Growing mobile and digital adoption rates in the Philippines makes the country an ideal market for Kiwi tech businesses to dive in on, says New Zealand entrepreneur Rees Vinsen.
Rees Vinsen is founder of Adduco Media, a social marketing company that fosters online communities, manages social celebrities and builds brands across New Zealand, Australia, parts of Asia and the United States.
Adduco Media has evolved into a predictive marketing platform that helps brands design and distribute messages based on audience personalities and behaviours.
Vinsen, who divides his time between Nelson and Auckland, was one of five New Zealand tech entrepreneurs who spent a week in Manila, Philippines, as part of the ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative.
He spoke to Rebecca Inoue-Palmer while in Manila and shared his observations about the Philippine tech sector, barriers to entry into the market, and the country’s celebrity culture trends.
Why were you interested in learning more about the Philippines?
I was initially interested because of previous business dealings with another venture of mine, so I looked to explore other synergies and any other relationships that may be up here.
Looking into it now, and being on the ground here, I see there are many other companies, and more so, emerging tech companies, that have heavy applicability to what we are doing, so perhaps some future relationships there.
What do you think would be some of the advantages of doing business in the Philippines?
Working with the people. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the hospitality of the Filipino people, very nice, very welcoming and very helpful. They are more than happy to impart a lot of value. We’re seeing in a lot of our meetings that they are running twice as long as anticipated, purely because they have a lot of value to give us and to talk about.
The second advantage I see, and it’s frequently described, is that the Philippines is in this demographic sweet-spot for the next, some say, up to 20 years. I think that translates directly into a business hotspot. In considering mobile and digital adoption rates here, I think that presents very big opportunities and big markets for businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups to dive in on.
What are some challenges you’ve observed?
The primary challenge that comes to mind is the regulations and processes around doing business in the Philippines – the capital you have to have, the people you have to have from day one is a huge barrier. I haven’t seen it in many Western countries.
Relating that to New Zealand – in New Zealand, you can incorporate a company and the next day you can trade. Whereas here [in the Philippines] you can be waiting for up to, on average, five months. You need to have five directors in that company and a fair amount of cash upfront just to even get the idea signed-off, to become legal. That is a huge barrier to any start-up and to any foreign business that wants to see on-the-ground operations here. It’s a big barrier.
You work with influencers in New Zealand. Do you have any observations about the celebrity culture in the Philippines?
Celebrity culture in the Philippines has the same trends we find in New Zealand, Australia and the US – that many celebrities A, B and C grade are being heavily monetised, so they are looking personally at how to monetise their own presences. But then we are seeing big companies, we’re seeing telcos here, that are working with celebrities to monetise them in through games, through bundle packages and everything else.
We’re seeing hot little start-ups as well. We talked to one the other day that manages celebrities’ interactions, so fans can purchase interactions with that celebrity. So, a very, very big culture here and the approach here is very much more one-to-one. It’s a lot more personal than we see in New Zealand or the States, so that’s been quite interesting.
– Asia Media Centre
The ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative is managed by the Asia New Zealand Foundation for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It enables entrepreneurs from New Zealand and Southeast Asia to learn more about their respective markets and explore business opportunities by running sector-specific programmes.