During the seventh episode of new podcast series IN BETWEEN presented by Tech Sabado and Newsbytes.PH, startup “rockstar” Earl Valencia narrated his journey from being a Silicon Valley-based tech executive to a co-founder of local startup incubators and now back in the US as one of the man behind a lending startup focused on the Philippines.
A native of Davao, Valencia took his primary and secondary education in the Philippines. He was already on this 3rd year in the UP College of Engineering in Diliman when he migrated with his family to the US. There, he obtained his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from Boston University, finishing summa cum laude. He then acquired a Masters in Systems Engineering degree from Cornell University and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
“After Stanford, I was very lucky that one of my professors was the first CEO of Cisco. He said that I should apply in Cisco, in a small new division they called the incubation unit. The aim was to find, filter, and basically select the next billion-dollar business of the company,” he reckoned.
He got in and became exposed to emerging technologies at Cisco’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. As one of the few Filipinos working there, he eventually got acquainted with his local counterparts in Cisco, particularly Stephen “Tep” Misa, who was then the country manager of Cisco Philippines. It was Misa who invited him for a speaking engagement in the country where he eventually got to meet the top executives of PLDT, which was then a major customer of Cisco.
One his way back to the US, he received an offer from no less than the big boss of PLDT, Manny V. Pangilinan. After thinking it over, he came home to serve as vice president of corporate development and innovation at Smart Communications. Valencia then co-founded the IdeaSpace Foundation and QBO Innovation Hub — two of the pioneering startup incubators in the country.
To date, IdeaSpace has supported 107 startups and mentored more than 300 entrepreneurs. “It’s a place where people who have good businesses or business ideas come and basically build the first iteration of their business. We provide them with mentorship, access to potential investors, and knowledge experts,” he said.
Valencia was also the co-founding advisor of QBO, a public-private effort in the Philippines that was established to help accelerate the growth and learning of startups and entrepreneurs.
For his work in the burgeoning startup scene, he was named in 2013 as one of DevEx’ Manila 40 under 40. He was was also honored as a Ten Outstanding Young Men awardee for achievements in innovation, and Young Global Leader and Davos participant by the World Economic Forum in Geneva.
“Eventually, we built a conference in APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) called Slingshot with the DTI. Slingshot became the first large-scale government organized innovation startup event in history,” he recalled.
But in 2015, he resigned from Smart and went back to New York to head the corporate data partnerships and program management for American investment management firm Bridgewater Associates. After that, Valencia served as director for Dell EMC’s product strategy, incubation, and business development arm for two years.
After his stints in the corporate world, it was only a matter of time before Valencia went back to his old stomping grounds. Teaming up with fellow Pinoy tech executive Kevin Gabayan, they co-founded the fintech company Plentina, which aims to bring affordable credit lines to the unbanked in emerging economies . In the Philippines, the online lending app can process store credit or prepaid load loans in under five minutes, payable through mobile wallet GCash or GrabPay.