Packworks, a startup that provides a business-to-business platform for sari-sari (neighborhood sundry) store owners, won at Ignite 2022’s Startup World Cup (SWC) x Wildfire Pitch competition on Oct. 14. The retail tech startup will represent the Philippines — and compete for the $1 million prize — in the 2023 SWC Grand Finale of Pegasus Tech Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based global venture capital firm. 

The common comment among all the judges was how much the quality of Philippine startups has grown, said Sophia “Phoebe” C. Fontanilla, investment associate at TechShake, a startup ecosystem builder and co-organizer of the Ignite 2022 event, where the competition was held. 

“As the representative of the Philippines in the largest startup competition in the world, they had to choose a winner based on scalability and replicability,” she said in an Oct. 17 e-mail. Although the other entries also had the potential to scale, “Packworks’ business model and market traction were what clearly made it stand out.”  

“It had the experience to scale and easily replicate its model to help SMEs [small and medium enterprises] in regions both within and outside the Philippines,” Ms. Fontanilla added.  

Judging the winners of the competition’s Philippine leg were leaders from SOSV/MOX, Plug and Play, Quest Ventures, Integra Partners, RISE, Unfold Ventures, and QBO Innovation Hub.  

Packworks bested nine other early-stage startups, all of whom received at least a prize each from sponsors that included Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Philippines. Sharing the podium were runners-up Smile API, a digital platform that fast tracks financial application processes, and, which provides worker benefits like healthcare to freelancers and solopreneurs.  

The company told BusinessWorld in an earlier, Oct. 5 e-mail that it one of its recent initiatives is the rollout of loyalty programs as a way for megastores to incentivize micro-stores within their network. This allows megastores to offer exclusive discounts to micro-stores, which encourages the latter to continue ordering from the former through the app.  

Sari-sari store usage grew when the pandemic hit in 2020, the company also said. Its platform users grew to 130,000 that same year, and to 170,000 by September 2022. Packworks likewise closed a seed round in 2022 led by Fast Logistics and CVC, and participated in by investors such as ADB Ventures, Techstars, Arise Fund, and IdeaSpace QBO.  

The 2022 winner of the SWC Grand Finale is SRTX, a Canadian startup that develops durable fabrics and clothing using new materials and smart production systems. — Patricia Mirasol