How Shahab Shabibi used the internet to get Forbes‑listed

Cover art Samantha Gonzales

Words by

Digital Reporter

At 21 years young, Shahab Shabibi, co‑founder of Machine Ventures, made his way to Forbes’s 30 under 30 Asia list for 2017. An Iranian national, he started by making a music distributing program at age 13, and then became part of one of Iran’s largest independent sporting news agencies at age 16. Then he moved to the Philippines in his late teens and this is where he got the drive to become a better entrepreneur, and not just in the financial sense.

The internet, Shabibi said, helped him work without being judged for his youth. “The internet really respects merits,” he told SparkUp in an interview last month. “It respects people who are working hard and businesses that are providing really good solutions, and its enables you to connect to the countless population that are out there, who have problems that need to be solved. It’s much more viral, it’s easier to connect.”

“Imagine if you had a service like MyKuya , but as a physical shop, and we have tens and thousands of people walking in our store and trying to have their needs taken care of,” Shabibi continued, citing one of Machine Ventures’ more popular apps, which connects users to Kuyas and Ates that can help them run errands. (MyKuya is based on HeyKuya, an older app by Machine Ventures that they sold to another company.) “It would be impossible. But the internet and technology enables us to provide solutions at scale and it allows us to share our experiences and share our experiences at scale. We’re able to impact a much larger population.”

Other apps and companies under Machine Ventures include Get.Place (a property search database), Magnitude.Asia (which connects brands with social media influencers), and Catch88 (an private members club). Machine Ventures’ headquarters is located in the middle of bustling Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

“I think the common denominator of these businesses is tackling problems,” Shabibi said about the online applications that Machine Ventures developed. “We ask ourselves what are our problems that we face on a day to day basis and ask ourselves again if it applies to a lot of people. Does it impact impact a lot of businesses or a lot of people or a big population?”

“And then we ask ourselves `how can we solve this using basic technology and hard work?` And I think that’s what we all share with all our portfolio companies, the need to solve all these problems for the population.”

Art Samantha Gonzales

After years of living in the Philippines, Shabibi has started considering himself a local. Even so, running an online business in the Philippines has had its share of bumps. “It is very hard to study the more developed markets and try to apply the same mentality here. Things are more manual here, things need more thinking here, there are a lot of problems when it comes to infrastructure… but what is important is that if you really immerse yourself and try to immerse yourself the local way, there’s a very big opportunity here.”

In his explanatory note on why Machine Ventures developed My Kuya, Shabibi said that he was inspired by the Filipino concept of bayanihan and the desire to build na solution that would tackle the issues of poverty, female empowerment and education.

“Building solutions that help people in their day to day lives is something priceless,” Shabibi said. “In my original home country, I’ve had businesses that I’ve started there. But it doesn’t come close to the impact and solutions that we are able to provide here.”

Granted, he admits that Filipinos can be hesitant or even skeptical when it comes to trying new things, especially when it comes to tech. “But I think that’s part of the journey that we have to go through,” he said. “If people did not question the things that we do thoroughly then our services and our businesses would not be as good. So I would like to thank people for being skeptical of tech businesses.”

We can expect more tech solution from Machine Ventures in the following years. “At Machine Ventures, we want to build the future of companies in the Philippines,” said Shabibi. “We see it as a platform for innovation, a platform for solving problems, and our goal is to enter industries that are inefficient and that still have a lot to do to make the experience nice for their customers and for the people.”

“Where we see Machine headed is to have the next generation of innovative and disruptive companies provide a better life for the people. That’s where Machine Ventures is headed. We see an exponential growth in terms of the innovations that we can provide.”