Philippine Web3 Festival: Getting Funded as a Filipino Founder in Web3
In this panel discussion, YGG co-founder Gabby Dizon talks about the struggle to get funded as a Filipino founder in the early days of web3.
The Philippine Web3 Festival was a week-long event held November 14-18, 2022, in BGC, Metro Manila, that showcased the future of web3 by bringing together a variety of games, guilds, NFT projects and crypto VCs to the epicenter of web3 adoption, the Philippines. The event also featured an esports tournament, a hackathon and a flagship conference with renowned thought leaders to discuss what the future holds for web3 and its adoption.
YGG co-founder Gabby Dizon joined Regina Hing, the Business and Economic News Editor and Host of OneNews, the all-news channel of Cignal TV. Regina is also the Senior News Editor of PumaPodcast, a podcast production company and a first mover in the Southeast Asian podcast industry.
During their fireside chat, Gabby shared the struggles of fundraising as a Filipino founder in the gaming industry and how the web3 boom led to more international crypto VCs investing in Filipino-led projects. He also shared his personal experience of chasing VCs when not many were familiar with the idea of NFTs and other concepts in web3.
The following is an excerpt from the first day of the Philippine Web3 Festival. Watch the full recording here.
Regina (1:49:40): One of the highlights of your journey has been how you have been able to put the Philippines on the map for international investors and VCs. Take me back to the early days and how difficult that was for you. Were people giving you the time of day back when you were trying to raise money?
Gabby (1:50:00): I have been in tech here out of the Philippines almost for 20 years now, and honestly, raising money as a tech startup for a Filipino company hasn't been easy. When I raised money for my last company, it was a Filipino company, Xurpas, that did the investment, and I was shut down by almost every major international VC.
The funny thing is, what changed this is two fundamental things: one is the global nature of web3 in that you don’t necessarily get a “Southeast Asian discount” because the work that you do is global. The results are in one global market for DeFi and NFTs, so it doesn’t matter where you came from. The other one is COVID. Very interestingly, most VCs in the US would never have invested in an organization that didn't have its founder in the US. Even if you were a founder with a team in Manila, you had to be in Silicon Valley and had to drive to your office.
What COVID did is it flattened the world. You could get into top investors' Zoom slots and make your pitch. And they didn’t care where you were from because everyone was on Zoom, so the best ideas would win out. That's how we got funded.
Regina (1:51:34): What kind of resistance were you facing? Talk me through some of these rejections. What were you told?
Gabby (1:51:40): When we were pitching about YGG, we pitched that we would buy assets in different games like Axie Infinity, draw a community to the game and lend the assets so that it could result in greater web3 adoption. Nobody had seen the model before, so we got a lot of nos because a lot of top investors you see today investing in NFTs and web3 didn't even have an NFT thesis back then, or they were like, “I don’t understand what you are doing,” “You are building on top of what?”
They didn’t understand the model, but fortunately, we were able to connect with a couple of good international crypto VCs like Ascensive Assets. They have been our supporters from day one, and Delphi Digital, which is well-known for backing Axie Infinity and the AXS token. And they understood what we were trying to do. These were people I didn’t know, but they got the idea and that's what enabled us to get funded.
Regina (1:52:45): So you feel like it was more so a problem of you being too early to the game rather than not conveying the idea well enough.
Gabby (1:52:55): Definitely. I have been pitching NFTs since 2018 and we got so many nos from VCs then that are actually investing now. So being early is a tricky balance, because you want to be early enough so you are a pioneer of the space. For example, you could say Jihoz from Axie Infinity, Yat from Animoca, and I are pioneers of the web3 gaming space. There was the period from 2018 to 2020 that was hard and painful where we were just trying to survive because there was no market then, and we had to figure out how to survive the lean years in the last cycle.
Regina (1:53:46): Who would you say gave you your biggest break?
Gabby (1:53:50): I met my first investor, Anil from Delphi Digital, on Twitter. I was tweeting about NFTs from 2018 to 2022, and I was breeding and selling Axies. I was also selling NFT insurance on Rarible. And Anil messaged me on Twitter, saying, “What you are doing is cool. I want to give you a complimentary pass to our website.”
What he didn’t know was that I had a pitch in my back pocket for YGG, and I targeted Delphi specifically because I knew they created the tokenomics of Axie Infinity so they would be one of the few people in the world who would understand what I was trying to do. So I got into a meeting with them — it was Anil and Piers, and this was virtual via Zoom because everyone was stuck at home back then. They ultimately got it and even helped us refine the idea of YGG further, and that was the biggest break I had.
You can watch the full discussion on YouTube.