President Earl Valencia likens demo day to an event all Filipinos are familiar with. “A simple way to think of it is to compare it to 'graduation' for a traditional academic institution, wherein the school (accelerator), along with faculty and others (mentors), hosts an event to celebrate a graduating batch of students’ (startups) completing a program,” Valencia said.
Valencia noted that while the highlight of any demo day is the “startup pitch” – the presentations given by startups to introduce themselves and their products – each demo day has its own feel and format.
“In the case of Ideaspace’s 2014 Demo Day, true to the Filipino flair for throwing a good party, in addition to having our startups give their pitches, we’ll be having a whole day event of panel discussions, speakers, performances, raffles, demo booths, and of course, food!” he said.
Despite the festive atmosphere, Valencia was quick to explain how significant the event would be for all the stakeholders involved. “For the founders, the goal of demo day is to get the word out about their startups and products, and attract the interest and attention of potential users and investors,” he said.
“Investors and other stakeholders, on the other hand, come to demo day to be the first to learn about the latest innovations, especially curated by accelerators, and also to scout for their potential next big investment.”
In other words, the value of Ideaspace’s demo day for any attendee is time saved. “It’s a great opportunity for everyone simply because it’s not always that you get to have so many players in the ecosystem all in one place,” Valencia said, segueing into his pitch for why anyone interested in the tech world should attend.
“The cool thing with demo days is that it gives unprecedented access to a variety of startups, all of which were honed through the several months of intensive mentoring and training leading up to this event,” Valencia said.
“On top of that, it’s a great chance to network with investors, founders, accelerators and other stakeholders in the so called ‘ecosystem’ and listen to our speakers and panelists share their knowledge and experience for aspiring entrepreneurs,” Valencia concluded.
Preparing for Demo Day
So how does Ideaspace Foundation help get its startups ready for its national debut on demo day? This batch of 10 startups was selected from a wider pool of startups this past June.
Ideaspace Foundation executive director Diane Eustaquio explained the kind of support they give to their portfolio companies. “All the benefits we have included in our acceleration program were carefully considered - and we believe they are the essential elements to enabling our portfolio companies to launch successfully,” she said.
Eustaquio noted that such benefits include seed investment (startup capital), access to other investors, mentorship and consultation from expert mentors and advisers, entrepreneurship courses at Asian Institute of Management and an in-house development program, operational support (office space, free Internet, housing, incorporation/legal/IP assistance), and links to great partners locally and internationally.
Some benefits are especially unique. “[You can achieve] market runway with the ‘MVP Group’ of companies, in terms of having the opportunity to pilot with and access industry leading companies such as PLDT-Smart, Meralco and the country’s largest private hospital network, among others,” Eustaquio said.
Much of the mentorship that Ideaspace Foundation provides its portfolio companies relates to the soft skills that are crucial to entrepreneurial life. “One part of the program is learning about sales and raising funding, and having access to mentors that would help them refine their pitch and presentation skills,” said Katrina Chan, Ideaspace’s associate director for growth and strategy.
“In my view, however, nothing prepares a startup better than practice and knowing their respective markets and products inside out. In that respect, we spend a lot of time giving the startups feedback during the program that helps them understand their market, tighten their vision of their product and hence hopefully make their story more focused and compelling which is really key to delivering that killer pitch,” Chan said.
Ideaspace’s current batch of entrepreneurs got to practice these skills as revenue day, which according to Chan marked the halfway checkpoint of the program. While the companies unveiled their early prototypes at revenue day, Chan was quick to add, “...Demo day was always the big test.”
Global spotlight on the Philippines
Some of their startups are already attracting attention from the global community going into demo day. “For example, there’s SALt, which is the saltwater powered lamp, is always a crowd pleaser and has gotten a lot of attention from a social impact perspective,” Eustaquio said. “SALt really has the potential to be a game-changer for those without access to the grid.”
While SALt can improve access to light for millions of Filipinos and people across the world, the product itself is surprisingly simple. “It’s really amazing when one sees the lamp light up for the first time, just by adding something as clean, simple, and inexpensive as ordinary water and table salt,” Eustaquio said, before adding, “Their latest version can even charge your smartphone through a USB cable!”
According to Eustaquio, SALt has been chosen to represent the country at the Young Entrepreneurs Society competition in South Korea. SALt is not alone in garnering international attention. “There’s also R-TAP which just came off the heels of a 2ndplace win in the last IBM Smart Camp in Singapore, even as they were one of the few rookie teams,” she said.
“Their cost-effective, technology driven approach to managing the water supply is something that’s sorely needed in rapidly growing countries such as the Philippines and can really be scaled to other emerging markets,” Eustaquio continued.
Philippine history in the making?
Chan also wanted to emphasize how important demo day is to all Filipinos – not just those who are a part of the tech community. “What I want to say is that I don’t think most Filipinos realize how exciting it is that we’re doing this at all and how far we’ve come, and why they should be excited about Filipino startups in general,” she said.
Chan explained further why Ideaspace may be historically significant. “In the course of a few months, Ideaspace has taken what were once just ideas floating around in our founder’s heads and helped transform them into legit products and startups. And we didn’t do this once, but ten times, in the last half year,” she said.
“In the not too distant past, this was simply unheard of – and now Ideaspace is doing it here in the Philippines, with original ideas and innovations, Philippine-based founders, Philippine-based startups. Filipinos need to be excited about demo day because our startups just might be making history here,” Chan continued.
Chan and the Ideaspace team see tech entrepreneurship as one path to Philippine prosperity. “I remember having this discussion with the team back when Ideaspace was just starting out in 2012 about how the revenues of a handful of Silicon Valley startups all started by less than 3 people (I think it was Google, Oracle, HP, Apple, Cisco, Intel) that year was greater than the GDP of the entire Philippines,” she said.
“Even today, it’s almost impossible to comprehend the wealth and value being created by an even newer crop of innovations – from Facebook to Uber – that have been disrupting every space imaginable around the world, and a lot of it is being done not by your traditional corporate behemoths, but by startups,” Chan went on. “The Philippine public should really keep an eye open for the cool things that are being done in this space – there’s no limit to what can be accomplished, and that’s really exciting.” - Rappler.com