By Arjay L. Balinbin

KICKSTART Ventures, Inc. said it sees more opportunities to invest this year in startups that offer Internet-of-Things (IoT) innovations for “smarter living.”

“We are seeing a lot in network technology and IoT. We are seeing a lot of opportunities around connected devices. Some [startups] are locals and some of them are from overseas. This is the year that there are more and more companies that think how to make devices more intelligent, connect them to the cloud and help people analyze data,” Kickstart Vice President Joan Cybil Yao said in a recent interview.

Kickstart is a venture capital firm, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Globe Telecom, Inc. and backed by Ayala Corp. and SingTel. It has invested in 42 digital startups across seven countries since it was established in 2012.

“The bulk of our investments are here in the Philippines. The others are in the US, Canada, Israel, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia,” Ms. Yao said.

For her part, Kickstart President Minette B. Navarrete said the company is also looking to invest in areas that are relevant to the Ayala Corp. and the Department of Trade and Industry.

“We are faithful to the kind of future we want to build; hence, we have four descriptors for the future that we would like to build, and these four themes shape the kinds of investments we want to make,” she said.

The four investment themes, she said, are: A Frictionless Future, From Automation to Augmentation, Smarter Living, and A World of Plenty.

“How do we remove frictions for a regular person on a day to day basis? That’s what a frictionless future is… What we would also like to do is look for a technology which enhances the human capital and makes work less dangerous, less repetitive, more enriching, and more engaging. As for the smarter living, we are looking for a technology which makes people’s lives more secure, or maybe more enjoyable, or maybe helps them integrate better with other people in the community,” Ms. Navarrete said.

For the fourth theme, she said: “We are looking for solutions that are more reliable, more affordable, and more accessible to get services to wider population whether it’s water, energy or clean air.”

Ms. Navarrete said Kickstart started with $2.5 million seed fund in 2012, followed by $50 million growth fund in 2015.

“Last year, we got a new fund from Ayala, and that’s a commitment of $195 million,” she added.

On her assessment of the company’s performance last year, Ms. Navarrete said: “I think it was a big year for us. We nearly doubled the deal flow. We invested and raised more cash.”

Ms. Yao said the company is currently in talks with “quite a few” startups.

“We have presented them to our investment committee, and some are in the final stages of the deal while others are in the earlier stages,” she noted.