Mario Berta of FlySpaces and Ron Hose of Coins.ph became the 12th and 13th Philippine-based high-impact entrepreneur selected at Endeavor’s 75th International Selection Panel (ISP) held October 23-25, 2017, in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Mario Berta, an Italian national, graduated from the University of Torino with a degree in economics and went on to attend IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. He then joined the Spanish branch of an Italian import-export business and afterwards, joined AFA-Press, an advertising agency focused on producing special reports to promote emerging markets. Shortly after, Mario was recruited by global venture builder, Rocket Internet, and became the Regional Managing Director of Easy Taxi—an experience that taught him the ins and outs of running a two-sided platform. After two years at Rocket, Mario left to become Director of Growth at Nova Capital, a venture capital fund focused on investing in Asia.
Throughout his varied career, Mario has exercised his passion for empowering and enabling entrepreneurs, and that did not change when the entrepreneurial bug bit him. At Rocket Internet, Mario learned that a company’s biggest capital expenditure is often real estate, and he began to brainstorm ways to help startups reduce that cost. In 2015, confident he had identified a solution, Mario launched FlySpaces, an online platform dedicated to aggregating coworking space. With early traction, Mario raised capital from local investors, including Narra Venture Capital and a prominent Filipino real estate tycoon, and recruited his original team from Rocket Internet. Mario quickly realized that his business would only achieve favorable unit economics if it offered short-term office rentals in addition to single seats at coworking spaces. In 2015, FlySpaces became Asia’s first online platform for short-term office space. Shortly after, Mario brought on his co-founder and fellow IEB graduate, Guillaume Martin, to run finance and operations.
FlySpaces’ online platform connects entrepreneurs, SMEs and corporations looking for short-term rentals with property owners interested in monetizing their idle office and event space. Coworking, short-term, conference, meeting and virtual office space can all be booked through FlySpaces’ website or mobile app in hourly, daily and monthly increments. By vetting and aggregating short-term rental inventory, FlySpaces offers customers a transparent and streamlined search process and eliminates the need for property brokers. Today, FlySpaces, with central operations in Manila, features over 500,000 square meters of office and event space in seven Asian cities by partnering with 800 offices, coworking spaces, and top companies such as Regus and The Ascott. FlySpaces will soon introduce Passport, a subscription program that provides its users with access to all coworking spaces in its network, perfect for mobile professionals.
As both founder and funder, Ron Hose understands what it takes to run a successful business. Soon after graduating top of his class in engineering and computer science at Cornell, Ron launched his own company in 2007, ToxBox, a consumer video conferencing business. It was acquired by Telefonica and backed by notable investors including Sequoia Capital and Bain Capital. Following the sale, Ron became a founding partner at Innovation Endeavors, the investment vehicle of Google’s Eric Schmidt. In 2011, after two years at Innovation Endeavors, Ron knew he wanted to take off his investor hat and return to entrepreneurship. Recognizing Southeast Asia as the next growth market, he traveled the region with a deliberate plan to build a company that would have a positive impact. Ron instantly felt at home in the Philippines and made it his last stop in 2013.
During his travels, Ron noticed that even in remote rural areas, where basic services like personal finance were difficult to access, people were avidly using social apps like Facebook via their mobile phones. Identifying an opportunity to leverage this wide- reaching and untapped distribution channel, he set out to launch Coins along with his co-founder, Runar Petursson, a long-time developer experienced in building trading platforms. Initially starting the company as a bitcoin exchange, they began to key in on the various use cases for the digital currency and evolved the business by adding a second layer of applications on top, creating banking services for those outside the traditional financial system.
Coins is a mobile-first, blockchain-based platform that facilitates remittances, bill payment, online shopping, and mobile airtime top- ups. Alongside its platform, Coins customers can also access an extensive network of cash distribution and collection points through partners like 7-11, Cebuana Lhuillier, Security Bank, and many more. Coins provides payment services in bitcoin and Philippine pesos, as well as international remittances in either local currencies or bitcoin using bitcoin as the transfer medium. This skips the high exchange rate margins and fees charged by banks and other remittance service providers. Coins partners with as many banks, e-money providers, and businesses as possible to provide customers with greater choice and convenience in accessing financial services.
Today, Coins has built an impressive customer base in the Philippines in a short amount of time and is frequently recognized by local and global influencers as one of the few influential fintech startups hailing from the Philippines. It is recognized as the highest rated finance app in the Philippines within the Google Play store.
Using cryptocurrency behind the scenes to offer fast, low-cost services to its customers, the company is on the front lines of improving financial inclusion in Southeast Asia.
Coins plans to double down on the Philippine market, while beginning to expand to similar markets in the region including Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. To achieve this growth, it recently raised $5M from Naspers Ventures, bringing up its Series A round to $9.4M. Outside of a capital injection, this round provided strong product expertise from seasoned investors. Coins will also further product expansion efforts, among them, signing partnerships with an SME lender and two consumer lenders.
FlySpaces and Coins.ph successfully passed the rigorous Endeavor multi-step selection process to identify innovative and driven entrepreneurs who are committed to advancing an ecosystem of entrepreneurship. This begins with multiple mentor feedback sessions that lead to a Local Selection Panel in which Endeavor Philippines board and mentor panelists deliberate on the entrepreneur and business, and culminates in the International Selection Panel, where network members gather for 3 days of networking, pitching, and deliberating. Panelists at the event included top business leaders and investors drawn from Endeavor’s global network of board members, mentors, and supporters. Richard was unanimously selected to be an official Endeavor Entrepreneur. See the official press release here.