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Migrant Pinoys urged to invest in PHL startups

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By Patricia B. Mirasol, Multimedia Producer

DOLLAR-RICH Filipino migrant workers should start investing in local startups not only because of the potential returns but also because it is the right thing to do, according to nonprofit Endeavor Philippines.

“There’s the heart side of it,” Judge R. Calimbahin III, manager for entrepreneur experience at Endeavor, said of one of the reasons why overseas Filipino workers  would want to put their money in a startup.

“They want to give back to the Philippines,” he said in an e-mail. “There’s also the economic opportunity — we are one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia.”

Pickup Coffee, Kumu and NextPay are examples of local companies that have benefited from the support of the Filipino diaspora this year, Mr. Calimbahin said.

Venture capital and private equity funds in Philippine startups have grown more than 25 times since 2010, according to a report this year by Foxmont Capital Partners and Boston Consulting Group. The growth was driven by foreign investors entering the local market.

StartupBlink, a global startup map and research center, in a separate report said the Philippines has been making progress in becoming a formidable startup ecosystem in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Now’s the time to support [Philippine startups] because over the next few years, [economic] growth will skyrocket,” Mr. Calimbahin said.

The Philippine diaspora is one of the largest in the world, with more than 10 million Filipinos living and working overseas.

About 2 million of them were living in the United States as of 2021, according to data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Service.

In June, Endeavor Philippines hosted Balik*Bayan LA 2024, which connected Filipino founders, investors and creatives.

Among the attendees were representatives from the Filipino Young Leaders Program, a nonprofit that taps Filipino-Americans to promote Philippine development, and Apl.de.Ap Foundation International (APLFI), a nongovernmental group that supports poor Filipino youth.

APLFI’s projects have evolved since they started more than a decade ago, according to Executive Director Audie T. Vergara.

“We’re finding ourselves playing a role in economic development, helping to build the middle class here through projects like electric vehicles (EV) and semiconductor activity,” he said in a Zoom interview.

The foundation, he said, has signed a deal with the Asian Development Bank, and plans to train Filipino mechanics in EV maintenance.

“Cities are saying to themselves, ‘We want to electrify our city, but how?’” Mr. Vergara said. “Effectively, that’s what we’re making. We’re putting together the Philippines’ first center for excellence for EV technology.” 

The rising number of Filipino-Americans who want to give back to the Philippines is “partially rooted in identity,” he told BusinessWorld. 

“A lot of the Filipino Americans I happen to come across today have been schooled in the United States, but they really have this interest to come back here to take whatever they do — say, in Silicon Valley — to the Philippines,” he added.

There is a call to reverse brain drain, Mr. Calimbahin said. “Bring back everyone who has learned new things from abroad, and bring that knowledge in — and keep that knowledge — in the Philippines.”

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