STAC-Silicon Valley: Christina Laskowski’s approach on entrepreneurship
By Asha Gutierrez
A woman of empowerment
Christina Laskowski is a strategic advisor, a seasoned boutique investment banker, and an active non-profit volunteer among many talents. She is known as someone who brings vision, experience, and creativity to her work with start-ups. She has an organized approach to business development and investor relations while helping companies build traction.
She also believes in Women empowerment as she was a regional board and finance committee member of Women’s Initiative for Self Employment, a non-profit focused on transitioning women from welfare to self-employment. She is indeed a unique individual with the Filipina Women Network recognizing her as one of the “100 Most Influential Filipinas” in the United States.
With a degree in Finance from the University of San Francisco, Christina now serves as a strategic advisor and management consultant to consumer and technology companies. Her clients range from young emerging growth companies to brands such as Levi Strauss & Co. and PayPal. She has served as an M&A advisor to Plug & Play Tech Center and as a Mentor to Fashion Technology Accelerator at NEST (now GSV). Her approach to working with clients is similar to her approach developed working as a boutique investment and M&A banker where she helped growth companies raise more than $2.0 billion. Her differentiated analytical approach stems from her first role as one of the founding members of the branded consumer research team at Hambrecht & Quist.
Start-up ecosystems in the Philippines
STAC-Silicon is a non-profit organization that helped build the framework for the Philippines tech start-up ecosystem. The vibrant community that exists today reflects the organization’s early work beginning in 2009 when it agreed to assist the government in identifying high potential companies and commercially viable R&D efforts. The original efforts of identifying eventually evolved into branded programs and activities given the fragmentation of efforts around the country and need for sustainability. “It is about creating awareness that there are good start-ups in this country that can achieve much more with the right mentors, resources, and etc,” Christina said. They designed programs such as ON3 to gather information and discover companies with global potential. She shared that the focus of STAC is to help address economic development through activities and programs that will promote self-sufficiency which can be accomplished via entrepreneurship. Science & Tech start-ups were non-existent hence the efforts to develop the Philippines start-up ecosystem. The efforts will hopefully lead to a more prosperous economy that exports high-value products and services empowering founders, employees, and the communities they operate in.
Christina believes that in order for healthy development of the ecosystem, important factors include the ease of business and making sure that the right controls are in place are essential. Investors need to have comfort in being able to address concerns regardless of where the company is domiciled. “Investment in start-up systems vary on the interests,” she said regarding creating start-ups in the Philippines. It is about presenting the good (attractive) investments in the country so that the investors will take notice of them.
In her own opinion, there are not enough experienced professionals in the Philippines—which includes start-up experiences. There are a lot of founders who create start-ups but do not have the ability to take it to the next level. “It’s basically about getting thrown in the fire and seeing if one will survive,” she said. She hopes that their platform can serve as an avenue to access mentors for such start-ups given that it is in high demand in order to increase the efficiency of start-ups.
Acute visions for Silicon Valley
STAC-Silicon Valley recently entered into an ASEAN alliance with four other groups in Silicon Valley that serve as a bridge between Silicon Valley and the countries represented including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, four of the other ASEAN countries. This is because she believes that Silicon Valley investors and the community are interested in more than just one country in South East Asia. They hope that this will help increase interest and participation in the region. It is Christina’s vision to pursue this for the country’s advancement. Their focus is finding ways to collaborate and to hopefully encourage a collaboration of start-ups. This is now happening in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. An ideal output would be a collaboration of start-up teams from a mix of several countries. This will help bring different levels of expertise. As an example, Silicon Valley is a melting pot and they have people from all over the world come together.
The cultivation of a holistic entrepreneurship
STAC-Silicon Valley is an organization committed to cultivating holistic entrepreneurship. Its activities and partnerships strengthen the tech ecosystem, empower entrepreneurs, and accelerate global business ideas. People who want to give back who work in Silicon Valley are members of the effort to help improve lives in the Philippines via entrepreneurship which impacts economic development. “We are continuing in building partnerships and relationships in Silicon Valley,” she said.
STAC-Silicon Valley designed the “Blueprint” for the Philippines tech startup ecosystem. Its strategic plan was submitted to the Philippine president in February 2010. Its goal is to find high potential start-ups and companies that could go global. It was very difficult to come across the information so they created a company that can help find these potential global players. As Christina said, “ It’s all about accessing the right mentors. The partnership with Globe, Smart Communications, and Novare Technologies led to the formation of Kickstart, IdeaSpace, and Wireless Wings, respectively. They all launched these seed funds.”
A combination of the rarest qualities
Christina is known to be an active member of the community in the US as well. She is a core team member of The Hinabi project as an advisor, a board member of FYLPRO, mentor to LEAD and Manila Valley, an accelerator initiative by Chris Peralta. She has also volunteered with the public school district in Marin County and led and designed the most successful College Night program. In the year 2010, Christina was presented the Golden Heart Award, Rank of Grand Officer by the Philippine President. In that same year, she also achieved being served as the Balik Scientist (return Scientist) awardee by the Philippine Dept. of Science & Technology. These accomplishments excessively show her essential qualities along with her exceptional intellect.
As Brewer Stone, a Senior Strategic Partner to Global Technology Companies said, “Christina and I worked closely together for nearly three years at both East Peak Advisors and FBR, and throughout she proved an extremely dedicated, disciplined, and capable colleague and advisor to her clients. She has a remarkable ability to win people’s trust, and the disciplined follow through to consistently deliver value.”
STAC-Silicon Valley serves as an advisor to stakeholders including the Philippine government, academe, business, grassroots organization, and local communities. But more to that, Christina alludes to their role of helping economic developments through cultivating a wide array of interconnected strategic partnerships that support entrepreneurship. They are still ongoing partnerships and relationships in Silicon Valley.