The Philippines Opportunity: Franco Varona (Managing Partner at Foxmont Capital Partners)

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Briefly on the Philippines & Brain Drain

The founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew,  once said the following on the “brain drain” problem in the Philippines:

  • “Something had gone seriously wrong. Millions of Filipino men and women had to leave their country for jobs abroad beneath their level of education.”
  • “Filipino professionals whom we recruited to work in Singapore are as good as our own. Indeed, their architects, artists, and musicians are more artistic and creative than ours.”

However, when looking at some of the “macro” statistics, you would think that this brain drain trend will reverse at some stage given the following: 

  • Population of ~110 million people (the 2nd largest population in SE Asia).
  • Median age of ~25.7 (one of the youngest countries in the region).
  • High proficiency in English (allowing the country to be one of the best business process outsourcing providers worldwide).
  • A rapidly increasing internet-savvy population that spends more than 10 hours a day online on average (with 4 hours going to social media).

In fact, in the week of recording this episode, I saw a number of startups successfully raise money, demonstrating that the country has enough opportunities to encourage local entrepreneurs to stay (or in many cases, attracting overseas Filipinos back):

On Franco Varona & Foxmont Capital Partners | Philippine Venture Capital

Now if you listened to the podcast episode, Franco was actually born in Canada and is one of many overseas Filipinos building successful careers and creating meaningful change back in their home country, reversing the “brain drain” that has been happening for decades. 

As the Managing Partner of Foxmont Capital Partners (the first independent Venture Capital firm in the Philippines), he has had a varied career, most notably being a founding member at MyTeksi Phillippines (now named Grab). This opportunity to get on board one of the most exciting startups in the region supercharged his career into what it is today, something that might not have been possible if he stayed in the States. 

As early movers in the startup & VC scene, Franco and the Foxmont team are passionate advocates of the Philippine startup ecosystem, investing in a number of startups like Kumu, edamame, NextPay, and many more. Their investment thesis is simply this:

“We invest in Filipino-focused or Filipino-founded early-stage technology startups that have proven that they can scale effectively and lead the Philippine digital evolution.  We believe that if a Filipino startup can succeed in the Philippines, it can succeed anywhere.”

Franco Varona Foxmont Quote

Episode Topics, Timestamps & Final Words

It’s still early days but there is already a thriving startup ecosystem as seen with the creation of “Sinigang Valley” (the Philippines answer to Silicon Valley) in Poblacion, Makati, one of Manila’s hippest neighbourhoods.   

I don’t pretend to be an expert on Philippine matters and there’s no doubt that the country faces a variety of social & economic hurdles to overcome. But after talking to Franco, I believe there are also plenty of reasons to be positive. 

Listen to this episode to hear why Franco believes that the Philippines is one of the fastest-growing startup ecosystems in the region and the opportunities this presents for entrepreneurs & investors.  

Timestamps & topics:


  • 1:33 – Franco’s introduction.
  • 2:45 – born & raised in Canada, why did Franco move back to the Philippines?
  • 6:10 – is Franco seeing more overseas Filipinos moving back? Reverse Brain Drain?
Franco’s Career Path & the Philippine Startup Ecosystem
  • 10:45 – Franco’s journey from the US to the Philippines and how he kicked off his entrepreneurial journey, how he joined MyTeksi (now Grab).
  • 16:30 – Franco’s thoughts on the Philippine startup ecosystem today vs 10 years ago. Examples of how the pandemic has supercharged digitalisation in the country.
  • 21:40 – Franco’s stories about his early days at Grab Philippines.
Co-Founding a Venture Capital Firm
  • 23:20 – starting Foxmont Capital Partners and why the Philippines presents a great opportunity for investors & startups.
  • 31:40 – experiences setting up the 1st fund with his co-founders/partners.
  • 35:45 – why Foxmont’s 1st investment went to Kumu (building meaningful connections among the Filipino diaspora community).
  • 43:40 – the Venture Capital landscape in the Philippines, Corporate VC vs Independent VCs.
  • 47:40 – What is Sinigang Valley?
  • 51:20 – what sectors and verticals is Franco excited about?
  • 55:10 –advice for young professionals / entrepreneurs navigating their careers.
  • 57:45 – how to find out more about Franco & Foxmont Capital.
Franco Varona Foxmont Quote 1