PH venture capitalist bets big on ‘inclusion’ tech startups

Talino Venture Labs is bullish on the prospects of three local tech startups focusing on inclusion technology.

Talino Venture Labs, headed by its CEO Winston Damarillo, said the three startups — Saphron, Asenso, and Unawa — all aim to “drive inclusion and access” for the “underserved.”

Photo shows Talino Venture Labs CEO Winston Damarillo (left) presenting the CEOs of Talino’s portfolio of startups — Lorenzo Chan Jr, CEO of inclusive insurtech Saphron, Julius Alip, CEO of Asenso, and Monalisa Dimalanta, CEO of Unawa

Saphron is a digital insurance platform focusing on making insurance “simple, accessible, affordable, and relevant,” according to CEO Lorenzo Chan.

Chan noted that the Philippines continue to have a low insurance penetration rate less than 1% of the gross domestic product or GDP, compared to 3.4% in Southeast Asia, and 6.3% global average. 

With Saphron, the startup hopes to provide insurance to millions of families and shatter the “myth” that insurance is an expense that most families cannot afford.

Asenso is positioning itself as an “accelerator” for the many microbusinesses in the Philippines which may not have access to credit.

Julius Alip, CEO of Asenso, said Asenso aims to “level the playing field for MSMEs (micro and small to medium enterprises) and give them a fair shot at growing and scaling.”

Alip explained that Asenso aims to make it easier for small businesses to secure the capital they need to start or grow their businesses.

Asenso is different from other micro lenders as it focuses on “sari-sari” store owners, farmers, and “agri-entrepreneurs.”

Unawa, meanwhile, is a “regulatory tech” startup that aims to make regulatory compliance as “pain-free as possible for enterprises and SMEs so they can focus on their core businesses.”

Monalisa Dimalanta, CEO of Unawa and partner at local law firm PJS Law, said companies across the world spend billions of dollars on compliance.

“When we help companies deal with the legal complexities of operating in a more digital world, we enable them to focus on their core businesses and unlock greater value for their companies,” Dimalanta said.

Talino Venture Labs is aiming to become one of Southeast Asia’s “unicorns.” A “unicorn” in the venture capitalist world means a company or group which has reached a valuation of $1 billion dollars.

In the Philippines, one such unicorn exists: Revolution Precrafted, which developed prefabricated designer homes.

For Damarillo, who also has vast experience as a venture capitalist in the US, the next Philippine unicorn could rise sooner than later.

He projected that in the next few years, the Philippines might see another unicorn. He attributes this projection to the vastly growing “Internet economy” valued at more than $100 billion and the more than 360 million mobile users in Southeast Asia today. The Philippine Internet economy stands to reach $25 billion with of gross merchandise value by 2025, which is more than triple of what it is today.

“What this points out if that we in Southeast Asia are no longer just in the sidelines of the internet economy,” Damarillo said.

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