The Philippines is a country with "a vast opportunity for improvement" in its economic competitiveness but one that its country’s entrepreneurs are pursuing. Switzerland-based non-profit organisation World Economic Forum, in its Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012, found the Philippines posted one of the largest improvements in its rankings, up 10 places to 75th. The rise was due to a reasonably good macroeconomic position and sophisticated businesses, albeit a situation let down by "poor" public institutions and infrastructure, the forum said. Its sophisticated businesses have attracted attention from overseas investors. Morphlabs, a provider of cloud infrastructure services to business founded by serial entrepreneur Winston Damarillo, raised $5m in its series C round from BBT (Japan) and an undisclosed Indonesian investment group. Damarillo is almost single-handedly trying to build a venture ecosystem in the Philippines. Still in his 30s, he founded Gluecode Software, an open-source application infrastructure company acquired by IBM in 2005 for about $50m; Logicblaze, which provided opensource development support and was acquired by Iona Technologies in 2007; Webtide, which helps developers using Java software and was acquired by Intalio; and Exist Software, which also develops software. Damarillo has also teamed up with Martin Lichauco, managing director for Asia of investment bank Siemer & Associates, to set up a venture capital firm, Global Gateway Venture Capital (G2VC). G2VC raised a $10m fund that has backed four local information technology start-ups and plans to raise $100m for its second fund. Of the four portfolio companies – Exist, Morphlabs, Maestro Dev and Infinite.ly – two were Damarillo start-ups. That these companies are on the radar of big US technology companies as buyers follows the close ties between the two countries. MorphLabs has an office in Los Angeles, California, as well as Manila, the Philippines capital, while Paco Sandejas, managing partner of Narra Venture Capital, one of the few venture capital firms based in the Philippines, is a graduate of Stanford University in the US. With Lichauco having also worked previously for US investment bank Hambrecht & Quist, as well as venture capital firm Walden International, the Philippines is attracting talent back to the country. These so-called "sea turtles" – expatriates who return after gaining experience overseas, usually in the US -have been a large factor behind the growth of venture ecosystems in other countries, notably China, where the term originated. Key indicators 2010Population: 93.6 millionGross domestic product: $188.7bnGDP per capita: $2,007GDP as share of world total: 0.47%Source: Global Competitiveness Index 2011-12 rankings byWorld…
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Innovative regions: Philippines
Oct 6, 2011 • James Mawson
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