Caela Tanjangco: Cautious Optimism Around Philippines, Founder Storytelling Advice & Nautical Stars Tattoo - E251

· Founder,Women,Philippines,Southeast Asia,Podcast Episodes English



"We have companies that have raised Series B, had the first female founder raise the highest amount of Series A funding, and have CBCs, which is the biggest ever in the Philippines. I'm cautiously optimistic about the country in terms of the next stage of funding because of what's happening in the market. We have a lot of good founders and strong fundamentals, but because of what's happening in the public and private markets, we’re affected in terms of the succeeding funding in Series C, pre-IPO, and Series B. We lack investors in that area for all the companies that have just raised their Series B."- Caela Tanjangco

"There are disadvantages to being founders who don't speak English or who might have problems communicating about their startup when pitching to global funds. I won’t say that's a shortfall, but it's an issue that entrepreneurs need support with. It’s a gap that we need to address so that they're better acknowledged and understood by global investors." - Caela Tanjangco


Caela Tanjangco is a Director for Asia at Endeavor Catalyst. She started with Medical School but later pursued a business career, including founding a healthcare startup. She is also Co-Chair of the Impact Council at the Global Shapers Community and holds a Master's Degree in International Management and a BS in Psychology.


Supported by Esevel

Do you manage your own IT for distributed teams in Asia? You know how painful it is. Esevel helps your in-house team by taking tough tasks off their hands and giving them the tools to manage IT effectively. Get help across eight countries in Asia Pacific, which includes onboarding, procurement, device management, real-time IT support, offboarding, and more. Gain full control of all your IT infrastructure in one place with our state-of-the-art platform. Check out and get a demo today. Use our referral code, "BRAVE" for three months, free. Terms and conditions apply.

Jeremy Au: (02:20)

Hey Caela, really excited to have you in the show. You are one of the few folks who are really kind of like spearheading Southeast Asia's regional VC point of view, ecosystem builder, book summarizer and Proud Flag era of the Philippines’ representation in Southeast Asia tech. So excited to have you in the show.


Caela Tanjangco: (02:42)

Thank you. I'm happy to be here. Yeah. I've heard about your podcast, so it's a privilege actually to be here, invited.


Jeremy Au: (02:50)

Yeah. So could you share a little bit about yourself?


Caela Tanjangco: (02:53)

Sure. So I'm Caela Tanjangco. I'm the director for Asia at Endeavor Catalyst, which is a rules-based fund of the nonprofit endeavour, which is actually a leading global community of high-impact entrepreneurs worldwide. And I also co-chair the Impact Council for the Global Chambers community, which is an initiative of the World Economic Forum.

We oversee 400 city hubs and around 10,000 young people creating an impact on the ground. And I guess my journey to get here was different from your typical journey, I would say. Cause I actually did go to med school. I did pre-med, went to med school at some point, and dropped out. Then I went to business school, I went through an eyeglass startup and I landed in management consulting after that, before landing at Endeavor. And I've been here for around five years.


Jeremy Au: (03:47)

So how did you drop out of medical school and somehow decided to wander into technology?


Caela Tanjangco: (03:52)

So you know how it is the Asian dream of parents to have a lawyer and a doctor? Well, I have a twin sister, so she went to law school and I went to medical school. She dropped out after one week, and I dropped out after one year, and I decided maybe after a year, okay. I cannot do this for the next 10 years, so I need a career change. And because I didn't know what to do and it was not really translatable to dissect cannabis through anything else outside medical school. I went to business school and this was the most exciting field afterwards, I would say.


Jeremy Au: (04:35)

Now you got me curious what happened to your sister?


Caela Tanjangco: (04:39)

She actually got out of law school and she's now a climate change economist in London, so she's also doing great things, but just not in your traditional career path of your typical Asian.


Jeremy Au: (04:51)

Yeah, it feels much more difficult for your parents to say, oh, I'm very proud of my children. A climate change economist and venture capital.


Caela Tanjangco: (05:01)

Yes, that's true. It's two fields that likely did not exist when they were younger. So it is harder for them to explain to their friends also what we do.


Jeremy Au: (05:10)

Could you explain a little bit more about how you got into Endeavor and what Endeavor does in Southeast Asia?


Caela Tanjangco: (05:17)

So Endeavor is a nonprofit. We've been around for 25 years. We started out in Latin America with the mission to democratize entrepreneurship. Do you know how Silicon Valley has been a great support system for the east and west coast founders of the US? Well back then, no one was doing that for the rest of the world basically.

