Top Fintech Influencers in The Philippinesby Fintech Philippines March 29, 2022
Esquire magazine has released its selection of the top fintech influencers in the Philippines, recognizing the men and women shaking up the industry, the investors and thought leaders directing the conversation, and the startup founders to watch for closely.
This year’s list includes a handful of fintech startups founders and investors, reflective of how fast the sector has grown and matured over the past years.
Out of Esquire’s inaugural Trailblazers List, we’ve curated those specializing in fintech and digital financial services, and categorized them in three main groups: the entrepreneurs behind the Philippines’ fintech success stories, the fintech investors and thought leaders, and the fintech founders to follow.
Here are the top fintech influencers in the Philippines:
The founders behind the Philippines’ fintech success stories
Francis Plaza, Jaime Hing and Luis Sia, co-founders of PayMongo
PayMongo, a dominant player in the local fintech industry, is a payment gateway that allows businesses to accept online payments from their customers online via credit card, e-wallets and over-the-counter. Its products include PayMongo API and e-commerce plugins. The company says that its merchant base has grown from 3,000 in September 2020 to 9,000 in early 2022, while monthly transactions tripled from the start of 2021 to the end of the year. It was the first Filipino fintech startup to be incubated by Y Combinator.
PayMongo is led by co-founders CEO Francis Plaza, CTO Jaime Hing, and chief commercial officer Luis Sia. Last year, the co-founders launched 335 Fund, a firm that invests in “crazy early-stage founders” in the Philippines. Recent investments include NextPay, a digital bank for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and Peddlr, a point-of-sale (POS) mobile app that micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Nichel Gaba, founder and CEO of PDAX
Nichel Gaba is the founder and CEO of PDAX, the Philippines’ leading cryptocurrency exchange. Founded in 2017, PDAX, which stands for Philippine Digital Asset Exchange, allows users to trade popular cryptocurrencies and digital assets including bitcoin and ether. The company claimed over 450,000 users in mid-2021, and is licensed and regulated by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
Prior to founding PDAX, Gaba spent his entire career in the financial markets, including banking, asset management, trust and securities services.
Ernest Cu, president and CEO of Globe Telecom, and Martha Sazon, president and CEO of Mynt
Ernest Cu is the president and CEO of Global Telecom, a major provider of telecommunications services in the Philippines. The company operates the largest mobile network in the Philippines and one of the largest fixed-line and broadband networks.
Meanwhile, Martha Sazon is the president and CEO of Mynt, a partnership between Globe Telecom, Ant Group, Ayala Corporation and Bow Wave which operates GCash. GCash is the Philippines’ biggest startup success story and the country’s first official unicorn.
In 2021, Sazon successfully led the exponential growth of GCash. From its 20 million base users in 2020, the e-wallet now has more than 40 million active users, or 70% of the country’s adult population as users.
Orlando B. Vea, founder and CEO of Voyager Innovations
Orlando B. Vea is one of the Philippines’ most successful digital entrepreneurs, having founded several tech companies including Smart Communications, a wireless communications and digital services provider that was acquired by PLDT in the 2000s, and Cignal, now the leading direct to home digital cable channel in the country.
In 2013, Vea led the formation of Voyager Innovations, the digital innovations unit of PLDT and Smart where he serves as CEO. Voyager Innovations together with its various spin-out businesses including FINTQnologies, Takatack Technologies, and PayMaya Philippines, a leading digital financial services provider, now form the Voyager Group. PayMaya Philippines secured a digital banking license last year. Maya Bank is scheduled to launch by the end of Q1 2022.
Greg Krasnov, founder and CEO of Tonik
Greg Krasnov is the founder and CEO of Tonik, a digital bank launched in Philippines in 2021. Tonik operates with its own license and provides consumer products ranging from deposits and payments, to debit cards and loans. The company said in December 2021 that it had secured over PHP 5 billion or around US$100 million in consumer deposits and more than 190,000 customers. Its holding company is Singapore-based Tonik Financial.
Prior to Tonik, Greg co-founded and chaired multiple other successful Asian fintech companies, including Forum, a fintech venture builder in Asian emerging markets, and Platinum Bank, a consumer bank in emerging Europe. Before that, he spent 10 years in private equity at Bank of America in London and Innova Capital in Warsaw.
