Manila, Philippines

Lessons from Investagrams InspirePH 2018 (Part 2)

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Investagram’s #InspirePH2018 that was held last April 28 at SMX MOA featured 2 parts, the morning session was mostly on stocks trading (click here for Part 1) while the afternoon sessions focused on a more diverse topic such as cryptocurrencies, Cropital, start-up businesses and venture capitalists. I personally found the discussion on crypto very informative, while the start-ups and venture capitalists exciting and inspiring. Good that more people got to know Cropital too. Sharing here my notes, the lessons and additional insights (in italics) for the afternoon session. Again, if you missed Part 1, you may click here.


  • Ruel Amparo, Cropital founder
  • Cropital is crowdfunding platform that bridges investors and rice farmers
  • Cropital advocates “impact investing” which is more sustainable
    • It is not philanthropy or charity
    • It is not merely a socially inclined company
    • It does not mean there is no expectation of ROI from its investments
  • They decided to focus on rice farming problems due to
    • lack of funding and access to cheap credit
    • low productivity due to lack of research and technological tools
    • aid in food security for the country
    • farmers end up in debt
  • Cropital does the following
    • Vet the farms and farmers
    • Match with investors
    • Provide support
    • Grow the investors and farmers returns
  • Investors provide money for rice production loans
    • Fixed 3% to 5% ROI for investors
    • 4 to 6 months
    • Insurance for the farms
    • 5% goes to Cropital
  • Cropital does not give the money to farmers but buy needed seedlings, fertilizers and other supplies, then provide these for farmers. They also bridge training-providers to farmers
  • Right now they have 30K investor/lenders, USD30,000 disbursed so far
  • Visit Cropital website for more details


  • Natasha Bautista, former Grab Car Head, founder of QBO (‘kubo’) Innovation Hub
  • Message for fellow millenials
    • See the big picture
    • No need for conform, follow your ambition
    • Say no to no
    • Change mindset of people, find a solution
    • Be stubborn, start-up founders are stubborn (such as Bezos, Musk, Jobs) because they are achievers
  • QBO is the first public-private initiative that caters to start-ups (backed by DTI, JP Morgan, IdeaSpace of MVP group)
  • Supported 200 start-ups so far, 2000 on their list (in our own small way, we also provide free ads and press releases for start-ups. See here.)
  • They offer everything for free, every Juan is invited in their networking nights to get more connections in life



  • Ginger Arboleda of TaxSumo, Christian and Denise
  • TaxSumo was born on the need for small businesses to be able to file their taxes easily
  • What need can you address? (What’s your million peso business idea?)
  • Resources shouldn’t be an issue, know your strengths, look for co-founders to complement you
  • Start-ups are a matter of mindset, know you reasons (and keep on coming back to these reasons)
  • Recommended books:
    • Four-hour Workweek
    • Lean Start-ups
    • Don’t Make Me Think
    • Design of Everyday Things
    • Automatic Millionaire
  • Rituals: PREM every morning (Pray, Read, Exercise, Meditate)


  • Unicorns in US are start-ups that are able to raise USD 1billion
  • Butch from IdeaSpace, start-up coach RD of BrainSparks (incubators of businesses), and Jojo from Plug & Play (has investments in DropBox and Paypal)
  • IdeaSpace
    • Top 10 start-ups annual competition: PHP 1M price
    • Opportunity fund: follow-on funding for start-ups
  •  BrainSparks
    • 20 start-ups incubation
    • They spend on the start-ups but don’t give them money
    • Part of First Asia Corp Network, First Asia VC
  • Plug & Play
    • With investments in 800 companies globally (e.g. PayPal, Dropbox, Soundhound)
    • Accelerators. They bridge start-ups to large corporations
    • Launch Garage in PH
  • How do you vet start-ups?
    • Management team
    • Market potential
    • Actual revenues + potential (it can’t be a mere idea or plan only, better if operational)
    • Team, Technology, Traction


  • It is a storage of value, much like any currency
  • It’s digital and uses computed codes to guaranty “enforceable scarcity” and limited supply to maintain it’s value. It’s not like a soft copy of a file that you can just copy-paste and multiply
  • It’s like digital gold, decentralized, no one government managing it
  • Uncensorable, accessible everywhere as long as with internet
  • Relatively new that is why many parties speculate
  • Bitcoins vs scams. How to identify scams?
    • No minimum requirement to buy bitcoin. Juan can buy the smallest amount of bitcoin since it’s just a storage of value. If with minimum requirement, be careful
    • No guaranteed returns (again since it’s just a storage of value. If there is guaranteed return, think twice!)
    • No marketing, no promises. (It is more of e-wallet, you buy it using your local currency and convert it to this digital currency that you can use to transact with select merchants.)
    • It should be in your digital wallet, not held by someone else on your behalf
  • What is blockchain?
    • Shared database, maintained by every one, distributed ledger system
    • No single point of failure, every one manages it, consensus mechanism
    • Bitcoin in itself has no value, the network around it gives it value. Much like gold, it has value because every one in the market agreed to give it such value, but in reality copper is more useful for industrial use
    • Global perception of value, too volatile right now (because the world is still digesting it’s possible applications, and acceptability)
    • Bitcoin is just 9 years old, other asset classes have been around for more than 100 years and yet, still volatile
    • People put value to it depending on the transactions and exchanges of hands involved
  • References:, Satoshi CItadel, Bitbit, Upwire, Cryptocurrencies Philippines


  • Ronald Robinson Robins, owner of Mineski, multinational gaming cafe
  • Cebuana, started with no capital
  • Mineski
    • Cybercafe
    • Professional team for international games
    • Organizes gaming events
    • Dreamt of a crashing plane, someone was shouting “mineski!”
  • Started as DOTA team
  • Started in family-owned business (importation of tiles), his own ideas were always rejected
  • You can only do big things if you work with partners
  • In 2008, they put up an internet cafe with PHP1.4M capital each (5 friends). Ronald wasn’t able to convince his father to lend him PHP1.4M, it was his father’s friend who lent him money
  • Brought ideas from overseas, found a foreign partner in Kenchi Yap
  • Consulted with Francorp on how to make their business franchise-ready. Need to put up standards, documentations, manuals and procedures (to ensure quality and consistent application in various branches)
  • Now has 140 branches in South East Asia, 60% company owned
  • Lesson: work with partners, move in one direction
  • Realization: What is there in other countries that make DOTA teams so great, that’s not available here in PH? — Answer is gaming competitions, foreign players get to train and compete with the best
  • Set examples and industry standards
  • Gaming is now a real profession, with lucrative pay, with coaches and team managers
  • Be not afraid of the future. Find out what the market needs, not what the wallet needs.

Pretty interesting topics huh? Personally, I found the discussion on Crypto and Mineski very informative and inspiring indeed. And it’s good that Cropital got more publicity during the event as the other popular crowdfunding platforms are also strong. We can expect more and more crowdfunding platforms to be born soon. Personally eager for more start-ups. Let’s do this!

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