Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Francis Simisim was recorded in June 2019.
Francis Simisim is Partner at Original Pitch Venture Capital based in the Philippines. We had a very good discussion on how that ecosystem is developing.
Sramana Mitra: Tell us about yourself as well as Original Pitch Ventures.
Francis Simisim: I started my tech career a decade ago when I did my Masters and undergraduate degree at Oxford Brookes University. Startups were booming in the UK back then. I came back home and wanted to do startups. Nobody knew what startups were, and nobody had websites back then.
I started companies of my own. I recently exited one company. It’s one of the largest digital blogs in the Philippines. From then on, I started to explore media and advertising. This is where I started looking at investments.
Sramana Mitra: Your core expertise is in media and advertising. The venture work that you are doing or planning to do, would that have a bias towards media and advertising?
Francis Simisim: It has more to do with B2B. I’m very passionate about B2B and how we can help SMEs as well as the larger enterprises in the areas we’re focused on. In our firm, we have different partners who bring in different perspectives on the table. We have some from FinTech and some from real estate.
Sramana Mitra: Tell me about your fund. Is this more of an angel group or a venture fund?
Francis Simisim: It’s a mix between a family office as well as an angel group. We are five entrepreneurs who have run different businesses before. We wanted to help our fellow entrepreneurs grow because in the Philippines, the ecosystem is very small.
There is really little support for tech entrepreneurs. That’s where we want to bring in some expertise to help them out and really get them from ideation, a functioning MVP, all the way to a business.
Sramana Mitra: I think the ideal starting point for this exploration into the Filipino tech startup ecosystem would be to get a sense of the level of activity. How many tech entrepreneurs are operating in the Philippines right now?
Francis Simisim: Actively, I would say somewhere between 200 and 250. We have a very small tech industry, but we’ve been trying to push as much as we can on a private label. The government is trying to push for startup bills as well. It’s still at its infancy. It’s very early at this point.
Sramana Mitra: What are the trends in those 200 companies that are operating? What kinds of businesses are you seeing? Given your role as a VC in a very small ecosystem, you probably know every one of these companies.
Francis Simisim: That’s right. It’s a very small ecosystem. We all know each other and we all try to support each other. Initially, we started with a lot of copycats. Whatever you guys have in Silicon Valley, we’ll have a copy of that here. It matured a bit.
Looking at our own local problems, it’s starting to diversify in this direction. We’re starting to see entrepreneurs focusing on local problems and solving them.