Swiss impact investor elea Foundation invests in PH startup BagoSphere

Swiss philanthropic impact investor elea Foundation for Ethics in Globalization has led the second capital round of funding for BagoSphere, a social enterprise startup in the Philippines focused on solving youth unemployment.

elea Foundation joined BagoSphere’s two other existing impact investors – Kickstart Ventures, the wholly-owned venture capital subsidiary of Globe Telecom, and Small World Group Incubator in Singapore, for this round.

The amount of the funds raised in this recent round were not disclosed.

BagoSphere currently operates in the cities of Bacolod and Bago, both in Negros Occidental province and is now gearing to extend its operations locally.

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“We will use the funds to grow our team and spearhead expansion to Metro Manila next year and other next wave cities in two to three years,” BagoSphere co-founder and CEO Zhihan Lee told DEALSTREETASIA.

As a social enterprise, BagoSphere’s goal is to help people who struggle to find employment with an education focused on communication, soft skills and job training that are in demand.

Adrian Ackeret, associate at elea Foundation, and member of BagoSphere’s board of advisors, said they have chosen to support BagoSphere because of its outstanding, sustainable approach in the professional skill building space.

“[BagoSphere’s] combination of an effective, scalable training programme with micro-loan funding and a focus on building a strong community of students, trainers and graduates already brings great opportunities to underprivileged youth in the Philippines,” Ackeret said.

“We believe in the potential of BagoSphere’s model to reach out to many more young people and offer them a first step towards a self-determined future.”

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Operating since January 2013, BagoSphere has 540 graduates, of which about 400 have been hired by BPOs (business process outsourcing) despite 40 per cent of them having zero previous work experience. About 80 per cent of BagoSphere’s students are high school graduates, and about 75 per cent females. Once employed, the graduates receive an average starting salary and performance incentives of around $212 (P10,000) per month.

BagoSphere’s flagship programme, ASCEND, is a two-month job preparatory course. It is built based on a highly immersive and interactive curriculum that allows the simultaneous learning of the English language and content such as life skills, digital skills and financial literacy. The startup also fosters intrinsic learning by encouraging students to take more risks, try new things, and provides increased access for students through a deferred payment scheme.

The company targets training for call center jobs in the local Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) market, which is projected in 2016 to generate 1.3 million new jobs, with 17 per cent annual growth.

“We help scout and develop invisible talents or talents that companies usually turn away into valuable assets. We have had OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), farmers, tricycle drivers, former drug addicts, street siomai (food) peddlers, stay-home mothers in our classrooms. We do this to prepare people from all levels of society with skills to thrive in an increasingly digital age. By doing that, I believe we can have a more equitable world,” Lee said.

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