It has a catch up tag written all over it, but there is no doubt the Philippine startup ecosystem is on the same treadmill as that of its neighboring Southeast Asian countries, and the latest deals as well as data from the country indicate that the future is set to offer bright prospects for its entrepreneurial ecosystem.
From among the fastest, if not the fastest growing economy in Asia, the Philippines, with its rising share of IT services and products in its exports, engineering prowess, a steady inflow of entrepreneurs from overseas along with local talent, and an english speaking population, it certainly has a lot going for its rocking startup ecosystem, as it seeks to play its part in ASEAN’s efforts to become a startup region.
DEALSTREETASIA handpicked 14 promising startups ― all of who appear to have a big year lined up for themselves in 2017 ― across different verticals such as fintech, real estate, transportation, software, cloud services, business applications, mobile gaming, and human resources.
Calling itself a “real estate business disruptor”, FlySpaces bagged a number of achievements in 2016, and the company said it was looking forward to more business success in 2017. The company provides an online platform for both providers and seekers of office and rental spaces ranging from co-working and hotdesk, conference and meeting rooms, training and workshops, function rooms, interview rooms, short-term and shared office space, galleries, events places, including retail pop ups. It only charges booking fees to space providers but not to netizens who visit the portal to get information. After its formal launch in Makati City last October 2015, FlySpaces expanded its online marketplace in Singapore on January 2016 raising $500,000 in fresh capital backed by Future Now Ventures and Narra Ventures both from the Philippines, Coent Venture Partner of Singapore, and also German-based real estate broker and service company Rubina Real Estate, among other investors. Then only last November, it made its presence in Malaysia acquiring co-working space platform 8spaces for an undisclosed amount.
Squadzip is a mobile-first software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that received a seed funding from venture capital Kickstart Ventures Inc and Plug and Play co-founder vice president Jojo Flores last February. The startup gained a portfolio of enterprise users across multiple industries 18 months after it was launched by its co-founders Roman Mercado and Joaquin Barandino in August 2014. As a SaaS platform, Squadzip applies the ease of use and familiarity of popular social media platforms to a sales and project management context.
U-Hop is an app-based ride-sharing services that secured seed investments of up to $7.4 million last March shortly after gaining legal-accreditation by the Philippines’ Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and became the third ride hailing app in the country to get the approval, next to Uber and Grab. The transport app received $2 million from a Philippine corporation with diversified interests. They also signed up $5.4 million with a Manila-based boutique investment banking firm Asian Alliance Investment Corp. U-Hop plans operation expansions in major cities in Asia.
CloudSwyft Global Systems is another cloud-based platform that gained investments and traction in 2016. Its platform enables companies create and manage IT training, assessment, and development environments without the need to purchase and manually setup hardware and software tools. It raised $200,000 (P9.2 million) in seed fund from venture capital Future Now Ventures and is now making an impact in the enterprise business-to-business (B2B) space. Founded last April 2015 by its millennial CEO Dann Angelo De Guzman, CloudSwyft is proud to be one of Microsoft’s heavily supported independent software vendors or ISVs.
Barhead, AllFamous, Phonebooky
Barhead, AllFamous, and Phonebooky are among the many startups that Future Now Ventures has invested in last year. Led by its CEO principal investor & advisor John Orrock, FNV has put in $1 million in Barhead, $250,000 in Phonebooky and an undisclosed sum in AllFamous. Barhead is a dominant Microsoft Cloud Deployment Partner; AllFamous is engaged in digital marketing, social media consulting and outsourcing; while Phonebooky is the maker of restaurant booking app Booky.
Early-stage fintech startup Acudeen Technologies made it to the headlines a couple of times in 2016 after winning in the Seedstars World Philippine competition last May, and then later on bagged the YE! Community Award at the Startup Summit Philippines 2016 in October. Acudeen is an online peer to peer marketplace for receivable discounting. It will represent the Philippines at the Seedstars Summit in Switzerland on March 2017 to compete for up to $1 million in equity investment, and will also go to Sweden for an all-expense paid Boost Camp Scholarship. Acudeen is definitely an interesting group to watch for this new year.
Online bus booking business iWantSeats has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Tagcash Ltd founder Mark Vernon last year. Tagcash is a $2 million paid up capital company based in Makati City whose current objective is to enable micropayments worldwide. The deal was iWantSeats’ first outside investment from an angel investor in 2016. Vernon also became its adviser and partner in payment solutions. Founded in 2014, iWantSeats is geared to make it easier for both bus operators and their passengers by simplifying reserving bus seats which can be done online instead of long queues in bus terminals.
Satoshi Citadel Industries
Fintech startup Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI) served as the first venture in the Philippines of K Venture Group (KVG), the investment arm of South Korea internet company Kakao Corporation. KVG opted to invest in SCI in a seed round last June looking at the huge fintech opportunity in the Philippines being the third biggest remittance market in the world where over 69 per cent of the population have no access to bank accounts. SCI developed its own Bitcoin technologies to fill the gap. Among these are Rebit.ph, BuyBitcoin.ph, PrepaidBitcoin.ph, Bitmarket.ph, and Bitbit.cash that all seek to empower Filipinos with universal access to otherwise inaccessible financial services.
Perhaps one of the most exciting things to happen in the Philippine startup ecosystem is to see a startup go public on the Philippine Stock Exchange. Newly-formed celebrity-themed mobile gaming firm Xeleb Technologies Inc has taken this task last October by filing a prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as it targets to raise at least $15 million (P730 million) via initial public offering (IPO). Xeleb is a wholly-owned subsidiary of listed mobile consumer services firm Xurpas Inc. The IPO shares will constitute 19.68 per cent of Xeleb’s total outstanding capital stock, and will be listed to the small, medium and emerging (SME) board of the PSE. This is likely to happen this year. IPOs in the Philippines are a minimal compared to public markets in other Southeast Asian nations. The local bourse only completed four IPOs in 2016.
Sprout Solutions can be seen as a promising company in the Human Resource and payroll solutions business. Just a few months after being incorporated in 2015, it got accepted into Silicon Valley enterprise SaaS accelerator Acceleprise. The company is now gearing up to expand into other Asia markets such as Indonesia and Malaysia, including India. Sprout’s business model is to address major headaches of businesses in the most convenient way, but more importantly to optimize a company’s workforce overall.
Business expansion is now also the goal of First Circle, an Irish-led fintech startup engaged on online lending business in the Philippines and soon across Southeast Asia after securing a $1.2 million seed round led by Dublin-and-London-based Key Capital, Singapore-based IMJ Investment Partners, and 500 Startups in a funding round in San Francisco in the US last October. First Circle is focused on providing short-term working capital among SMEs, a sector that comprises 99 per cent of all businesses in the Philippines.
Similar to the successful real estate startup ZipMatch is GetPlace that developed an online platform which connects property seekers and brokers. It recently gained the backing of IMJ Investments, and Machine Ventures in a pre-seed funding round. GetPlace was only launched in June 2016 but was able to gain up to $400 million in request value, excluding sales and revenue, in just a few months. It matches property seekers to brokers in real time via web and mobile application. Although focused to strengthen its products and Philippine coverage, GetPlace is eyeing to expand their services to other countries like Indonesia and Singapore using its additional capital.