A tasty treat for the country’s startups and investors.
Some might find the name funny, but the collective behind Sinigang Valley is dead serious about what they want it to be: a community of startups, investors, academia, and related industries that will become the “cornerstone” of the startup ecosystem in the Philippines. That it’s located in Poblacion in Makati, one of the city’s hippest hangouts and nightlife ground zero (pre-pandemic) is no accident.
It all started with a conversation among the founders of startup superstar Kumu, who took daily walks along Palma Street in Poblacion as they scouted for a location to house some of their employees and livestreamers. Through Foxmont Capital Partners, a local venture capital fund focused on Filipino-founded startups, the Kumu guys were connected to Alternative Housing Group (AHG), a tech startup and property tech incubator. Turns out AHG was developing properties around Poblacion, and so Kumu was able to secure a unique co-working space and dormitory equipped with a gym, rooftop, game room, and other unique amenities for its team.
Introducing Sinigang Valley
“We made the introductions, and the idea of creating a collaborative community grew from there,” Franco Varona, managing partner of Foxmont Capital Partners tells Esquire Philippines. “The name specifically came from Rexy Dorado, co-founder of Kumu. And the ethos of collaboration and inviting other startups to join the community came from Roland Ros, the other co-founder of Kumu.”
“What if we call it Sinigang Valley?” Dorado said out loud one day when the group got together to brainstorm and share their visions about the future of office spaces. It was, of course, a pun on Silicon Valley, that area in San Francisco that has become known the world over as the breeding ground of successful tech companies. The name clicked instantly; it was catchy, culturally meaningful, and referenced a beloved and very Filipino dish. According to the group, Sinigang Valley also captures the vision of something that is able to take in a diverse mix of influences while remaining uncompromisingly Filipino. Plus, it’s driven by culture (including but not limited to food) as much as technology.
“Once (Kumu) committed to their first building, Foxmont followed, along with some other venture capital funds,” Varona says. “Today, new startups continue to look closely at the space to house their offices. It isn't patterned after any specific location, but does try to foster that ethos of collaboration between startups, investors and even academia that is seen in places like Silicon Valley in California and Block71 in Singapore.”
It certainly helped that Poblacion itself has seen its share of gentrification over the years. Having transformed into a favorite nightlife spot before the onset of COVID-19, the next chapter for this section of the metropolis seems to be, as the brains behind Sinigang Valley puts it, “as a beautiful, humble area for companies that are looking to create visionary ideas and bring it to life.”
“Entrepreneurship can be a lonely and sometimes desolate journey,” they say. “What better way to support the next wave of entrepreneurs by giving them an environment to feel supported and inspired.”
And in case you were curious about exactly where Sinigang Valley is, the group says it occupies the area right smack dab in the middle of Poblacion, between Makati Avenue, P. Burgos Street, J.P. Rizal Avenue and Palma Street.
Locators and collaborators
Just over a year since prep work for this sizzling concoction began, Sinigang Valley has already attracted quite a few big names within the small but thriving local startup scene. In addition to pioneering members Kumu, AHG, and Foxmont Capital Partners, other collaborators include Draper Start-Up House and Zalora.ph; investment companies like Gobi-Core Philippines Fund and GenTree, which has committed to take office spaces there from the investor side; hospitality groups like Square One Hospitality Concepts and Araw Hospitality Group, public relations agencies such as Evident PR; and even Endeavor Philippines, the local outfit of the global network of high-impact entrepreneurs.
Besides Varona and Ros, the initial network of Sinigang Valley collaborators includes MyTown Co-Living CEO Mark Kooijman, Square One Hospitality CEO Jenny Yrasuegui, Qwikwire CEO Edison Ray Refundo; and Endeavor Philippines co-founder and managing partner Manny Ayala.
Since word started going around about the group, Sinigang Valley’s pioneering set of officers says they have received multiple inquiries from creative agencies, startups, wellness brands, and other VCs looking to move into the neighborhood. The group says they welcome virtually anyone who wants to move to the area.
“We encourage a spirit of entrepreneurship and a passion for Philippine culture,” they say. “For the Sinigang Valley Association group, we are still building our membership packages that will range for college students to emerging entrepreneurs.”
“Anybody interested in being a part of a vibrant, collaborative neighborhood is welcome to move in and join the association!” Varona adds.
Of course, the question now is what Sinigang Valley would look like with the pandemic pretty much ruining the recipe for what was supposed to be a great-tasting dish. But Varona is unperturbed. After all, the idea for the collective was born in the midst of the pandemic, not before, so you can tell that the group is firmly focused on a future where in-person collaborative exchanges will once again become the norm.
“Communities are built on interaction,” he says. “Currently we interact vis a vis our phones and laptops, but we do see a future where a collaborative community is built on face-to-face interaction again. We are optimistic about this post-pandemic reality in Sinigang Valley.”
“We just want to create a neighborhood of positive and uplifting energy in our city, where all creative ideas are properly supported,” the Sinigang Valley “chefs” say. “We want to help entrepreneurs feel empowered to win.”