Empowering the Finances of Filipino Youth: From Idea to Venture

Liz Sunga, COL ’24, Manila, Philippines

The cliches go on: no man is an island, Rome wasn’t built in a day, success is best when its shared… and this summer, these cliches became a reality for me. I’ve always admired individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit – from Steve Jobs of Apple, to Aaron Krause of Scrub Daddy, to me, these people represented a type of resilience and passion that were vital in innovating the world around us. Aspiring to be like one of them, this summer I interned with Kaya Founders, an up and coming Venture Capital firm in Manila, Philippines. Coming in as a Venture Development Intern, I was excited but did not know what to expect. I’ve only ever heard of the classic start-up buzzwords like accelerators, incubators, seed funding, etc. but I was yet to explore what exactly it takes to take an idea and turn it into a profitable, tangible, and innovative venture. This internship was especially valuable to me because Kaya Founders was the first VC firm of its kind in the Philippines. Because of the compounding effects of corruption, exploitation, and a lack of resources, my home country has been victim to slowed development that can make it hard for our nation to compete on the world market. Despite historically stagnant growth, I knew that this wasn’t representative of the Filipino people at all, and that given the right opportunities, institutions, and resources, so much progress can be made within
our country.

I was assigned to a team of 5 students from the Philippines and Singapore, and over the course of 8-weeks, we were tasked to create a venture from scratch, and pitch it to Kaya’s partners. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, it was far more complicated than that. The internship program had rigorous weekly demands, supported by daily sprints with one of the partners. In the first-week, we had to come up with our idea and a comprehensive six-pager, identifying a problem, our solution, and a GTM strategy. By the fourth-week, we already had to finish conducting hypothesis validation, and a prototype for a minimum viable product. This was an incredibly challenging task, but I learned a lot about the importance of discipline, collaboration, and perseverance. Although at times our daily sprints could feel bothersome, each meeting would always propel our progress farther than the last. In building our venture, our team naturally took roles in parts of our app that made them excel. I took charge of business development, others took charge of UI/UX, and others took charge of client communication. Even with our expertise, we all had the special opportunity to dip our toes in all aspects of the venture. I taught myself how to use Figma and Carrd to assist in the creation of our MVP prototype and landing page. I also received amazing mentorship from our partners and managers who had experience developing all different types of ventures in the Philippines, from health-tech, ed-tech, fin-tech, and even agri-tech – it was clear that our venture would be an example of how technology could accelerate Filipino progress.

Working with a team of similarly-minded aspiring entrepreneurs was also another incredible aspect of the experience. I consistently had my ideas challenged, and every time we would break down a good idea, we would work together to build it back up into a great reality. Although we had our differences, our desire for success emerged on top.

Our final product was a prototype for a personal finance app for young Filipinos that incentivized them to save through rewards and a gamified “city-builder” that grew with their savings and smart spending habits. As Gen Z enters the workforce and personal finance education is limited, we recognize the importance of providing resources to empower this audience, no matter how much money they’re starting with. We successfully pitched our venture twice to the managing partners of Kaya, received over 100 registrations for our waitlist, and received interest in potential mentorship from top fin-tech executives and entrepreneurs in the Philippines. We also received funding for our marketing campaign that garnered thousands of hits in just 2-weeks.

The experience was incredibly fulfilling – it was incredible to see an idea turn into a reality, knowing that my team and I’s passion fueled its creation. At the end of the day, whether or not our app actually makes it to the market, the lessons I learnt from this intensive internship has definitely refined my sense of creativity, my ability to problem solve, my active participation in teams, and my drive to continue contributing to the accelerated progress of the Philippines, one project at a time.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services