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PLDT builds SoftBank-style web of influence
The recent decision by PLDT (Philippines Long Distance Telephone Company) to launch its own venture capital unit is the latest in a series of moves by telecoms giant that are reminiscent of its larger Japanese counterpart SoftBank.
Just as SoftBank has grown its internet and media empire by drawing on an expanding global web of early stage investments, PLDT is also turning to venture capital to help build its own kingdom.
The new investment unit - PLDT Capital - will not be based in the Philippines but instead it will be based in Los Angeles. But its remit will be to try and tap innovative Silicon Valley and Southeast Asia-based startups that can contribute to its own ecosystem. Winston Damarillo, Managing Director of PLDT Capital, had this to say:
“The PLDT Group serves more than 70 million mobile and internet customers in the ASEAN region,”In addition to investments, PLDT Capital aims to become the gateway for the most promising startups to expand their opportunities to the fast growing digital consumers in the ASEAN region.”
This is by no means its first foray in venture capital. The firm made headlines earlier this year when it bought a 10% stake in Rocket Internet, the German incubator and venture capital investor that is currently driving an e-commerce revolution in Southeast Asia and other emerging markets globally.
The firm also recently swallowed up Singapore's Paywhere, the start-up behind TackThis, an ecommerce platform that operates on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, through its digital innovations unit: Voyager Innovations.
Corporations using venture capital investments to tap innovation is neither new nor unique. That said, the way PLDT (a telecoms company like SoftBank) is using VC to broaden its global influence and access new verticals - notably e-commerce - shares a few parallels with the Japanese giant.
Of course PLDT has nowhere near the size, or the war chest, of a firm like SoftBank. Perhaps PLDT looking for that one big hit in same the way SoftBank had its home run with Chinese e-commerce Alibaba. Setting up shop in Silicon Valley certainly increases their chances of finding it.