In conversation with Earl Martin Valencia, President IdeaSpace – the largest startup incubator of Philippines

15th Jul 2013
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We recently caught up with Earl Martin Valencia, President of IdeaSpace Foundation, which is a multi-sector early stage startup incubator based in Philippines. Earl is a graduate from Cornell University and studied business at Stanford. After Stanford, Earl worked at Cisco in California. But after a brief encounter with Filipino business tycoon, Manuel V. Pangilinan, Chairman of PLDT, Philippines largest telecommunications company -- who shared his vision of encouraging and nurturing Filipino technology startups -- Earl packed his bags and returned to his homeland.In 2012, Earl and his friend Marthyn Cuan of Manila Electric Company started IdeaSpace with a commitment of USD 12.5 million from Manuel V. Pangilinan and a few other Filipino CEOs. IdeaSpace aspires to back companies that will help solve the biggest needs in the emerging markets, especially Philippines.'

Earl Martin Valencia
Earl Martin Valencia, President IdeaSpace

This year the first batch of 10 incubatees were chosen from a pool of 700 applicants. A brief look at the portfolio companies will tell you that Earl and his team are sticking their guns out to support entrepreneurs who are out there looking to make real impact. The ideas range from water and healthcare startups to IT and energy startups. 70% of the 700 IdeaSpace applicants are ideas in mobile, consumer businesses, digital media and entertainment.

  • ARMTech – Water purification machine using nano technology
  • MIRAND – Prosthetic joints for the Asian market
  • PortfolioMNL – Linkedin for creative professionals
  • WeGen – More efficient windmill design
  • TimeFree – SMS based queuing system
  • PinoyTravel – Provincial bus reservation system
  • Prodigo – Promos on the go using analytics
  • DateCola – Natural-enriched beverage made out of dates
  • PGRS – Power generating rumble strips
  • Tech4Health – Monitoring chronic patients via SMS and apps

These 10 startups receive anywhere between USD 12,000 - 120,000 to take their companies from idea to prototype stage. And the incubation program lasts for 6 months.

IdeaSpace
Startup Activity at IdeaSpace

“We expect the local VCs and Angels to be present, we anticipate close to 20 or more local and international angel groups and VCs to be present in the demo day,” said Earl speaking of the Demo Day which is scheduled to be held mid November, most likely during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Speaking about the program and some of the early successes, Earl said, “This is our first batch. We will be having two batches per year with 20 companies. However, we also make investments and take companies under our incubator, when we see a good business with high potential. Recently, one of our portfolio companies Orangeapps, raised more than a million pesos. Our youngest team of incubatees, WeGen, aspiring to build Wind energy for the islands has been invited to the Intel APEC accelerator. Two of our other companies are also in the process of signing few customer contracts.”

We quizzed Earl about the venture funding scenario for startups in Philippines and he says there are around two players in each bracket. For less than $100,000, there is IdeaSpace and Wireless Wings. For $100K- $500K, startups can reach out to ON3 and PlugandPlay. For Series A and above, there is NarraVC and ICCP.

IdeaSpace Philippines
Discussions at IdeaSpace

Speaking about the challenges facing the 30 million internet demography, Earl thinks the focus of a startup in the first 12 months should be producing something that can scale regionally in year 2 or 3. “So the trick is to build your business with definite traction earlier than in western markets, as the local early stage venture money is limited. Also a lot of the consumers expect "free" or "cheaper" services, so thinking of a B2B model might work best in markets like the Philippines or other emerging market,” he says. However, the ecosystem is promising and the Philippines community is open enough to help out people. Philippines had some good success stories in Chikka, Businesssummaries.com, Kalibrr and Metrodeal.

We are sure with support from institutions like IdeaSpace and individuals like Earl Martin, success stories on a much more larger scale and a bigger spotlight will emerge to motivate many people to take a plunge in entrepreneurship in Philippines.

If you are a Filipino startup, the next round of applications will start from September 1, 2013 to January 7, 2014. This time around IdeaSpace is open to applicants from all over Philippines and across countries from SouthEast Asia.

More details here http://ideaspacefoundation.org/

Stay tuned as we shall bring you more updates from the Philippines startup ecosystem.

 

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