today that it has raised USD 3M in seed funding from Australian and US investors, including Matrix Partners, InterWest Partners and 500 Startups.
The other participants in this deal are: angel investor Bill Tai, Blackbird Ventures, Director of Engineering at Facebook Lars Rasmussen, Yahoo! CFO Ken Goldman, and former Seek co-founder Paul Bassat and partner at Square Peg Ventures. Commercialisation Australia, a government funding scheme, also contributed in this round. Read more
Pollenizer, an Australia-based accelerator and ‘startup creator’, has raised AUD 1.1M (USD 1.1M) in funding to continue seeding companies and fuel its expansion into Southeast Asia.
The round was closed in December last year with investors from Singapore, Australia, and the United States. They include: Pandora Australia founder Brook Adcock, veteran tech investor Neil Miller, and Carsales.com.au CEO Greg Roebuck. Read more
While legal advice is necessary for companies, it is expensive, chalking up bills that amount to the hundreds or thousands. To tackle this, a new service called LawPath has been started in Australia that aims to fill in the market gap in low-cost legal services for startups and SMEs.
Created by Pollenizer, an Australia and Singapore-based startup incubator, LawPath is a service where users pay AUD 40-50 a month to throw three legal questions at lawyers.
Depending on the price plan, users will receive answers either through phone consultation or via email. Read more
Australia’s Bellabox announced today that it has raised a USD 1.4M (AUD 1.3M) series A round, led by Lance Kalish, co-founder of skincare brand Yes To Carrots and Elevation Capital director Trevor Folsom.
Monash Private Capital, SquarePeg Ventures, Apex Capital Partners and other investors participated in this round. Monash Private Capital also assisted with transaction structuring and negotiations. Read more
Rocket Internet is a Berlin headquartered company that is well-known for cloning successful online startups (usually from the US), replicating them elsewhere, and turning them into million-dollar businesses. It was founded in 2007 by the Samwer brothers — Alexander, Marc, and Oliver, who have together created and sold a number of successful Internet businesses before starting Rocket Internet. Most of their businesses are e-commerce related.
The company tends to hire MBA-trained executives and management consultants to become ‘founder’ and ‘managing director’ of its businesses. However, unlike startup founders, they do not hold as much equity or have as much decision-making power to shape the direction of their companies. They are primarily executors who could be fired for underperforming.
Rocket Internet has polarized observers in the startup and technology community for its practices. Critics pour scorn on the company for blatant copying, mischaracterizing its ventures as startups, an over-aggressive and results-oriented corporate culture, and rapid turnover rates. At the same time, it is widely admired for its rapid execution ability. Read more
The Gregorian year of 2012 started with an ominous ring to it. But 2012 waltzed along anyway, and so did December 21. And here we are, at the cusp of a global new year.
Before you young folks party the night away, we thought it good to school you in the happenings of the Asian tech startup scene over the last 12 months. Or, if you’re reading this in 2013, welcome to the past. Read more