Kickstart Ventures, a Manila based seed-stage fund, welcomed the new year with some exciting news. Nine months after its launch it has invested in a total of 10 startups in the Philippines.

So what is Kickstart Ventures and who is the team behind it? More importantly, who are the startups that Kickstart has chosen to fund?

A (very) short history

October 2011, Jay Fajardo of Proudcloud and Jonathan Lansangan of Dynamic Objx, having announced their plan to hold Startup Weekend Manila, agreed to Globe Telecoms’ proposal to join forces for this first-in-the-Philippines endeavour. The result: 280 participants, 65 fire pitches, five winning teams. The Philippine community shows keen interest; but clearly, there are lots of stumbling blocks on the road to technopreneurship.

In early 2012, the New Business team of Globe Telecom headed by Minette Navarrete took a risk and bet on the growing startup movement in the Philippines. Or rather – fittingly – they pitch to the Globe Board of Directors that the company bet on the startup movement. The Board approves the proposal. The Globe New Business Group spins off (or out); the adventure begins.

In March the same year, Kickstart Ventures was born, an independent early-stage seed fund funded by Globe Telecom and backed by its two parents – the Ayala Corporation and SingTel. Equipped with a P100 million fund (around US$2.4 million), Kickstart’s mission is to nurture and aid this new entrepreneurial culture and fund promising startups operating here in the Philippines.

A small but dedicated team

Today Kickstart is represented by five individuals: Minette Navarrete, Ruth Canillas, Pia Bernal, Dan Siazon and myself. Each member of the team is equipped with a background as diverse as the country’s 7,107 islands.  Kickstart itself is a young startup: running lean with a small team fully committed to Kickstart. As such, we react swiftly to the demands and needs of our startups and the surrounding entrepreneurial environment. Our operating budget is equally constrained: we beg and borrow; and while we don’t steal, we find some very creative ways to get stuff done. We agree with Herb Kelleher’s attitude: “We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.” We test new concepts, we fail fast and we learn.

What we do; what we’ve done

Kickstart’s mandate is to operate in the early/seed stage up to the significantly larger Series “A” rounds: multi-stage participation means a consistent perspective and continuing relationship with the startups we fund — no hand-offs!

We focus on startups that use digital technology to achieve sharp targeting and significant scale. We select teams that operate in the Philippines; and those that would benefit from our strategic capabilities and not just the financial infusion. Stated differently: we are active investors.

Fast forward and nine months later, we’ve achieved our goal – ten funded Startups from different locations in the Philippines. Further, we learned that we need strong partners to model collaboration and help build the right environment for the startups to thrive and succeed. Hence, we founded, together with local startup-stalwart Jay Fajardo, the LaunchGarage program – a six-month, hands-on acceleration program led by Jay. Its mission: take ideas in their early-stage, develop product, and launch them fast into the market to validate their ideas. Once accepted into the program the founders will receive US$30,000 for 15 percent in equity. And they take part in all the training modules, workshops and events meant for Kickstart’s portfolio companies.

We found great partners in Franco Eisma and his colleagues from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Pieter Kemps and Dhruv Parpia; in Nick Franklin from Zendesk; and Edgar Hardless with his SingTel Innov8 team. And, as if circling back to where we started, Kickstart Ventures is officially the National Startup Weekend sponsor in the Philippines.

Looking to the future

2013 will be an even more exciting year for these Startups. We look forward to their turn to make an impact in the local market and grow their business within Southeast Asia or other parts of the world.

Here is an overview of the current Startups in Kickstart’s portfolio:

AVA (www.ava.ph), founded by brothers Oliver and Joseph Segovia, Raphael Quisumbing and Franz Alfonso, provides a curated marketplace for apparel, accessories, home décor, art, and design objects. To sum it up, “It’s The Home of Beautiful Things”.

Apptivate (www.apptivate.co), founded by Norris Jay Perez, it opens up the world of mobile apps to non-credit cardholders.

Bagosphere (www.bagosphere.com), founded by Zhihan Lee, Ellwyn Tan and Ivan Lau (all from Singapore), aims to develop a new type of vocational training for the base-of-pyramid (BOP) rural community, some of whom have never previously used a computer.

Kalibrr (www.kalibrr.com), founded by Paul Rivera and Dexter Ligot-Gordon, building an online learning platform that gets you a job. The team made it into the Spring 2013 batch of Paul Graham’s Y-Combinator.

Lifebit (www.lifebit.com), founded by Eric Su and BJ Basanes, offers a Game-inspired social diary: Path + Foursquare for urbanites.

MyLegalWhiz (www.mylegalwhiz.com), founded by two lawyers, Dexter Feliciano and Katrina Chua, provides a curated online legal resource: customizeable; always up-to-date; available anytime, anywhere: Your legal support on the go.

Tripid (www.tripid.ph), founded by Michael Ngo Dee, Tristan Peralta and Sam Lorraine Chan, the Match.com for ride-sharing. Offering a safe, reliable and convenient way to get around the city.

Tripsiders (www.tripsiders.com), founded by Rachel Jaro, Joan Palma and Gerold Mercadero, aims to change these one-fits-all travel itineraries, make them personalized for you by insiders and local experts.

WorkInspire (www.workinspire.com), founded by Christian Blanquera and Samiline Balignasay, allows you to manage your various project management tools through your email inbox.

Zap (www.zap.com.ph), founded by Dustin Cheng, Justin Lim, Terence Lok and Angelique Uy, the big vision: provide a Google Analytic kind of insights for brick-and-mortar retailers.

About the author

Christian (@christianbesler) is VP, Co-founder and Head of Community Engagement of  Kickstart Ventures, a Philippine based early-stage seed fund (www.kickstart.ph).