As usual when I am stateside, which means I get Singapore Airlines asking for a letter of invitation and Homeland Security forcing me through secondary immigration – I have been trying to make sure that I visit my sole remaining Grandmother each time. I don’t remember my dad’s dad – I was too young when he died. The next one to go was my mom’s dad – the one I really knew as Grandpa. I can’t easily describe how he came to America but the details behind this man are slowly unraveling but we will probably never know the rest of the story. I miss my Grandpa terribly – he was a jolly man to be around. My Dad’s mom was the next go and she was a quirky woman who loved playing cards, drinking beer and watching boxing. If she were still alive I am sure she would get a kick out of the pictures of me and Manny Pacquiao.
So all that is left is my mom’s mom – Grandma. All of her brothers and sisters lived to a good age and Grandma is the last one – over 90 and full of stories. I somehow wish I could do some sort of Vulcan mind meld and just download bits of her life and memories into my head. Sounds weird but I know that when she passes that will be the last of the data from that generation. It saddens me quite a bit.
Visiting Grandma though is an adventure in and of itself. A year or so back the family decided that Grandma needed more care than any relative or friend could give her at home. It is always tough to come to that decision but seeing Grandma in a managed care home is an easy reminder that it is the right place for her and that she is doing well. Yes – none of us want to be there but sometimes that is the only option. She is still smiling though, gets her hair done regularly and likes to complain a lot. All old Italian women complain so this is normal and a good sign.
The fun part is dealing with the rest of folks at the home. There is the old Italian lady who appears to lecture use every time in Italian. She speaks English and is a likeable gal but seems to fall back to talking to us in Italian. I have no idea what she is saying but I just smile. There is also the lady who seems to think we all work at the place – she asks us why we think it is okay to stand around. Then she proceeded to tell my Dad that he will always be a private with no hope of promotion given his work habits. I was going to laugh but honestly I am afraid of this chick so I kept a straight face and did not reply.
I could go on but needless to say I always feel pretty blessed about my life and family when I visit my Grandma. I also remind myself that my life is pretty damn good.
Just got back from a week in Manila – the epicenter of the Philippines. Had not been in a while but was excited to get back and work on some on the ground product execution. Manila is mostly known as the land of the call centers however the startup environment continues to grow slowly but surely. Not sure it will ever be as dynamic as say Singapore – but there are signs of life.
As with any large country there is an ecosystem all to its own with nary a care to expanding outside of PH – that is fairly typical of all the large countries in the region. There is a big enough domestic market with high barriers to entry that some companies can just concentrate on the PH market entirely. I would put Sulit in this category – focusing on listings for the PH market. Seems to be taking a fairly dominant share of the c2c category.
Then you have the global players who have fallen from on high to focus on countries or regions where they seem to have taken a large local position, even if by accident, but are going to alter their strategy to focus on a particular regional niche. I would put Multiply in this group. They seem to have a large user base in both Indonesia and the PH market. Seems they are going to focus on ecommerce and primarily b2c. You may recall that both Sulit and Multiply are now majority owned by MIH (Naspers). MIH seems to be focusing on emerging markets ecommerce plays. Time will tell if this pays off but it feels like a sound bet.
If you don’t know who MIH is you can listen to this podcast to get the scoop since these are some heavy hitters.
Recently Multiply announced that Jack Madrid, formerly of Yahoo PH, is joining as the country manager. We will miss Jack and wish him well in his new venture. It will be interesting to see how Multiply heads off in their new direction.
However most of this activity is based on old companies or fairly entrenched ones just maturing and focusing. All good but I am still not seeing anything really exciting when it comes to cool plays in PH. The one company I was really hoping to show the way has chosen to leave Manila and setup shop in Singapore – Insync. They took some money and are moving their HQ to Singers. I can see why but it shows that the funding environment, the employee base and the regulatory/IP environment is probably not a safe bet in the Philippines. This might change but for now in places like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Philippines – it is probably a safer bet that if you want a regional shot at the champ you are better off heading to Singapore.
Hell even the champ himself see the bennies of taking the fight to Singapore…