So it never exists to help provide access to talent, network capital, support data, and everything you might need that you otherwise could not have gotten if you are not creating your company in Silicon Valley. So Endeavor today is in 40 markets. We support 2000 founders. We've funded around 260 of them, of which 53 are now valued at a billion dollars, including the first unicorn of 13 countries. So we're very proud of our impact in emerging markets, and we're excited to see where else this might go.


Jeremy Au: (06:18)

So what makes Endeavor different from all the other VCs in the ecosystem? I mean, isn't everybody bringing capital from the west, from local family offices, as long as they are deploying checks, scouting for founders and helping them, build a company's internet ecosystem building. So, what makes Endeavor a particularly standout flag bearer of this?


Caela Tanjangco: (06:40)

I think what makes us different though is it's because we're a nonprofit first. So the fund is something that we built to help our nonprofit be self-sustaining. So the nonprofit supports 2000 founders and we've only invested in a little bit. But the fund itself is designed to, well, if our entrepreneurs succeed, we succeed.

So Endeavor Capital is actually a fund where we have a 50% carry, which is donated back to the non-profit. So every time one of our founders exits, our LPs get their prorated capital back. They get 50% of the profit and 50% is donated to Endeavor to help sustain the nonprofit's mission and activities. So in a way, it's an elegant solution where we're basically an organization that supports entrepreneurs and with each entrepreneur's success, exit merger acquisition, Endeavor also succeeds because then it also benefits from the proceeds of those exits.

So we're one of the very few nonprofits actually on its way to becoming fully self-sustaining because of our good nonprofit business model and fund. Yeah. So it's very exciting actually. It helps us be able to do a lot of things for love, not money. We're able to support founders create programs and do initiatives because we can't afford to with our new source of funding compared to other nonprofits or other entities that rely a lot on donor entities that might have other agenda. So at least for Endeavor, we're able to use the proceeds of Endeavor Catalyst to help support our mission and support more founders.


Jeremy Au: (08:27)

What's the synergy between Endeavor? Like I said, the nonprofit versus the fund, right? Because the fund is a little bit more straightforward in terms of the mechanics, which is fine. Great founders invest in them and build them, and I think it's great to hear about economics, but what's the synergy between the nonprofit and the fund?


Caela Tanjangco: (08:43)

So the nonprofit, we have a very long, rigorous selection process for any entrepreneur to actually become an Endeavor entrepreneur, like to join Endeavor’s network. They essentially had to meet at least 16 different people, and go to at least four stages of a selection process, which culminates in a final international selection panel where, six of our top 1% of mentors worldwide have to vote after three rounds of deliberations, six, zero, not five one, not four, two for any entrepreneur to join the network.

So each entrepreneur benefits from joining the network regardless if they're fundraising or not. So the way it's different is a lot of times when we actually invest in these companies already, it's not because of a promise of the help we can provide like other VCs but it's also because they want to give back to the Endeavor.

As for them, they've received a lot of help already from Endeavor, and they want to use this fund as a way to not just stick their good profit bucket, but also their philanthropy bucket. So it's a way for them to give back. From our fourth fund, we have at least 138 founders put money in our last fund. So we're very proud, at least that it's a good signal that many of our founders support a lever and believe they can do a lot of good for other founders.


Jeremy Au: (10:04)

When we think about this obviously you look at the global point of view, you look at the regional point of view, and I hate to ask this, but you're obviously seeing a lot of the regional news and commentary sort of far, what do you think about Southeast Asia?


Caela Tanjangco: (10:19)

What do I think of Southeast Asia?


Jeremy Au: (10:20)

Yeah, I mean, I think if you are excited, you're bored.


Caela Tanjangco: (10:24)

Well, I am excited cause I came from the Philippines and we have a very close-knit ecosystem there. And Southeast Asia is a bigger pond for us. And what's exciting, I think about Southeast Asia is that aside from having a young population, like fully, like most countries in Southeast Asia are finally going digital, like a lot of things because of the pandemic, have digitized, a lot of consumers have seen the value in using digital financial products. There's a lot of upsides to happen in the next couple of years, like even with the looming recession globally, like for Southeast Asia, we have strong fundamentals. We do have a young population. We do have a lot of work that still needs to be done, and a lot of gaps to be filled.

