The rise of Filipino millennial entrepreneurs

In Photo: Grimeland

Against the backdrop of various growth opportunities brought about by an improving economy and connectivity, more millennials are starting their own ventures.

Magnus Grimeland, Antler founder and chief executive officer, said the current business environment in the country is ripe for start-ups to seize growth opportunities that are presented to them provided they get good mentors and guidance.

“This is indicative of the high level of confidence in the country’s economy, the government and general business environment. In fact, 86 percent of the 106 CEOs and founders surveyed believe that business outlook in the country is on a positive trajectory over the next 12 months,” Grimeland in a recent e-mail interview with the BusinessMirror.

According to a study by QBO Innovation Hub and PwC Philippines, there are now more than 300 startups in the country, most of which were founded between 2012 and 2017. Furthermore, a new generation of young, tech-savvy digital makers is emerging—all of whom consider themselves as early adopters of new technology. This group of locals, who are under the age of 35 as of this year, is estimated to amount to 69.5 million of the population.

Antler sees a lot of opportunities in the Philippines across various industries. As connectivity gets better and technologies continue to mature, Grimeland is bullish that industries will continue to pursue innovation.

Moreover, he said, a lot of the start-ups will see local innovation across proven business models, interpreted from other places in the world.

Grimeland said the emergence of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, robotics, blockchain and more will enable local start-ups to be on top of their game.

“I strongly believe in the potential to build deep technology companies out of the Philippines in cooperation with the research communities there,” he said.

As a start-up generator, Grimeland said Antler is most interested in investing in people rather than in ideas or specific categories of products and services. With that road map, he said, Antler is industry agnostic and believes in empowering people who have the right drive and tenacity by giving them the support they need, through their program.

Grimeland said Antler supports ambitious self-starters who share the same passion as the company in creating new technologies or business ideas, helping to fill a gap in the market or solving real-world issues.

“We are excited to see such strong entrepreneurial drive among the younger, more tech-savvy generation. We really don’t see the rate of growth of start-ups here slowing down anytime soon,” Grimeland pointed out.

Grimeland admires the Filipinos’ strong  drive, creativity and willingness to boost the technology industry of the country.

Antler has a network of venture partners and advisors who have accomplished amazing things in various fields; it is worth taking a leaf out of the playbook of these successful entrepreneurs and businessmen.

Paulo Campos—a model leader, has built and established Zalora.com as the leading fashion e-commerce site in Philippines within just a few years, and has become a strong regional leader in the ecosystem

Constantin Robertz—a great entrepreneur and truly inspiring man who has played a pivotal role in building Zalora in the Philippines and establishing Rocket Internet’s key ventures around the world

Oscar Franklin Tan—who was just named one of the world’s most influential lawyers, has come on board as an Antler Advisor. He has a strong passion for supporting the next generation of great companies, and is a respected legal opinion columnist in a leading broadsheet.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working and being friends with Martin Cu and Arianne Kader-Cu during my Zalora days in the Philippines, both of whom are very active in the start-up ecosystem. They have helped build a couple of disruptive start-ups, including Ninja Van. There’s definitely not a lack of talented entrepreneurs here who can help empower and facilitate the growth of the next generation of innovators,” Grimeland explained.

It’s also very encouraging to see that some of the oldest, great conglomerates in the region, like the Ayala Group, have a renewed focus on innovation and start-ups. They are constantly reinventing themselves to stay ahead of the curve, and show no signs of slowing down.

Grimeland laid out five key traits he looks for in assessing potential founders—the core values that he deeply believes in when looking for the right talent.

  • Someone with great ambition and vision. A motivated self-starter who is able to work toward actualizing their ideas.
  • A clear “spike,” for example, something an entrepreneur really excels at. It can be coding, products, a specific industry, leadership or similar. Your strongest asset and something that becomes your defining factor.
  • Drive and tenacity. It is looking for people who will run to the ends of the world to achieve their vision. Daredevils and creative thinkers who are able to circumvent multiple barriers to entry and any challenges that are typical for start-ups. Great founders like Elon Musk didn’t build SpaceX and Tesla without overcoming huge challenges. It is  looking for similar levels of drive and tenacity in their founders.
  • Antler looks for people with integrity—those who possess intrinsically strong principles and value a larger altruistic purpose over any commercial agenda. They need to observe the highest ethical standards.

It allows its team and the founders to take ownership of their chosen domain and aim to support them in their area of strengths. Antler also looks for aspiring founders who work well in collaborative environments, as they will be able to grow their ideas with the flexibility and autonomy it provides.

To continue its transformation as one of region’s most dynamic economies, Grimeland said the country needs to work on strengthening its education system, create local reinforcing mechanisms such as retraining, and partner with strong local entrepreneurs and businesses to stimulate the start-up ecosystem.

He said the immediate goal of Antler is to get the best talent from the Philippines and the region onboard. Despite being a newcomer in the country’s tech industry, Antler has received an overwhelming number of applications and is doing its best to give each participant the required attention and support.

In the next two years, Grimeland said, Antler hopes to build 100 to 150 innovative tech companies out of Southeast Asia, with the vast majority of them having the Philippines as one of their core markets and approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of them to be headquartered in the Philippines.

“We want to see founders whom we bring in, having built successful technology businesses in the region and through that, having positively impacted economies. There are also plans to expand across Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific and to be able to replicate our business model effectively in different markets,” Grimeland pointed out.


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