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‘Gender-lens’ investing  seen to boost funding  for women-led startups

By Justine Irish D. Tabile, Reporter

PRIVATE investors network Manila Angel Investors Network, Inc. (MAIN) said that there is a need to take into consideration gender-based factors across the investment process to empower more women-led startups.

“If you look at the entrepreneur level, there’s this massive gap in our economies because men’s ideas are getting funded, and women’s ideas and women’s companies struggle to get that funding,” MAIN Committee Chair on Women In Investing Tina Nepomuceno-Di Cicco said in an interview.

She added that only about 3% of venture capital is going to women, which is inadequate to help address the problems they face. Apart from financial barriers, women-led businesses also struggle with a lack of access to technology, relevant skills and training.

“What we’re trying to do with gender-lens investing is I invite you to look at this proposal from the view of gender. It doesn’t have to be men or women, but you look at this investment as this is something that would benefit both men and women,” she said.

“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of positive action, and a lot of consciousness in the corporate firm, for men, to be cognizant of this, to be more gender lens in their approach to investment, hiring projects, assignment, and the like,” she added.

Ms. Nepomuceno-Di Cicco said that there is a need to push women to lead as it will provide diversity in the organizations.

“If there’s diversity in the organization, decision making, live scanning and business planning is much better because there is diversity in thinking,” she said.

“It is important for us to make sure that those women are on the board. It is important for us to make sure that those women are being invested so that we can promote that,” she added.

Ms. Nepomuceno-Di Cicco said that women fund managers are the ones investing in women-led startups.

“But the thing is, only 18% of world fund managers are women. So, therefore, the amount of money that goes to women-led startups is only 18%,” she said.

She explained that this happens because women understand the propositions of women-led startups since they are looking through the same lens, while males understand it on a different level.

In MAIN, the network puts importance on gender-lens investing events wherein male and female speakers talk about the strategy.

“If men actually tell some male advocates to put their voice out there, it just helps us get the word out, not just to the women, but even to men,” MAIN Executive Director Quenby T. Go said.

To date, the investors network with more than 100 members has invested in 26 startups, 11 of which are women-led businesses while the remaining 15 are non-women-led.

“We have a lot of events that are also made to create awareness on gender-lens investing, environmental startups,” Ms. Go said.

“We have to invest in certain types of startups that are not just the normal good business model but are led by women founders or they support female communities or they have a Philippine nexus. These are the things that MAIN is here for,” she added.

EMERGING PHILIPPINE STARTUPMs. Nepomuceno-Di Cicco said that when she is asked to describe the startups in the Philippines, she would say they are emerging and have a positive outlook.

“We’re fifth on the list of rising startups in the country in Southeast Asia. Singapore is ahead of us, Indonesia is ahead of us, Bangkok and Malaysia are rising. But that shouldn’t stop us from being at least number three,” she added.

According to Ms. Nepomuceno-Di Cicco, there are three things that the Philippines should look into to push the startup industry: academe, corporate, and the government.

She said that universities in Germany and Singapore have integrated systems within the academe to come up with training, innovation and technology suitable for corporates.

“So, they come up with training, innovation and technology, and they fit it into the corporate. So that’s half of the picture,” she said.

“The next picture is the government, the government must be able to do to support these two things in our country,” she added.

Ms. Nepomuceno-Di Cicco said that the government should provide better taxation for startups and give them the ability to exit in many forms.

“We need better taxation for the startups. We need to have tax holidays for them. And second, we need to provide them with the ability to exit in different forms,” she said.

Startups currently have three options to exit, which are through a trade sale, initial public offering (IPO), or mergers and acquisitions, she said.

“The IPO is not currently available in our setup as the stock exchange is not set up for small companies to list,” she said.

Several local government units are offering accelerator programs together with private companies, said Ms. Nepomuceno-Di Cicco.

“They’re giving grants, they’re funding the startups, which is good, but we need to do that nationwide,” she said.

Aside from these, Ms. Go said that there is a need to revisit the support that is currently backing up the startup industry.

“One of the problems also that startups have told us is there’s so much red tape in the government in starting their business, that they have to go to Singapore to start there and set up their company there,” she said. “But if you’re a Philippine startup, you should be able to do it here.”

To the Department of Trade and Industry, Ms. Go said: “We need to be able to create an ecosystem here that will work for the Filipinos so that we don’t have to go to other countries.”

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