So I think what's exciting about Southeast Asia is tech can still do a lot of things. There's a lot of potential for tech too, as well a lot of potential for tech to succeed in traditional industries that need to still be, I would say, disrupted, for lack of a better word.


Jeremy Au: (11:31)

And what do you think about the Philippines specifically? You are a Filipino, you've obviously travelled around the world and now you're back in Southeast Asia investing. What do you think about the Philippines?


Caela Tanjangco: (11:41)

I think for the longest time, when I started out in Endeavor in 2017, the Philippines was an overlooked market. A lot of people were excited about Indonesia and deservingly so because of its population size and potential, but the Philippines was one of those countries where we didn't have a lot of success stories of that company succeeding and it was exciting for a lot of investors to look at. But because of what's happening with some of the series B companies where Kumu raised from General Atlantic, GrowSari raised from KKR, there is a lot of interest now because people are starting to notice that we are also a considerable market.

We have at least 110 million people on the ground. We're a young population where the average age is 30, which is still young compared to China, Japan, and other ageing populations, and we all speak English. So there's a lot of interest now in the Philippines as a market because they are seeing, at least for the early-stage investors in the seed and series stage that people can raise further rounds, series Bs and whatnot for them to actually, well make a good investment in the country.

So yeah, it's very exciting. A lot of the companies we've seen, like in 2017 when I first started out in the seed and early stages are now getting the attention to be deserved. They're like really good founders, actually. Not just foreigners and expats, but also sea turtles, like those who studied abroad or lived abroad and came back.

And also some locals already starting to build companies. So it's exciting I think for the country, especially with all of the interests that it's now coming. We're now third, the Indonesia and Vietnam as a priority market for a lot of other venture capital, and capital funds.


Jeremy Au: (13:33)

A Filipino operator shared that she was long or bullish on Filipinos and bearish on the Philippines’ market. And I thought that was a really nice way of saying it, which is that obviously opportunities are unequally distributed but talents are equally distributed. I was just kind of curious how you feel or react to that statement.


Caela Tanjangco: (13:54)

I am cautiously optimistic about the Philippines as a market. I know that we do have companies who have raised Series Bs, more than 10, 14, and 15, in the last two years, last year alone, I think have raised a series B and more so in Series A. We've reached milestones where we've had the first female founder raise the highest amount of series A funding that they could achieve. We've had some CBCs, which are the biggest ever in the Philippines, and it's exciting, but obviously, I am cautiously optimistic because of what's happening in the market now. We do have a lot of good founders, and we have strong fundamentals, but because of what's happening with the public markets, the private markets, including the Philippines, are affected in terms of succeeding funding, like in the series C range, pre-IPO, and series B range. We do lack investors in that area for all the companies who've just raised their series B. So I'm cautiously optimistic about the country in terms of the next stage of funding. But I am still optimistic because we have strong fundamentals.

We do have a lot of problems to be solved. A lot of traditional businesses could use the support of digitization, AI, and whatnot. So I think overall, like just after this looming period, I think we have a lot to be optimistic about. Still in the country.


Jeremy Au: (15:19)

So I understand the optimism side, but I noticed you very carefully wrote “cautious optimism”, right? So, so tell me more about what caution is. You talk about obviously tech market, but the tech market downturn is creating caution everywhere, right? Creating caution in Singapore, the US, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Is it more so or what else is going on in your factor around here?


Caela Tanjangco: (15:41)

I don't want to say hedging optimism, but because of the next level of successes that are going to happen that should help fuel more interest in the country. It's a little bit dependent if the companies that were able to raise in 2021 and 2022 are able to raise further capital.

I'm just cautious that if they're unable to, then it might scare away certain investors from actually seeing the potential of the market. It's more of just hedging the idea that if our companies are not able to raise, if a lot significant amount of them do raise down rounds, which is not far fetched because of the valuations people raised in 2022, 2021, actually more in 2021.

Then we do have to just kind of like see if investors will still remain optimistic about the companies that are coming up in the country versus what's happening now. I would say there could be a lot of tourist investors who are just looking at it because a lot of people are looking at it.

So you want to see, make sure that the people who are looking at it will not be scared by any certain, like kind of talented, like what's happening in the world, the macroeconomic environment that might actually impact the sentiment for the country. But yeah, I think if we just look at what's available, and all the founders, like the quality of the people building companies and the quality of the companies coming out, then there's definitely a lot to be hopeful for.


