IdeaSpace Philippines invests P3 million in three startups operating in the Philippines. Agro Digital PH, Humble, and Workbean will be receiving P1 million each as the investment firm and early-stage startup accelerator closes its 2020 acceleration program.
People cannot stress enough how the pandemic accelerated digital transformation and the Philippine startup ecosystem found a renewed activity as digital transactions are strongly encouraged to curb the spread of COVID-19.
An agriculture value-chain solutions firm (Agro Digital PH), a sustainability living startup (Humble), and a recruitment marketing company (Workbean) found pain points in different industries that are worth investing in their time, skills, and passion.
“This year’s batch has proven that the caliber of startups coming out of the Philippine ecosystem has been improving and that local startup support organizations are doing an excellent job at preparing startups for the next phase of their startup journey,” said Diane Eustaquio, executive director, IdeaSpace. “We’re excited to support this cohort’s growth and development with resources from our donors and partners.”
Agro Digital PH
Investment in Agro Digital PH (founded in 2019) is a timely move as prices of agricultural products in the country are severely affected by the crisis.
Founder Henry James Sison is hoping to help farmers not only to raise their income but also to equip them with appropriate skills to run their farms. More importantly, Sison said he wants to connect farmers to the market, “specifically the institutional buyers” to ensure that they get a fair price for their hard work.
“It is a matter of aggregating or consolidating organized farmer groups and connecting them to the market,” Sison said. “The differentiation of Agro Digital PH is more on trying to keep track of production management as well as forecasting. That basically sets us apart from all the other agrotech companies.”
Agro Digital PH is a digital platform that basically organizes and modernizes processes for farmers. It facilitates the operations of organized smallholder farmers (cooperatives) from aggregating demand (marketplace) through synchronized production activities (production forecasting and management), and fulfillment (delivery logistics), and settlements (digital currency). It links farmer groups with each other giving them a heads up on market activity. The startup’s operations are focused on the Calabarzon and Ilocos.
Eustaquio is keeping her hopes up that Agro Digital PH, having a more mature founder than previous ones, will advance to the next stage of the ecosystem. In the past nine years, IdeaSpace has been investing in startups focused on agriculture because, according to Eustaquio, they were coming up with innovations that really want to help the sector, the Philippines being an agriculture country.
Josef Werker, CEO, and Nina Opida, COO, Humble (founded 2019) realized that to help the environment, they also need to help people who don’t know where and how to start a sustainable lifestyle. The premise is simple, Humble will either pick up or receive the clutter people want to throw away and they recycle or sell them. Humble describes itself as a value-driven marketplace promoting circular living.
Werker believes that Humble’s revenue model is sustainable enough because e-commerce is booming and platforms that offer preloved items proved are also thriving these days.
“It was essential to us, at a very early point, to come up with something to make it as easy as possible for people to live sustainably,” Werker said. “There is just no excuse not to buy into that fact.”
Humble is using (and developing) different revenue streams. With B2B partners (recyclers), there are at least two ways to generate revenue. The recyclers can either buy items from Humble or Humble will sell their clutter and split the revenue.
“But more excitingly is the high-impact revenue streams such as raw materials, breaking down items of precious metals, which we are looking more to develop throughout 2021,” Werker said.
Humble is working with local designers of various items who create or redesign collected items from other people’s clutter. They make revenue from the final products.
Workbean (founded in 2018) is a recruitment platform that matches employers and talents based on company culture.
“Our work goes through the three-step process,” said Kass Monson, co-founder and CEO. “First, we try to help companies identify their culture. Then we build their profiles using the Workbean platform. And third, use the platform to attract the right talent.”
Workbean also provides research to help companies understand and find the gaps in the current environment. The startup adopts the subscription model in offering its services that enable clients to show all their company’s benefits and amenities, post unlimited jobs, and show video testimonials. of their employees talking about what it’s like to work at the company.
The younger workforce has a different set of requirements and employee retention has become a critical factor in hiring for many organizations.
PH startup ecosystem
“Our startups rose to the challenge of continuing to do business in the middle of a global crisis,” said Buth Meily, president, IdeaSpace. “I am confident that even after the pandemic, our startups will continue to thrive. They are right in the sweet spot of the Philippine economy.”
Meily pointed out the massive digital shift in the last months of different levels of quarantine and lockdown. He noted that changes that would have taken two to three years are now happening within months. People, across all generations, are left with a choice of resorting to digital solutions.
“The startups are primed to take advantage of this,” Meily said. “I expect that the revenues will be moving up, and for the best of them, and hopefully, they’ll be able to take advantage of the opportunity.”