Though every founder of course has a vision for their company, product, and industry, they also have a financial dream: All of them want to “exit.” In most cases, this exit will take the former of an acquisition by a larger company, often in the same space but not always, and in rarer instances, an initial public offering (IPO), like Facebook and Snap did in the United States.
Though acquisitions are less common in the Philippines, given how nascent our tech ecosystem is, there is still significant activity, especially over the last couple of years. Studying the upswing in merger and acquisitions in the country is important for founders — especially those thinking of what business to ultimately pursue — because it gives deeper insight into what enterprises and investors are looking at as the next big thing.
With this frame of mind, here is what the last three acquisitions in the Philippines reveal.
The Philippines becomes a key market in Southeast Asia
Indonesian unicorn Go-Jek had tried to expand into the Philippines only to be rebuffed by the Philippine Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), who cited policy which stated that transport network companies (TNC) need to be owned at least 60% owned by Filipino individuals or entities.
Go-Jek was not to be deterred however. Less than one month since its LTFRB rejection on December 20, 2018, Go-Jek purchased a majority stake in Philippine fin-tech company Coins.ph for a reported tune of $72 million, according to TechCrunch. That Go-Jek was willing to enter the Philippines in such a roundabout way, and do so at such a significant cost, points to the growing primacy of the Philippines in Southeast Asia.
While Indonesia is predicted to one day become the fourth largest economy in the world, and Singapore will always be Singapore, the Philippines is a crucial battleground for tech giants in the region. Winning their space in Asia now also means that they must succeed in the Philippines.
The country can be a launchpad for enterprise solutions
Though consumer-facing businesses like Coins.ph may command all the attention, B2B businesses in the Philippines are still a promising part of the new digital economy. We can witness this in the recent acquisition of Filipino business services platform Full Suite by Singaporean company, Viascari.
Full Suite was founded in 2010 by Danella Yaptinchay, who grew it to be one of the go-to resources for business registration, intellectual property and trademark registration, bookkeeping, and everything in between. According to Newsbytes, Yaptinchay had been looking for a partner or investor to help Full Suite grow even further when she chanced upon Viascari, which ran financial concierge The Offshore Concept and was looking to expand its footprint across Asia with its 60 accountants, paralegals, and other business experts.
Now led by Viascari founder Maggie Po, who assumes the role of Chief Strategist for Full Suite, the platform is set to expand to Singapore. While Full Suite in the Philippines focuses on helping MSMEs with business registration, renewal, retirement, back-office support, its counterpart in Singapore will concentrate on strategic finance, advising some of the largest companies in Asia on fundraising, runway management, and mergers and acquisitions.
That Full Suite is expanding regionally just goes to show that local companies can develop enterprise solutions that cater to the top companies in the country, and in time, those in Asia and indeed around the world.
Traditional companies are turning toward tech
While traditional businesses in more mature markets understand the value of digital, their local counterparts in the Philippines have long been criticized for sticking to the status quo. Outside of a few acquisitions by local telcos, such as Smart’s purchase of Chikka, most Philippine corporations have steered clear of tech startups.
Yet the tide is turning. Last year, Sterling Paper, one of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines, acquired ChatbotPh, a startup focused on developing chatbots. Such could be the first salvo in a trend toward local corporations eyeing startups, particularly those working in bleeding edge technologies like blockchain, automation, artificial intelligence, and others.
In the end, there is plenty of noise in the tech and business world, but Filipino founders would be particularly well-served to focus on acquisitions, as — like the footlights in a movie theatre — can illuminate the path to your own exit.
Apol Tokwator is a freelance writer and founder of her own online retail business, Neinee90s.