Jeremy Au: (17:24)

I mean, I think people are also worried about the geopolitical risk of the market, and obviously, the population is, like you said, smaller than Indonesia, right? Everybody's like, wow, 300 million people. That's amazing. Singapore is like, what, 3 million folks? A market that you're actually serving is a bit smaller than you expect, right? So everyone's like, ah, Singapore's out. Okay, cool and Indonesia is three hundred million and the Philippines is neither here nor there, right? What's your point of view on that?


Caela Tanjangco: (17:51)

Compared to Indonesia and Singapore, I think we still have a long way to go in terms of, I guess, tech talent and openness and government support. But it is showing up like I think this administration would be a little bit more open to supporting entrepreneurs.

So I think the Philippines is a couple of years behind Singapore and Indonesia. Like if I think Indonesia is a little bit behind, it's like, I don’t know, five to 10 years behind China. The Philippines is maybe a couple of years behind Indonesia. So we are getting there and I think it's better for us to get in there early right now while things are still being built rather than just waiting for things to be set up.

Cause then it is a chicken and egg problem. But yes, I see that we're actually a little, we're way behind Singapore and Indonesia, but I think in the next couple of years, I don't think we will reach that level of Singapore where they have like 6,000 registered startups and Indonesia maybe has like 2,000 on PitchBook. But I think we will close that gap with Indonesia significantly compared to before in terms of startup support and interest. It's a market to watch, but it is not yet the hottest market.


Jeremy Au: (19:14)

Oh, you gave some numbers. You said 6,000 startups in Singapore. 2,000 in Malaysia.


Caela Tanjangco: (19:19)

Last I checked, no, not Malaysia. 2,000 in Indonesia. Like last, I checked PitchBook.


[00:19:23] Jeremy Au:

Yeah. How many are in the Philippines?


Caela Tanjangco: (19:26)

I actually did not check if I should know this, but I will get it, I'll get back to you, but I don't think it's close to 2,000.


Jeremy Au: (19:37)

We'll put this up and we'll put this in show notes. Just to clarify that there's a certain number, there are startups in the Philippines. So I mean, obviously I think people are excited about FinTech, right? I think obviously there's a new bank that's there in the Philippines.

I think also other folks are trying to build, like you said, B2B2C, right? So trying to work with the various, as you mentioned, GrowSari, and the local provision stores, wholesalers, and distributors. What's the thesis there? I mean, from your perspective, what's the belief structure there? What are the verticals you think make sense within the Philippines? Yeah.


Caela Tanjangco: (20:10)

Actually, when I was looking at our investments in Southeast Asia in general, a lot of it last year was actually focused on FinTech and smart cities, which for us, includes logistics and mobility.

So we've invested in Paxil, Shipper and FinTech companies like Kredivo. So we do see it. And I think the Philippines is also on a similar trajectory. Like at Endeavor, we're industry agnostic, but we invest in companies that typically mirror what emerging markets need. And the Philippines is no different from what we're seeing in our Latin American counterparts or in Indonesia or whatnot, where there's still a lot of work to be done in FinTech and retail, and consumer tech is following closely with FinTech because of consumer demand.

So we see a lot of e-commerce enablers, and I think these are things that still have the potential to grow. Like it's good for us to see that our companies are actually taking the lead and gaining and have significant market share with strong leader economics as well. So I think in the Philippines, these types of industries will continue to thrive because there's not one consolidated dominant player yet.

And there are still a lot of issues to be fixed. We recently selected companies like Inteluck into the Endeavor network. Also, there's a lot of intelligence for logistic companies, so we see there is still a need for these kinds of companies, and we're, I guess, we're bullish that these companies would actually succeed in the Philippines. There's not a lot of red tape for these types of companies as well, so they can't operate fully functioning and whatnot.


Jeremy Au: (21:48)

And as you think about that, what gives you hope, I guess, for the Philippines as a tech market from your perspective?


Caela Tanjangco: (21:56)

I think it has good bones, like very good bone structure, there's a lot that needs to be done. There are a lot of industries that could still be digitized, consolidated, and improved upon. There are a lot of companies and traditional industries that could really benefit from what startups and entrepreneurs are trying to build.

