Kaya Founders and Sinigang Valley's Ateneo Startup Accelerator Program Brings Student Entrepreneurs to the Forefront
As Jose Rizal once said, “The youth is the hope of the future.” At the time, he was referring to government leadership and social action, but his words ring true for entrepreneurship as well. Startups inject innovation into the economy, and Kaya Founders and Sinigang Valley’s recently concluded Ateneo Startup Accelerator Program (ASAP) is doing just that. In just eight weeks, the program produced 10 startups in partnership with the Ateneo de Manila University John Gokongwei School of Management.
Leaders from the Philippine startup ecosystem collaborated with 50 young entrepreneurs over the course of two months, mentoring them on design thinking, problem-solving, innovative ideation, and more. ASAP incorporated workshops, lectures, team-building exercises, and one-on-one mentoring sessions, all of which culminated at ASAP’s Demo Day on January 27 when the student technopreneurs pitched their startups to their own panel of Shark Tank judges.
The judges were none other than Paulo Campos of Kaya Founders and Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng of JG Summit, along with Anthony Ouindjain of Boston Consulting Group, Nicha Suebwonglee of Amazon Web Services, Franco Varona of Foxmont Capital Partners, and Manny Ayala of Endeavor. Meanwhile, the program was hosted by Dean Roberto Martin N. Galang of the Ateneo John Gokongwei School of Management.
“I was super impressed by the pitches of the students and thought that many of them could actually be funded in real life. To think that this was the first-ever program and the kids only had eight weeks to create their pitches and their MVPs,” said Lisa Gokongwei-Geng of JG Summit. “This could be the start of a nationwide startup movement.”
Of the 10 startups, three were selected as the winners. All three won $5,000 in AWS credits to support their startup after the accelerator program, as well as internship opportunities at Kaya Founders.
First place went to Sansan Tech, a B2B construction marketplace that connects SMEs and gives them access to construction materials at discounted volume levels. Led by IT Entrepreneurship junior Jason Ho, the team also won an all-expense paid weekend vacation at Virgin Beach Resort.
Second place went to Buzzin, an F&B mobile ordering platform designed to make inuman nights easier by allowing users to order from bars while on the go. The team of Buzzin won TSLA shares on Stock.
And finally, third place went to Ok-Ok, an online ukay-ukay platform that consolidates ukay products online and provides quick selling, live shopping, and bidding for secondhand apparel. The team of Ok-Ok also won gift certificates from insta-grocery app DART.
“The quality of startups and entrepreneurs was truly inspiring,” shared Franco Varona of Foxmont. “Watching these young university students think meaningfully about the problem that they are trying to solve and ways to build sustainable businesses in a challenging environment makes me optimistic for the future of entrepreneurship in the Philippines.”
Meanwhile, Paulo Campos of Kaya Founders was impressed with the confidence in which the startups were pitched: "I felt the strongest aspect of the Demo Day was the level of intellectual rigor and insight the students displayed to really strike at the heart of why their idea would become a viable business."
“I enjoyed listening to the student pitches!” exclaimed Manny Ayala of Endeavor.
Aside from the winning teams, ASAP also produced the following startups: Kalakbay, a local travel adventure startup; Quest, a B2B travel planning startup; Eventa, an events marketplace; DigiTalyer, an E2E for workshops; DesignScapes, a creatives brand-building solution; UniFy, a dating app for college students; and Bullet by Seisco, a productivity note-taking app.
“The kids are so inspiring and creative. The dating app is very Gen Z-appropriate. Thankful for Kaya for putting this together and looking forward to seeing the future of the Philippines ecosystem,” said Nicha Suebwonglee of AWS.
Of the 10 startups created during the program, six teams will continue to develop their ventures beyond the program and 88.6 percent of participating students are even more interested in joining the Philippine startup ecosystem after graduation.
“As the project manager for the 8-Week Accelerator Program, I was thrilled to welcome Ateneo students to embark on an exciting journey to learn, grow and develop startups,” said Rambo Joinani, Venture Development Director at Kaya Founders. “We designed the Ateneo Startup Accelerator Program to support the young technopreneurs and aspiring leaders build their own solutions through the Agile design process.”