A network science approach to building the startup ecosystem of the future

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Image Credit: Michelle Patrick on Shutterstock

‘Made in Germany’: the original merchandise mark was passed into law by the UK in 1887. The purpose was to prevent foreign manufacturers from marking inferior goods with the logos of renowned British brands. In just over a century, Germany has reinvented this into a tag that has a strong positive connotation in many parts of the world. Today, it is associated with high quality engineering.

That reputation is more befitting the original German innovation that ushered us into the modern world. And yet, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press was less a product of technological innovation than of pure ingenuity of combining existing technologies topped with entrepreneurial grit and a hefty serving of serendipitous circumstances. …


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Photo by German Eduardo Jaber De Lima on Unsplash

By now, we all know what a startup Unicorn is, thanks to the digital revolution of the last decade and the mainstream explosion of tech startups. The startup sub-culture has actually given birth to a lot of other startup animals out there. There are some more recognizable ones based on valuation, some known mostly by tech salespeople who use them to categorize customer types, and some obscure ones only familiar to industry insiders. You’ll find all of them below along with a new one that is quickly gaining fame in the fast growing startup ecosystems of Southeast Asia: Black Cats.

Quartz did a fantastic job of summarizing the valuation-based mythical creatures. Starting with Unicorns valued at $1B, which were quite rare half a decade ago, the taxonomy scaled upwards into Decacorns and Dragons, with valuations of $10B and $100B respectively. …


A 6-peat of VC lessons from everyone not named Michael Jordan

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Image Credit: Photo by Yuting Liu on Unsplash

I want to share some thoughts about The Last Dance from the lens of a basketball-obsessed venture capitalist. But l hate belabouring the obvious so I’ll focus on everyone not named Michael Jordan. In retrospect, the talent across the board in that dynastic Chicago Bulls team is crystal clear. But that’s rarely the case in the moment. I have a 6-peat worth of lessons to remember from “the others” in the docuseries.

Okay fine, let’s give MJ his proper due first. He is almost unanimously acknowledged as the Greatest-Of-All-Time in basketball. While I am still optimistic that Lebron has a few good years in him left to prove otherwise, I am in absolute awe of the single-minded drive of His Airness to dominate a sport. And yet, he was actually cut from his high school basketball team and was just the 3rd pick in his draft class. …


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Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

In 2018, we are mourning (well definitely not celebrating) two seemingly unrelated but (soon-to-be) obviously intertwined anniversaries. It is the 10 year anniversary of the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, with Lehman Brothers holding over $600 billion in assets at the time, triggering a massive global economic downturn. Much less infamous is the 20 year anniversary of the term ‘the war for talent’ being coined and a corresponding study being published in the McKinsey Quarterly. Allow me to connect the dots.

‘The war for talent’ was referring to ‘a severe and worsening shortage of the people needed to run divisions and manage critical functions, let alone lead companies.’ A core part of the argument was demographic, built on the exodus of baby boomers from the workforce. The paper provided a glimmer of hope projecting a market bottom for talent shortage in 2015, followed by steady improvements in the availability of talent. …


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Photo by Leon Ephraïm on Unsplash

In June 2017, I boarded a plane from Manila to Berlin. It was the 8th time over the past five years. Yet, it was very different from all the other trips. This time, I didn’t have a return flight.

Across two 8-hour plane rides bridged by a 4-hour layover, I buried myself in a book: The Geography of Genius. The premise was brilliant (genius, really):

“The appearance of genius fluctuates over place and time. Geniuses do not pop up randomly — one in Siberia, another in Bolivia — but in groupings. Genius clusters. Athens in 450 BC. Florence in AD 1500. Certain places, at certain times, produced a bumper crop of brilliant minds and good ideas. …


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Photo by Nicolai Berntsen on Unsplash

Last Monday, I wrote about large corporations needing to do adapt to the changing times to continue attracting the most talented business graduates. Yet, I wasn’t espousing an all out war for talent. On the contrary, there are many ways for corporates and startups to collaborate in this ongoing digital revolution. Just two days later, Germany immediately showed us one model to emulate. Daimler AG, the German automotive giant that owns the Mercedes-Benz brand, led a $30M investment in German start-up Volocopter, which is developing an electric autonomous flying taxi. …


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image credit: Unsplash

Some acronyms are more recognizable than others. Some acronyms are unrecognizable even when spelled out. Since I represent an MFO and I am asked quite often, let’s address this question once and for all: “By the way, what the hell are Multi-Family Offices?”

Let’s start with this:

Multi-Family Offices or MFOs are advisory firms that manage the wealth and resources of several families by investing across various asset classes.

It’s easier to distinguish an MFO by comparing with and contrasting against more common financial institutions, listed below.

  1. Banks— As the most ubiquitous financial institution, banks are the primary channel for savings. Retail banks solicit deposits from individuals while commercial banks focus on companies. In turn, these banks use the capital to deploy debt products, including personal and business loans. A private bank is a form of retail bank that caters exclusively to high net worth individuals. An MFO is similar to a private bank in the sense that it manages the wealth of several families who are looking for alternative investments with higher average returns. …


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image credit: www.johnnevitt.com

A little over 10 years ago, I had just completed HSBC’s 5-month Management Training (MT) Program in Manila and I was getting ready to join the Group Graduate Development Program (GGDP) in Bricketwood, England. GGDP was a roughly 2-month long program to allow the bank’s Management Trainees from all over the world to meet each other and take various modules in Finance and Management Development. That MTP-on-steroids turned out to be one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences of my life being the only Filipino in my batch composed of 92 trainees from 26 different countries.

In another corner of the world, the original iPhone had just been released, setting the stage for a tech revolution of massive proportions. In just a decade, the world has completely changed. The ubiquity of the iPhone and other smart gadgets has produced a generation of tech savvy business founders, who are looking to play an active part in creating the future rather than wait for their turn to lead in the corporate jungle. Tech startups continue to proliferate by the day as more and more talented young graduates decide to shun glamorous and high paying corporate gigs to be their own bosses or work with friends. But that’s only half of the story. Many more talented individuals are choosing to still be employees, but in startups and not large corporations. …


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image credit: CB Insights

Europe and Southeast Asia (SEA) had a bad break up. The Philippines was under Spanish rule for over 300 years. Indonesia was under Dutch rule for over 100 years. Both Malaysia, and the breakaway sovereign state of Singapore, were under British rule also for over 100 years. The three countries of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam (which was collectively known as French IndoChina) were under French rule for over 50 years. After World War 2, the decolonization process materialized gradually across SEA, but it was difficult and sometimes bloody. By 1984, the European powers had completely left.

Over 30 years later, few will argue that SEA wants its ex-colonizers back. On the contrary, sovereignty and independence have allowed the many nations of SEA to thrive separately under a unique blend of local culture and the remnants of its history of colonization. As an economic bloc, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been heating up (also discussed by Forbes here and by Jungle Ventures here) of late and its budding tech scene is starting to gather attention. With a digital population of 339M, SEA already has more people online than the entire population of the U.S. It’s upside is huge with a penetration rate of just 53% and year on year growth of 31%, according to a Hootsuite x We are Social report. …

About

Miguel Encarnacion

Managing Partner @ Unifier Ventures; Director of Financing and Investments @ Novel Capital; Company Scout @ German Accelerator

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