The global early-stage VC firm, 500 Startups, is reportedly planning to enter the Philippines in 2017, according to 500 Startups Partner Vishal Harnal in a television interview with Bloomberg.
“We have no very concrete plans right now, but we have been on the ground assessing the situation and it’s likely in 2017 we will do something like that as well,” Harnal said.
When asked ‘Why?’ by Bloomberg‘s Shery Ahn, Harnal said 500 Startups looks for strong local partners within a market.
“When you invest in early stage like us, we like people on the ground, who are hearing things, meeting with entrepreneurs. [People] who have a good understanding of the ecosystem and of the culture. Which is why rather than make those bets from Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia, we like to have people on the ground in the Philippines,” said Harnal.
In the interview, Harnal cited the success of mClinica — a company that connects pharmacies, physicians and patients — as a case study for why 500 Startups is interested in the Philippines. mClinica has high-profile clients like Bayer HealthCare, Pfizer and Roche.
If 500 Startups launches a microfund in the Philippines, it will be its third country in Southeast Asia — after the Thailand-based 500 TukTuks and the 500 Startups Vietnam Fund. Both funds started at US$10 million but 500 TukTuks expanded to manage US$15 million in July.
In October, The 500 Startups also launched a second round of its 500 Durians Fund worth US$50 million to invest in the entire Southeast Asian region.
According to the Bloomberg report, 500 Durians plans to invest in 200 regional companies in the coming years.
Because of its ‘spray and pray’ strategy, 500 Startups is incredibly active in the region. For example, on December 7 it invested in Hong Kong’s Easyship, on November 25 it invested in Ticketbox’s Series A and on November 14 it followed up on a round with its portfolio company IsItUp.com.
As of early-October, the firm had invested in 119 companies in Southeast Asia.
In a television interview on Bloomberg, Harnal said the regional startup scene is going through a “renaissance”.
“There are many investors who are very bullish on Southeast Asia and have been trying to figure out a way to get involved in the early-stage market. So we haven’t had very much difficulty raising that fund,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from investors who want to come in, who want to be part of the Southeast Asian growth story and who want to be a part of these companies early enough to understand them and to really capitalise on opportunities that may come in their growth down the line”.