Like a lot of the times when entrepreneurs build in the Philippines, it's because they see a pinpoint. It's not just because they see something and they just want to build it out of nothing, but they actually see pinpoints that they want to solve. So I think I'm excited about the Philippines because we have strong potential and there's finally a lot of good people who can address that potential. Once you have that and plus incoming capital to support that, then a lot of amazing things can happen.


Jeremy Au: (22:52)

I think one of the things that give me hope is that the diaspora of the Philippines is tremendous, right? It's all around the world. It's all around the region. And obviously high literacy levels, and obviously English as a first language really make it a fertile ground and learning steps, right?

Because, when I work with Filipino founders, I noticed that they're watching YouTube. So they kind of clued into the Silicon Valley mindset and methodology and approach. But I think they often struggle because they're building maybe out of the Philippines, right?

And so the talent or the market just doesn't really have the same thing, right? I feel like the dreams and the mindset is so forward, aggressive, but the market data is like there's a time jump. And I think that’s an interesting, tension or dynamic.


Caela Tanjangco: (23:42)

Yeah. I think it has significantly improved though like from when I entered a space around five years ago. Five years ago, it was hard to find funding. It was hard to find founders. It was hard to find any local Filipino who would give up their corporate job, their safety net.

Like it's, it was still a lot scarier to become an entrepreneur five years ago than it is today. But because of the successes of the West and how it's now more top of mind for like a lot of people, like people from our parents' generations are now finally seeing like, oh, there could be the next Google or the next Facebook coming out of the Philippines.

So the mindset has shifted the culture around. It's shifting. So I think today, yes, there are issues, but there has been some improvement from five years ago. So yes, I see that there are, there could be a lot of things more to improve, like, don't get me wrong, like we are so far away from Singapore in terms of infrastructure for all of them, for all the startups to thrive. But I think the interest from the business community, students from other entrepreneurs, and from the diaspora are helping at least the country better address the issues we need to, well help entrepreneurship try better in the Philippines.


Jeremy Au: (25:06)

From your experience, obviously coaching and helping so many, what would you say are some unique attributes or differences that you notice with Southeast Asian founders? In terms of either coaching or helping them understand?


Caela Tanjangco: (25:18)

I think they're very willing to listen actually. I think we're very familiar, we're very close-knit with our families and our communities and our tribes, that people are a lot more willing to listen and involve others and seek help than like, I guess, more individualistic like, it's nice to know that in Southeast Asia, that we all grew up surrounded by families.

Like, you know how it takes a village to raise a child? It's the same if your startup is your child. It takes a village to raise your startup. So it's nice to see that entrepreneurs here are very open to feedback. They're willing to listen, and they're willing to learn from not just us, but also from what they see in the West or from more developed markets that they could see that they could apply to our situation and context in Southeast Asia. So that's a nice and beautiful aspect actually.


Jeremy Au: (26:14)

Any shortfalls or areas that they could improve on?


Caela Tanjangco: (26:19)

Do you mean our founders here? I think for our founders, any shortfalls? I'm actually not sure if it never really considered our business so much, but I would say that there are a lot of similarities actually between our founders here I guess our other emerging market founders. But I think if there's any shortfall, I don't think it's an inherent trait like we are there are some disadvantages to being founders who don't speak English as well or who might have problems communicating their startup and whatnot during pitching to like maybe more global funds. I don't think that's actually a problem. It's just more of a disconnect that we still need to try to bridge. So I won't say that there are, these are shortfalls, but more of, there might be some issues where our entrepreneurs are disadvantaged that we can help support them, such that they're better acknowledged they're better understood by other global investors just because, for example, if our founders here have strong support at the seed series A stage in terms of capital, but when they start raising their series Cs or their growth stage rounds, they will need to pitch and find support from more global founders.

And if they are inhibited by any language barriers and whatnot, then this is something that we can still help them, actually help them address these kinds of issues. So I'm not sure if I can say just a specific inherent shortfall, but there are certainly some disadvantages to being a non-Western founder where investors in the West are only starting to see and decouple geography from the way they invest, but it's not yet there. So we need to find, well, we need to support more of our founders, I guess, into addressing the gaps that they need to address before they actually go to others. So Yeah, I know that's like a backhanded answer where it's not exactly a shortfall, it's a very Miss Universe kind of reply.


Jeremy Au: (28:37)

Well, I think what I would say what's true is that I think it is less about Southeast Asia shortfall, but more like a common trait of emerging market founders, right? And the fact is that so much capital in the middle and late stage capital is fundamentally Western or American, right? And so I agree that adding literacy and English fluency is a mandatory, honest requirement in order to fundraise a large amount of capital.

