The Philippines continues to prove itself in the startup space particularly in the field of technoprenuership, as seen from the innovative ideas and performance of local startups in 2014.
The year, which saw successful listing of local startup Xurpas , marked “coming-of-an-age” of the startup scene in the country. Flush with talent, the homegrown tech-companies finally, seem to be getting their due in the domestic arena even as they foray into the region and the world at large.
DEALSTREETASIA highlights the key milestones attained by a few outstanding Filipino startups, this year. These startups stood out mainly due to several reasons, be it market expansion, awards and recognition, raising of funds. new product launches or even establishing of new partnerships.
Year 2014 saw the biggest breakthrough in the Philippine startup scene with mobile content maker Xurpas Inc when it became the first startup to be listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) last December 3, raising $30.4 million (P1.37 billion) in its initial public offering (IPO).
Xurpas president and founder Nix Nolledo declared in its IPO debut as a day of “victory for all technology startups in the Philippines.”
A week after its official IPO, Xurpas began to use part of the funds proceeds for its market expansion in Southeast Asia (SEA) by acquiring a 21.7 percent stake in the Singapore tech company Altitude Games for P33 million ($740,800).
On June 6, 2014, ZAPGroup Inc (ZAP), a startup that offers a smart sticker that lets users earn instant rewards such as cash back points, coupons and jackpots, raised a total of $850,000 from Kickstart Ventures, Siemer Ventures (now Wavemaker Pacific), Seawood Resources and local angels.
“We used the funding to build our iOS and Android apps, double our development and sales team and spent more aggressively on user acquisition,” said Dustin Cheng, operations director of ZAP.
“Next year, we are opening up earning of cashback points from e-commerce websites as well. We have a few travel and shopping partners on board, and are looking to add more as we give our users the ability to earn points from both offline and online stores.”
Last August of this year, online real estate portal ZipMatch successfully closed a second seed round of $550,000 (P24.4 million) from various investors led by 500 Startups, and IMJ Investment Partners, raising its total funds to $1 million (P44.5 million).
The property website announced plans of growing its Manila-based team as well as expanding its business throughout the Philippines.
mClinica founder Farouk Meralli declined to share investment amount but said they will use the funds to expand the company’s business in Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand in 2015. “mClinica will launch new products to further reach its goal of connecting healthcare through mobile technology,” Meralli said.
Four Eyes co-founder Jiten Lalwani dubbed 2014 to be “a very special year” as the startup was able to officially launch its brand and grew its team.
“As soon as we raised funds we were able to expand on our marketing efforts both online and offline. Our team has grown to over 20 people with each one having specialised functions that directly complement the business.
We also launched a new collection in the last quarter and appointed a brand ambassador namely Rajo Laurel. All of these actions have enabled us to take our business to the next level,” Lalwani said.
He added Four Eyes has also done a test launch in the Singapore market. This was part of its efforts to make the startup a regional company. “For 2015, our immediate goal would be to further expand our brand in the Philippines and get a foothold in Singapore. This shall be complemented by product launches every season,” he added
Ritmo Learning Lab
Known for its “techie” teaching tool that uses a collection of educational Filipino music, Ritmo Learning Lab raised $60,000 (P2.6 million) in the second round seed funding by Kickstart and Proudcloud last September and is looking forward to close another round at the end of December this year, according to Ritmo co-founder and CEO Vin Dancel.
The Philippine social enterprise group was one of the top 60 Asian startups that participated in the two-day Echelon 2014 event in Thailand last September.
“We’ve released the first iteration of our iOS and Android App and are currently refining these apps. We have established partnerships with Mommy Mundo, Mt Cloud Bookstore in Baguio, St Matthew’s Publishing, The Learning Library, The Tutoring Club, Museong Pambata, Teachables, Kape’t-Guro, Teach for the Philippines, and Habi Education Lab.
We already have an existing partnership with GK and we’re working at establishing a partnership with The Mind Museum, DepEd, Globe CSR and The Ayala Foundation,” Dancel said.
Only last November 25, Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt) Corporation won the People’s Choice Award in the Startup Nations Summit (SNS) 2014 in Seoul, South Korea.
The Philippine company, which promotes environmental and social responsibility, was the only Asian country to reach the top five out of the 50 competitors in the SNS events. SALt works to eliminate the sustaining cost in areas in the Philippines that rely on kerosene, battery powered lamps and candles as their main source of lighting.
The team produces a lamp powered by saltwater called “SALt lamp” which uses the science behind the Galvanic cell, the basis for battery-making, changing the electrolytes to a non-toxic, saline solution — in a safe and harmless way.
IdeaSpace founder and CEO Earl Valencia lauded TimeFree for its deployments in Hong Kong and Malaysia. Founded in 2013, TimeFree is a virtual queuing solutions that help businesses improve its customer experience and enhance customer engagements. IdeaSpace is one of its main supporters.
Valencia likewise cited mobile privilege and promotions application MobKard for having activated merchant privileges and promotions to seven large organisations in the Philippines over the last 10 months. The company’s app is designed to bring real time and location based promotions to members of organizations.
“Our goal is to provide this service across the globe starting with ASEAN. We have also been selected in the Unilever Philippines Foundry Batch 1 and will be doing several pilots with their key customer segments in 2015,” said MobKard CEO Francis Uy.
The software startup Kalibrr (which is under the startup portfolio of Kickstart) provides a platform for recruitment, assessment, and talent management. It was noted for having signed a number of customers in the US and has received additional undisclosed funding .
Lenddo, meanwhile, has list of developments that allowed the company to extend its financial services innovations to existing markets in the region and now aims for global partnerships. The Philippine-based startup provides an online platform that helps the underbanked use their social networks to build their creditworthiness and access local financial services.
According to Lenddo co-founder and COO Richard Eldridge, the startup’s key 2014 achievements are, exiting the lending business, launch of credit score, launch of name, birthday, employer, education, mobile and email verification services as well as development of custom models using new data sets, including launch of Android and iOS apps.
For Kickstart president Minett Navarete, 2014 was quite a good year for the incubator’s portfolio, citing all of their portfolio companies had gone to market, gotten users and customers, and that a good number have evolved to a version two or three after a year in-market.
“By end-2014, half of our 19 portfolio companies have raised a subsequent (follow-on) round of funding from third-party investors, from angels and institutional investors both here and overseas,” she said.
Navarete expects that startups in the Philippines will continue their market expansion nationwide and in the SEA region and that there will be more and stronger investors coming into the Philippine startup community.
“We expect more traction and more deals with large corporations,” she added.