Business pitches wanted: Dennis Uy in search of Philippine unicorn

Ralf Rivas
In business jargon, a unicorn is a startup with a valuation of $1 billion or more

MANILA, Philippines – Got a business pitch and into tech? Billionaire Dennis Uy said he is willing to listen and may just pour in cash to scale up your business enough for it to be a unicorn.

In business jargon, a unicorn is a startup that has a valuation of at least $1 billion. These companies are very rare, hence the comparison to a mythical creature.

To date, only Robbie Antonio’s Revolution Precrafted has achieved unicorn status in the Philippines.

In The Manila Times business forum on Tuesday, March 3, Uy lamented that while the future is in the tech space, startups have problems with looking for funds to reach their full potential.

“The biggest hurdle is access to capital. You may have the best ideas, brilliant, but if you don’t have access to capital, up to a certain level, then you won’t be able to grow the business,” Uy said. (READ: How to grow a business, according to Dennis Uy)

“I dream of a time when brilliant entrepreneurs have better access to funding and are not forced to sell. Those companies can land in the top 20 in the country,” he added.

The Davao City-based businessman and President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign donor added that he may finance promising startups “maybe in the next decade” or when he retires, with the help of other powerful people in business.

New companies also encounter trouble in looking for funding sources, since most financing options require collateral.

But Uy clarified that he is not faulting creditors, since this system of requiring a borrower to pledge his or her property to secure a loan has been “that way for the longest time.”

“I hope our capital coming from fellow businesspeople will be more, mas matapang ang kapital (willing to take in more risk), so they can face more risk and invest in the young entrepreneurs who have good ideas and scale up,” Uy said.

Uy himself started his business empire struggling with capital.

In the forum, he shared that he used up all of his savings and earnings from the stock market to put up Udenna Corporation 18 years ago. He even held off on building his own house during that time and used the land as collateral for a loan. 

Since then, Udenna has expanded to several industries, including food, infrastructure, real estate, education, logistics, oil, power, and telecommunications.

Uy broke into Forbes’ list of richest Filipinos in 2019, as his net worth soared to $660 million. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.