And that's not consistent across all our markets in Southeast Asia. And I would actually add to say, I think that storytelling isn't really there yet in Southeast Asia, right Asian founders versus, I think American founders might see the angel decks. I know. It's like night and day right? There's a big promise, it's like here are a billion dollars in America right? And I have this growth goal, this ambition. And it's not to say it's the right way to story tell, but I think they have a, but I think they're willing to have that goal. Right. And I think in Southeast Asia, I think the decks I'm seeing are very much product-oriented. This is what they're doing.


Caela Tanjangco: (29:45)

Yeah. They're not selling the dream, they're selling the actual product. Yeah, I think that might, that actually is a place where we could support them more, like help them sell the dream, help them see why this is important in Asia. Like that's another thing actually is helping to get people to understand the Asian context, like why that might be an issue.

It's like, for example, why some FinTech companies here exist but doesn't exist in the US. Why do we need to build certain companies to be a bridge between certain institutes but then these issues don't exist in developed countries? So that's another thing also that probably needs to be better communicated through storytelling. Like why? Why in Southeast Asia, why is this important? Why can you 10X a business addressing this specific pinpoint? Right.


Jeremy Au: (30:29)

I mean, I think that's totally true, right? That's a fair point, is that yeah, they don't double click and explain why such a big opportunity, because for an American investor, it's like, isn't it just Walmart solved it, right? Monsanto solved it, right? but nobody thinks about Walmart or Monsanto as a sexy tech businesses in the US. But that market opportunity is still there, right? In terms of like, supply chain or logistics or an agritech. So those are opportunities.


Caela Tanjangco: (30:57)

Yeah. Like in emerging markets, you see a lot of FinTech and whatnot, but then you see a lot of deep tech in more developed countries, it's because the companies that have the biggest potential here are actually the ones addressing still emerging market issues. So they unbanked the fact that people don't have credit scores or credit histories.

So a lot of the opportunities here have probably been addressed in a lot of other developed markets. But yeah, I think it's about just more of trying to communicate like, yes, but here in our country, this is what still needs to be solved and you can help.


Jeremy Au: (31:35)

Any advice you have for founders about storytelling? I know you've seen a lot of pitches and you also helped a lot of them with their pitches for full loans and funding.


Caela Tanjangco: (31:43)

I think they really have to focus on the why not the what, as you said, there are a lot of product decks out there, but a lot of people, a lot of investors are sold more, wonder why like, why are we doing this? Like, why now? Why this company? Why this? Why should we invest in you? So I think if founders could communicate better, they're wise, then they could convince a lot more people to join them for their cost.


Jeremy Au: (32:17)

And so could you share with us a time that you personally have been?


Caela Tanjangco: (32:22)

Well, I did mentioned in my introduction actually, that I left medical school. It took me one year to actually leave, but I knew from day one that I wanted to leave. So it took me one year, well to develop the courage to leave. So I would say that was my bravest moment. I have a tattoo of it on my back now, like marking that significance because it took me a really long time to turn my back on basically at least a decade of thinking I was going to be a doctor, but then realizing that I didn't want to be one, that it took a lot of courage to leave my expectations, my parents' expectations, society's expectations to embark on something new. Like we spent four years studying pre-med. You start, you do one year of medical school and then you realize it's not for you.

So what do you do? It took a lot of courage to actually deviate from that set career path to try something else. And I've never been happier. Like I have zero regrets for leaving med school and it just took that one resignation to actually be brave.


Jeremy Au: (33:38)

Could you share what the tattoo is?


Caela Tanjangco: (33:40)

Oh yeah. So the three nautical stars mark a milestone each in my life and one of them is for leaving med school, cause nautical stars signify guiding sailors throughout the night when they're lost. So I have three nautical stars on my back and one of them signifies me leaving med school since that's one of the things that's guiding my way now. Yeah.


Jeremy Au: (34:07)

I have to ask what the other two are.


Caela Tanjangco: (34:11)

You do? Okay. One of them is when I finally left to study for Barcelona. When I actually left, it was another big career shift and change. And then the other one was when we created that eyeglass startup in, well, we've created it in business school. It won the regional championships in Dubai, entered an accelerator in Boston and it was actually the pivot catalyst for me to start being in the tech ecosystem. So for me, it opened doors, a lot of doors, actually. It taught me a lot about how to build a company and fail at a company. So it was also for that experience. So the three nautical stars are, it's like Boston, Barcelona and leaving med school.


