How Kaya is supporting a new generation of founders in the Philippines

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The race is on to secure exposure to the burgeoning startup ecosystem in the Philippines. One of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing markets has attracted venture capitalists from around the world — startups in the Philippines each raised a record $1 billion in funding over the past two years, according to a report from Foxmont Capital Partners and BCG. Now a homegrown challenger, Kaya foundersraises the stakes with a new $12 million financing facility aimed at technology-enabled start-ups in the country.

Founded in 2021 by veteran entrepreneurs and angel investors Paulo Campos, Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng and Constantin Robertz, Kaya has already supported more than 30 companies in various industries. Campos, who is the company’s general manager, believes there is an exciting opportunity in the Philippines right now.

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“This could be a golden age for startups if we can help this army of entrepreneurs that has sprung up in the country,” he says. “In recent years we have seen the emergence of a range of dynamic founders with great ideas, but they need support – with funding, but also across the entire startup ecosystem.”

Campos points to the structural advantages of the Philippines. It has a large population with an average age of just 25 – the youngest in Southeast Asia – and growing wealth; The GDP per capita in the country is expected to more than double by 2030. The result is a growing demand for digital products – and products and services delivered digitally – from a technology-literate customer base.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be a real catalyst,” Campos added, noting that the Philippines had been imposing stricter restrictions for longer than many of its neighbors. “We have seen that people’s behavior changed dramatically as a result; they will shop online much more often, but also work and live their lives digitally.”

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Many of the new generation of start-ups are focused on exploiting that changing behavior. That includes new ventures in industries such as e-commerce, as well as financial services, digital health, business-to-business services and other niches where technology is an important factor.

“Most of the entrepreneurs behind these ventures are first-time startups,” Campos adds. “They have no experience, so they need more than just financial support – even the emotional support we can provide will be critical in helping them make these start-ups a success.”

Kaya is certainly not the only venture capital fund to work with company founders and entrepreneurs in this way. In addition to global investors, a number of regional players have entered the Philippine market in the past year. While venture capital investment globally fell last year, Foxmont and BCG report that: “The Philippine investment landscape continued to grow, with 2022 marking a record high in terms of funds raised, up 7% from the previous year.”

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However, Campos and his colleagues at Kaya believe that a homegrown investor can really help founders from the beginning of their journey. The $12 million it raised is the first phase of its latest fundraiser, with Kaya aiming for $25 million. The money comes from institutional investors, family offices, high net worth individuals and a number of leading existing entrepreneurs.

The money will be split between two funds. First, Kaya’s Zero to One Fund is a pre-seed vehicle that will focus on accelerating ventures even while still on the drawing board, working with founders who may not have hit the market yet. At the same time, the One to Ten Fund will invest in more mature opportunities ranging from early stage to Series A.

Campos emphasizes the local knowledge and experience of the team. “These funds are the culmination of what each of us individually has been doing for years as some of the most active angel investors in the Philippines,” he says. The founders have previously supported success stories from early start-ups in the country, including the Good Glamm Group, Kumu, Dali and Edamama.

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With support, Campos is convinced that the next generation of start-ups can follow their example, especially with a favorable economic wind. S&P Global Market Intelligence says, “The Philippine economy is expected to continue to grow rapidly, doubling its total GDP from $400 billion in 2022 to $800 billion in 2030. in urban household income.”