The sun RISEs in the East

Twenty-twenty-one was a watershed year for the Philippines startup space, data from the Philippine Venture Capital Report 2022 study commissioned by the Foxmont Capital Partners and Boston Consulting Group said.

The researchers said domestic startups raised $1.03 billion in 2021, with a record 92 deals, up from the $369 million and $152 million raised in 2020 and 2019, respectively. In the first two months of 2022, $310 million has been raised, with six out of eight deals Series B and C deals.

On the homefront, marketing consultancy firm Ronin partnered with the Makati City government to launch the RISE (Resiliency Innovation Sustainability and Entrepreneurship) Challenge, a tripartite program that aims to bring together the government, the private sector, and the academe with the goal of encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.

“We had almost 200 startups who pitched their ideas on the launch of RISE. We picked 20 among them, from which eight startups emerged as winners and received a P500,000 equity grant from Makati City,” said Yani de Guzman, founder and CEO of Ronin.

The eight winners underwent a 12-week mentoring program before they were ready for a Pitch Night to meet with the country’s top investors and pitch their business models to open new investment opportunities.

Aya Laraya, the co-founder of Ronin, added, “The RISE Challenge was created to open opportunities to entrepreneurs who are not from well-off families who can afford to be unemployed to pursue their innovative ideas.”

He explained it is difficult for middle-class individuals to become entrepreneurs because they have to support their families financially and cannot stay out of their job for at least three months.

In partnership with local government units, budding entrepreneurs in RISE will be provided starting funds to develop their ideas while receiving rigorous training in all aspects of the business to ensure they can scale up and succeed.

“We wanted to create a system that would allow those people to get their ideas running. At the end of it, the goal is to bridge them to funders,” Laraya added.

De Guzman explained entrepreneurs would also undergo the RISE incubator program, which aims to provide participants with a structured environment wherein they can turn their ideas into investment-ready enterprises.

She said, “It does this by focusing on a startup’s financials and making entrepreneurs realize that good ideas are not enough — they have to be supported by good financials in order to attract funding from investors.”

The discussions to launch the RISE Challenge started in late 2020, but due to the pandemic, it was established in 2022. De Guzman said their first partners were the city of Makati and the University of Makati but added they are open to expanding our partnerships to include other LGUs and universities.

To be accepted in the incubator program, startups must have an innovative idea and be willing to listen and be taught, De Guzman said. “They must also be willing to move their business to the LGU supporting the event.”

“Ultimately, it’s by putting them in front of Angel investors who would have the interest and capacity to invest in early-stage startups,” she added.

According to de Guzman, she sees a bright future for the Philippine startup space “but will be very challenging as we still don’t have a lot of the support systems and resources available in other countries.”
“Early-stage programs and investors will provide entrepreneurs, not from the upper economic classes, with social, intellectual, and financial resources,” De Guzman added.

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