Jeremy Au: (35:02)

And, share more about this startup that you built, right? For eyeglasses, tell us more about what you mean by it.


Caela Tanjangco: (35:10)

We found a way to create prescription glasses for less than a dollar. And we were going to train and upskill women in impoverished communities or students to create the glasses and sell them in their communities. We managed all the way to pilot this in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Philippines.

We managed to form other partnerships necessary, and at the end of the day though, it was something none of us really wanted to do. So if our heart wasn't in it, then we didn't want to push, but it was a good lesson in creating a startup, working with different cofounders and trying to build a company. So yeah, it was very instrumental for me, like, okay, this did pan out, but then I would still like to be in the tech ecosystem.


Jeremy Au: (35:59)

What did you learn from building the startup more specifically and wrapping it up?


Caela Tanjangco: (36:04)

I think at the time we were five cofounders and I think it was very important that all of you are aligned on what you wanted and that you got along well enough to see the actual product true to the very end. And if you're not aligned with the people you start with, then it's quite difficult for you to be motivated to build. Cause it should be a fun endeavor. It should be fun, especially in the beginning. It should be exciting, but if you have a lot of tension in the beginning, then it might not succeed. Yeah. So that was an important lesson.


Jeremy Au: (36:46)

Five sounds like a student project, like you said, is that the whole team?


Caela Tanjangco: (36:49)

It's a five. Yeah. I was like, oh my gosh. Like whose idea was it to have five cofounders? Like, I think like in Endeavor we've selected a lot of companies that have one, or two cofounders. But I think it was incredibly rare for us to select at least six. I mean, if there were, it was because they got along super well. But it is a very rare combination I think of cofounders.


Jeremy Au: (37:14)

And as you think about this if you could travel back in time, 10 years to Caela who's 10 years younger, years what advice would you give yourself?


Caela Tanjangco: (37:23)

Well, that would, 10 years ago, that would be when I was about to enter med school. Actually, I think I would tell her don't do it. I mean, it was instrumental in changing the way you think and instilling discipline in your work ethic.But I think I would tell her that it's okay to have them, some cost of going to pre-med and whatnot if it's something you don't really want to do. Like some cost should not be what defines, what you decide to do for your future?


Jeremy Au: (37:57)

All right. Thank you so much, Caela. So, I'd love to kind of like summarize the three big themes I got from this conversation. First, thank you so much for sharing your optimism for Southeast Asia and your cautious optimism for the Philippines. In terms of your concerns about whether the last wave of companies will be able to raise follow-on capital, whether growth-stage investors are interested in following on about the market, the diaspora. So a lot of interesting conversations there about a market and talent.

The second, of course, is to thank you for discussing storytelling advice for founders in terms of how to raise capital and articulate their why and talk about the big mission and end goal rather than just the product.

Lastly, thanks for sharing about your three nautical star tattoos ranging from med school to studying in Spain, to obviously your startup founder and transition process. And I thought it was really interesting to hear your learnings from each part of it and advise, see yourself to focus on what you want to do.


Caela Tanjangco: (39:01)

Yeah, well watch out for my next tattoos. They're all going to have some kind of stars in it cause the theory behind it is that I will always get some star theme tattoo next because when I die I want to die a constellation. I actually have a new tattoo from last year on my ankle, there are three starfish on it, which also signified different things also.


Jeremy Au: (39:28)

Okay. Well, I want to ask, will you share?


Caela Tanjangco: (39:34)

One of it is actually when I hit five years at Endeavor. One of it is because I just graduated from the community I was part of, the Global Shapers in the World Economic Forum, so I did six years in that community in Manila. During the pandemic, we impacted 600,000 people. When I was part of the Covid steering committee, we measured impact for we've impacted at least 3 million people.

And up to now, I'm co-chairing our Impact council, where we're overseeing the impact of the least, at least 5 million people impacted by people doing work on the ground. So that's the other one. And then the other one is moving to Singapore, finally leaving. After being stuck there for a year in Manila, it's actually just making the new transition to like a new country. So yeah.


Jeremy Au: (40:27)

All right. Well, thank you so coming on BRAVE.


Caela Tanjangco: (40:30)

Yeah. You're welcome. Thank you for having me.