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[Event Recap] Southeast Asia Tech Week Sets Goal to Produce 100 Founder-Led Unicorns in PH

First-Ever Southeast Asia Tech Week PH Sets Goal to Produce 100 Founder-Led Unicorn Companies

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  • DTI Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba has set a goal for the different stakeholders from the private sector to produce 100 unicorns in the country. A “unicorn startup” is a kind of company that has a valuation of $1 billion without being listed on the stock market. 
  • The challenge was set during the launch of the first-ever Southeast Asia Tech Week PH, which was organized by Digital Pilipinas and the British Embassy Manila. 
  • As per Digital Pilipinas’ Amor Maclang, the fintech industry in Southeast Asia (SEA) and the Philippines is considered huge because, out of the 14 digital banks registered in the region, six are in the Philippines. 

During the inaugural event of Southeast Asia Tech Week Philippines organized by Digital Pilipinas and the British Embassy Manila, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary for Competitiveness and Innovation Group, Rafaelita Aldaba, challenged the stakeholders, including the top executives from different companies in the country, to produce 100 unicorns in the country. 

Coined by venture capitalist Aileen Lee in 2013, a “unicorn startup” is a kind of company that has a valuation of $1 billion without being listed on the stock market. During the event, Filipino entrepreneurs created a localized term and called it “Tamaraw.” 

Photo for the Article - [Event Recap] Southeast Asia Tech Week Sets Goal to Produce 100 Founder-Led Unicorns in PH

“So in 2021, we yielded ‌the first ever unicorn in the country, and that is GCash. Now, what we hope to be able to do is search for our first-ever founder-led units. Those (who are really bootstrapped. And those who really went through all the pains and the troubles,” said Amor Maclang, the convenor of Digital Pilipinas. 

PH, SEA as Fintech Powerhouse

According to Maclang, the fintech industry in Southeast Asia (SEA) and the Philippines is considered huge because, out of the 14 digital banks registered in the region, six are in the Philippines. The numbers are huge compared to the U.S.’s 10 and Europe’s 15. 

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It can be recalled that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) approved digital banks as a new bank category in 2020. The six digital banks that secured licenses, namely Overseas Filipino Bank of Land Bank of the Philippines; Tonik Bank of Singapore; UNObank of Singapore; UnionDigital of Union Bank of the Philippines: GOtyme of Robinsons Bank Corp.; and Maya Bank, owned by PayMaya of PLDT Inc., were reported to have started their full operations last August. 

However, the BSP also announced that submissions for applications from new digital banks are closed until December 2024. It just means that the newest digital banks in the industry can join by 2025. 

MOU Signing for Enabling Ecosystem to Produce Unicorns

Meanwhile, a memorandum of understanding was signed during the event by DTI and Digital Pilipinas, represented by Aldaba and Maclang, respectively. 

“Our objective is to create an enabling ecosystem for the country because what we want are founder-led unicorns. So it is really great what GCash has done, but what we need to see is that in the ecosystem, globally, a lot of them are founder-led,” Maclang emphasized. 

Photo for the Article - [Event Recap] Southeast Asia Tech Week Sets Goal to Produce 100 Founder-Led Unicorns in PH

In a report by the online publication Kapronasia, there are currently two unicorns in the country: Alibaba-backed Mynt, the operator of the GCash e-wallet; and Tencent-backed Voyager Innovations, the operator of Maya.

As per Maclang, there are four startups that have the potential to be the next unicorn startups in the country, in no particular order of preference: 

  • Motorcycle-hailing platform Angkas 
  • E-distributor firm Great Deals E-Commerce Corporation
  • Tech-enabled business-to-business platform GrowSari
  • Video sharing and e-commerce social networking service app Kumu

Moreover, the Digital Pilipinas convenor also explained that the partnership signed with the two entities is aiming to attract startups from the provinces in the country, as DTI’s Regional Inclusive Innovation Centers are focused outside of Metro Manila: 

“So there are 11 regional inclusive innovation centers in the country and what we hope to be able to do is uncover what is possibly the next unicorn for the Philippines.”

This idea is then supported by ‌Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Kelvin Lee, who stressed that the government, as the regulatory authority, is open to the private sector to talk to and work with. 

Lastly, when asked about his opinion on how long this goal is going to take, the Angkas CEO George Royeca highlighted that there will be a time when the startup industry will experience exponential growth until it reaches an inflection point where there will be more startups in the country. 

“Gojek has done it in Indonesia; when they became a startup in 2015, 30 startups came after quickly. So, it’s a four-minute mile, somebody has to break that ‌glass ceiling. When you shutter that, everyone follows you,” the CEO clarified.

Royeca is talking about Gojek, an Indonesian on-demand, multi-service platform and digital payment technology group based in Jakarta. It was first established as a call center to connect consumers to courier delivery and two-wheeled ride-hailing services.

The Angkas CEO further described the current situation of the market as saturated, which makes the consumer sector powerful. 

“It is about time that the Philippines be given attention and focus. It has actually been given to us,” Maclang concluded.  

This article is published on BitPinas: [EVENT RECAP] First-Ever Southeast Asia Tech Week PH Sets Goal to Produce 100 ‘Founder-Led’ Unicorn Companies

Disclaimer: BitPinas articles and its external content are not financial advice. The team serves to deliver independent, unbiased news to provide information for Philippine-crypto and beyond.

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