The fintech investors and thought leaders
Franco Varona, Jesse Maxwell and Mark Kooijman of Foxmont Capital Partners
Franco Varona, Jesse Maxwell and Mark Kooijman run Foxmont Capital Partners, a leading Filipino-based and Filipino-focused venture fund focusing on early-stage funding.
The fund invested in 15 Filipino startups in 2021 alone and has backed a number of fintech startups including NextPay, Denarii, a local and international bills payment, approval based-spending and accounting automation platform, Talino, an award-winning global venture studio for inclusive fintech, and Peddlr.
Minette Navarrete, Dan Siazon, and Joan Yao of Kickstart Ventures
Minette Navarrete, Dan Siazon, and Joan Yao lead Kickstart Ventures, a corporate venture capital (CVC) firm and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Globe Telecom. Kickstart Ventures invests in early- to early-growth stage tech startups globally, and serves as an advisor to the Ayala Corporation Technology Innovation Venture Fund established by AC Ventures together with various Ayala group business units.
The CVC firm has invested in a number of fintech startups including NextPay, LenddoEFL, a company offering alternative data credit scoring, identity verification and insights product in emerging markets, Xendit, an Indonesian payment gateway and startup unicorn, and Flex by Finaxar, business payment and spend management solution.
Elmer “Jojo” Malolos, CEO of JG Digital Equity Ventures
Elmer “Jojo” Malolos is the CEO of JG Digital Equity Ventures Inv. (JGDEV), JG Summit’s CVC arm, and the CEO of Data Analytics Ventures (DAVI). He’s also the president and co-CEO of GoTyme, an upcoming digital bank in the Philippines licensed by the central bank.
Malolos has extensive experience in the digital financial services space. He was formerly the CEO of Wing, one of Southeast Asia’s leading mobile banking service provider; a managing director of Cignifi, a big data consumer analytics firm for financial services using non-traditional credit scoring solutions; and a managing partner for AccessOneBillion (A1B), a management consulting firm on mobile money.
Paulo Campos of Kaya Founders
Kaya Founders is a newly-formed early-stage fund focusing on local and regional startups in the fields of financial services, e-commerce, transportation and logistics, and health, among others. Kaya Founders has invested in the likes of bNext,
The VC is led by Paulo Campos III, co-founder and CEO of Zalora, one of Southeast Asia’s leading fashion e-commerce companies, an angel investor, and a thought leader, as well as fellow angel investor Lisa Gokongwei.
Prior to founding Kaya Founders, Campos participated in a number of seed rounds as an angel investor in startups such as local fintech startup Peddlr.
Manny Ayala, co-founder and managing director of Endeavor Philippines
Manny Ayala is the co-founder and managing director of Endeavor Philippines, the third-largest Southeast Asian affiliate of entrepreneur community Endeavor. Founded in 1997, Endeavor is a global organization that supports high-impact entrepreneurs gain access to networks and capital, focusing primarily on emerging and underserved markets.
Locally, members of Endeavor include the founders of Ayannah, a provider of digital financial services in the Philippines, LenddoEFL, Coins.ph, a cryptocurrency exchange and mobile wallet acquired in 2019 by GoJek, and Acudeen, an online marketplace for receivables discounting where SMEs can sell their invoices to a network of buyers and access cash within five days.
Mark Sng, vice president of Gentree Fund
Mark Sng is the vice president of Gentree Fund, a newly launched private investment vehicle by the family behind the SM Group, a leading retail, banking, and property development group in the Philippines. The private investment vehicle focuses its interests on business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, and has backed local startups like NextPay and AQwire, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) and payments platform.
Prior to joining the Gentree Fund, Sng spearheaded the Singapore office launch for Go-Ventures and supported the ventures team as head of Singapore and Vietnam coverage. Before Go-Ventures, he was with Gojek’s corporate development team, where he was part of the team that led the acquisition of Coins.ph in the Philippines. He also supported growth equity transactions into family-run businesses at TAEL Partners: a Southeast Asian growth equity fund with a focus on the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia markets.
