Ronin to startups: Bridging the gap

Financial knowledge gaps occur when entrepreneurs do not have the savviness to manage their business, including funding requirements, branding, legal documentation, bookkeeping, and a simple understanding of the importance of financial management.

Such startups are typically innovative, young, and technologically oriented enterprises that want to make it big.

“We started above 2018 when I saw a lot of startups having difficulty raising funds and not having a good experience to be considered for funding,” Aya Laraya, co-founder of management consultancy firm Ronin, said. “I also see investors cannot validate startups, and I want to fill that gap and provide the bridge to connect them.”

Ronin was established to bridge the gap between angel investors and startups. “The number one question for startups should be, how much is my company’s worth? And the second, is how much funding they need to make their business viable?” he added.

One of the biggest challenges of Filipino startups is the lack of system infrastructure to access financial facilities, Laraya explained. Even if the entrepreneurs have solid ideas but do not have access to funding, the idea may not take off.

“In Singapore and Hong Kong, they have established systems for raising funds. That is what Ronin is trying to solve. We created the RISE. Challenge to address that gap. It’s all about providing a holistic financial knowledge package to startups,” he added.

The Ronin Group is a financial management and education services company, onboarding a group of legal, accounting, and finance experts who have helped set up, scale, and successfully exit startups.

They recently partnered with the Makati City Government and Digital Pilipinas to kick off the Resiliency Innovation Sustainability and Entrepreneurship Challenge, an incubator program offering cash grants and 12-week entrepreneurship training, and a chance to pitch to qualified investors.

Last July, eight startups received a P500,000 equity-free grant from Makati City after the qualifying pitching competition held on 8 April to sustain their development. The founders attended a 12-week training program to prepare them to pitch to qualified investors adequately.

Brilliant minds

Yani de Guzman, CEO and founder of Ronin Group, added that the Philippines does not “lack brilliant minds filled with bright ideas to start a business empire,” but sadly, many do not have the means to realize their work.

The Ronin Group, De Guzman said, represents “the right people to lean on and make the dreams of startup entrepreneurs come true.”

“Agritech is one of the areas that I think we must focus on,” she said.

“Maybe the only crowded spot might be the wallet market. There are many wallets, like GCash, MAYA, and all these. There are so many wallets that might be crowded already,” she said but added many industries, namely agriculture, education, and marketing, offer opportunities.

Tech-savvy youth

Laraya believes that investors choose to invest in the Philippines because more and more youth belonging to Gen Zs are tech-savvy. They can develop applications and breakthroughs that provide services to 70 million Filipinos who use the Internet daily.

“What attracts them is the quality of the idea, the skilled labor, and the large market. Because we have more than 70 million active Internet users, we’re very open to technology and have a young population, which might be one of the reasons. We adapt things fast. We adapted to Zoom fast. We adapted to online wallets fast. We adapted to online purchases fast,” Laraya expressed.

Despite this, De Guzman said that there are many hurdles facing startup companies, including regulatory challenges imposed by the government, among other reasons.

“It’s still a challenge, especially the movement of funds. Let’s say you send a million dollars here, and the startup does well, and you’re able to get five times your return which is reasonable to a staked startup. So how do you send $5 million out of the Philippines? You must go through many things if you send it, especially to the US or Australia. So that is one of the things that need to be addressed,” said De Guzman.

As a piece of advice, the two said budding startups should learn to hammer and nail to prosper.

“Also, they must learn to listen. It’s not enough that you have good ideas. And you must learn to listen to input, and you must know that there is certain accountability when you get people’s money and that you must be able to fulfill your promise to them and their expectations. And mostly, a lot of angel investors who put in money in your company won’t just sit by and give you and say you can do whatever you want. They will have certain expectations that you will have to deliver. So, it would help if you took that seriously also,” she said.

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