Few men can score a date with the sexiest woman in the Philippines, which made me a very lucky bloke indeed. A few months ago, I was on my way to Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore to interview Maria Ressa, an accomplished journalist, counter-terrorism expert, and co-founder of Rappler, an exciting, young online news organization from the Philippines.
Of course, I didn’t know about her hottest woman alive label then. But that did not make me any less nervous: Maria’s accomplishments far outsize her petite stature. A Princeton University graduate and Fulbright Fellow, she worked at CNN for almost two decades, serving as the bureau chief in Manila and then Jakarta. She then became the news and current affairs chief at ABS-CBN, Philippines’ largest television network.
She possesses a deep understanding of terrorist networks, having authored two books on the subject. Her latest work, From Bin Laden to Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism, narrates the gripping story of how she led the crisis team that resolved the kidnapping of her news crew who were en route to interview the leader of Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamist group from Southern Philippines.
Now, she’s on to her next adventure: Starting a new media company that is reimagining journalism. Read more
Of all of United States’ startup exports, Warby Parker is one that hasn’t really been replicated in Asia. The startup, which sells quality eyewear at a ridiculously low price point, has been a toast of the New York scene by disrupting the eyewear industry and in the process raising USD 50.3M in capital.
Warby’s innovation doesn’t lie in new-fangled technology. Instead, it break the dominance of an industry cartel that has been driving prices artificially high. By fashioning its own supply chain and designing its own glasses, it cuts out the middle men and offers eye wear at a low USD 95 a pop.
Four Eyes in the Philippines is attempting do the same. The company takes many of its cues from Warby Parker, right down to the sparse, white, and minimalist design on the website. Read more
Philippine startup incubator IdeaSpace has announced the ten winners of its national startup competition. The startups will each receive P500k (USD 12k) in seed funding and six months of incubation, where they will get office space, business operations support, and housing facilities for those not based in Metro Manila.
During the incubation period, the more promising startups could receive additional cash support from IdeaSpace of up to P5 million. Teams will also be introduced to other investors in Philippines, Silicon Valley, and other parts of the world. Read more
Edited at 3.50 pm SGT.
By Earl Martin Valencia, president and co-founder of the IdeaSpace Foundation
“How do we build a Silicon Valley atmosphere here in the Philippines?”
In May 2011, business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan (or commonly known as MVP) posed this question to a idealistic 27-year old idealistic Silicon Valley based Filipino during one of his trips back to the Philippines. That person was me.
The Chairman of PLDT-Smart, one of the largest mobile operators in Southeast Asia, told me his 10-year old vision of democratizing access to capital to the best science and technology-based ideas in the country.
This conversation was the birth of what is now called the IdeaSpace Foundation — a non-profit organization that promotes tech entrepreneurship in the Philippines. Read more
Insync has had an interesting history. The Philippines and Singapore based startup, which started off as a Dropbox-like service for Google Docs, found itself needing to pivot after the Internet giant launched Google Drive, which effectively did the same thing.
Not wanting to put itself at the mercy of Google, the startup retooled its product and came back as something else: a more full-featured, business-oriented alternative to the Google Drive desktop client.
Now, more than 10 months after that announcement, Insync has launched version 1.0 of its client for Windows and Mac users. The Linux version is still in beta. Read more
Scoop, a top digital newsstand app from Indonesia, is expanding to India, Singapore, Malaysia, and Philippines. It has launched localized iOS apps in those countries, adding titles from publishers India Today Group, SPH Magazines from Singapore, and The Philippine Star Group of Publications. Read more
Since launching in October last year, mobile loyalty app Pouch has been off to a running start, picking up traction among merchants in Indonesia. It is now looking to expand abroad, with Philippines as its first overseas stop.
The Singapore and Indonesia based startup has revealed that it has a presence in 25 shopping malls in Jakarta, representing over 70 brands. It claims to be the market leader in the country. Agreements are in place with major malls Kuningan City, Bellagio, FX and Central Park, and even a nutrition website to implement loyalty features.
While it isn’t revealing exact consumer-related figures, it will say that it has some tens of thousands of active users every month.
Pouch is available on Android, iOS, and Blackberry and is free for consumers to use. Most of its users would appear to be on the Blackberry platform, since the Android app has less than 5,000 active installs at the moment. Read more
Payroll Hero, a Philippines and Canada based startup specializing in time, attendance, payroll, and scheduling enterprise software, has announced today that it has raised a USD 1M round from 500 Startups, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes, and LX Ventures.
Other participants in this investment include The Futura Corporation, 8capita Partners, Clarity CEO Dan Martell, Benjamin Joffe, MAKE Technologies founder Christian Cotichini, and other angel investors.
The startup differs from traditional payroll software in that it operates on a SaaS model and uses facial recognition and GPS location to ensure that the right employees clock in at the right time. The software facilitates transparency between employees and management through attendance analytics. Read more
Indie short films are not exactly the first thing that comes to mind as a niche for startups to tackle. After all, compared to formulaic Hollywood fare, short films don’t cater to mainstream tastes and as such have limited appeal.
That has not stopped Ho Jia Jian and Derek Tan from starting Viddsee though. Borne out of their passion for their craft, Viddsee is a video platform that screens short films from talents in Southeast Asia. Think of it as YouTube designed for filmmakers and art buffs.
As a just-launched minimum viable product, Viddsee doesn’t yet boast the sophistication of other platforms out there. It doesn’t host its own videos; the creators opted to put them on Vimeo instead. Read more
Zap wants to change the Philippines' retail landscape using NFC tags.
The Philippines is ripe for disruption. With its economy soaring, consumer spend rising, and investment money flowing in, the nation’s tech startups are put in position to shape a new normal across industries and sectors.
Leading the charge is a posse of young entrepreneurs, defined not just by geography, but by the fact that they’ve received a lease of life from Kickstart Ventures, a PHP100M (USD2.45M) early stage fund that began setting its wheels in motion last year.
With 10 investments so far, Kickstart has become one of the most important catalysts for the country’s startup aspirations.
One of its investees is Zap, a company that, while shy to reveal its exact investment sum, gladly laid out its plans to transform how retail rewards is done in the Philippines.
Founded by Dustin Cheng, Justin Lim, Terence Lok and Angelique Uy, Zap is a marketing platform that connects retail businesses to consumers through web and mobile technology. It benefits businesses by making marketing as painless and targeted as possible, while at the same time giving them tools to gauge their marketing spend and track customer data. Read more