Quenby Go, executive director of the Manila Angel Investors Network
Quenby Go is the executive director of the Manila Angel Investors Network (MAIN), the Philippines’ biggest private investors network that connects early-stage startups with investors, mentors, and experts. MAIN primarily engages in pre-seed, seed, and Series A rounds, focusing on the tech startups that show potential. Some of the network’s investments include Acudeen, Qwikwire, a provider of billing and invoicing solutions for large and medium enterprise, and Taxumo, an online tax compliance tool in the Philippines.
Miguel Encarnacion, managing partner of ICCP SBI Venture Partners
Miguel Encarnacion is the managing partner of ICCP SBI Venture Partners (ISVP), a partnership between ICCP Venture Partners and SBI Holdings. The firm invests in tech companies operating in the cloud, consumer, healthtech, fintech, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) sectors and has backed Filipino startups like PayMongo.
Encarnacion has over 15 years of experience in fund management, financial advisory, and corporate banking. In his career as an investor and venture builder, he completed over 60 deals and co-founded eight companies including an early stage venture fund in Germany.
John Januszczak, president and CEO of UBX
John Januszczak is the president and CEO of UBX, UnionBank of the Philippines’ open finance platform providing individuals, businesses and institutions the most extensive network of financial institutions and embedded solutions in the country.
UBX also builds and invests in early-stage startups. Its latest additions are cryptocurrency trading platform PDAX, SeekCap, a same-day approval, digital lending marketplace MSMEs, and Bux, an end-to-end payment gateway.
Ron Hose, independent director on the board of UnionBank of the Philippines
Ron Hose is a serial tech entrepreneur who founded a number of companies including TokBox, a consumer video conferencing business acquired by Telefonica, and Coins.ph, the cryptocurrency startup acquired by GoJek for US$95 million.
He currently serves as an independent director on the board of UnionBank of the Philippines and is an angel investor whose portfolio includes Finblox, an alternative crypto investment and savings account.
The fintech startup founders to watch
Aldrich Tan and Don Pansacola, co-founders of NextPay
Aldrich Tan and Don Pansacola are the co-founders of NextPay, a digital banking suite for small Filipino businesses, helping companies collect customer payments, manage their finances, and pay for their expenses to any bank or e-wallet, all on one digital platform. An alum of the Y Combinator program, NextPay secured seed funding from global and local investors including the Gentree Fund and Singapore-based VC firm Golden Gate Ventures.
Pansacola has a background in software engineering, blockchain, distributed technologies, and digital product design, while Tan is an “experience architect” and design consultant specializing in building digital products from the ground up.
Georg Steiger, co-founder and CEO of First Digital Finance Corporation
Georg Steiger is the co-founder and CEO of First Digital Finance Corporation (FDFC), the company behind BillEase, a buy now, pay later (BNPL) payment solution, and Balikbayad, a financing company. BillEase is today one of the country’s biggest BNPL providers and has recently raised US$11 million in a Series B funding round.
Prior to founding FDFC, Steiger worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company for seven years, focusing on bank transformation in Southeast Asia.
Nel Laygo, founder and CEO of Peddlr
Nel Laygo is the founder and CEO of Peddlr, a startup offering digital accounting/bookkeeping, inventory management, and digital storefront for Filipino micro and small businesses. Peddlr closed last year a US$500,000 in pre-seed funding round led by Foxmont Capital Partners and with participation from Paulo Campos of Zalora, Kaya Founders and others.
Prior to founding Peddlr, Laygo worked for finance roles at Procter and Gamble and Unilever.
Kevin Gabayan and Earl Valencia, co-founders of Plentina
Kevin Gabayan and Earl Valencia of Plentina are the co-founder of Plentina, a BNPL fintech startup building a new digital-first experience for financial services leveraging artificial intelligence (AI). Since its inception, Plentina has secured a total of US$5.7 million in funding from investors such as TMV, AV Ventures, Techstars, Unpopular Ventures, and prominent Southeast Asian family offices.
Gabayan is an ex-Google and NASA machine learning engineer, while Valencia is a former tech and finance executive in both the Philippines and in Silicon Valley.