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…