Founder Spotlight: Carlo Calimon of StartUp Village

It Takes a Village to Raise a Startup
by Michaela Villaroman

Much like how the proverbial village is needed to raise a child, we can say that it takes just as much to raise a startup. In the case of entrepreneurial ventures, to be “raised by a village” entails being supported by a community where collaboration is at its core.

This is where StartUp Village comes in. Providing startups with an “entire village worth” of experts, resources, and not to mention, working space, StartUp Village ensures that innovative startups are able to reach their full potential. Their goal to shake up the industry through empowering disruptive ventures is shared deeply by its Director, Carlo Calimon.

Ready, set, LET’S GO

Carlo has always been a visionary entrepreneur. In fact, his advocacy to “create a more entrepreneurial Philippines” can be traced back to his years in the Asian Institute of Management where he completed his MBA.

During his time there, he got involved with the Leading Entrepreneurs Toward Seizing Global Opportunities (LET’S GO) Foundation, a non-profit, non-stock organization geared towards bringing entrepreneurship education to all Filipinos. Carlo helped organize EntrepAsia with Jay Bernardo, the founder of LET’S GO, to get entrepreneurs immersed in the different startup cultures around Asia and Silicon Valley.

It was through his participation in the foundation that Carlo found his true calling -- helping strengthen entrepreneurship in the Philippines.

He decided to join the foundation formally after grad school and took on the role as Director of LET’S GO. “I had an MBA degree, but I had never been into business before grad school. Being part of LET’S GO foundation allowed me to experience, see, and learn a lot,” Carlo shares.

Over the years, Carlo continued to develop and execute more endeavors through the foundation. Among their initiatives were integrating entrepreneurship into the national high school curriculum; training teachers and SME counselors; and running other programs like EntrepAsia to advocate Philippine entrepreneurship.

The Visionary Entrepreneur Builds a Village

When “startup” suddenly became a buzzword, Carlo’s friends and former students reached out to ask how they can create their own ventures. To answer, LET’S GO rehashed an old project called Employee to Entrepreneur (E2E) program to help get aspiring entrepreneurs started.

Their project was a hit, and many of their participants were able to build lasting entrepreneurial careers. Carlo shared a success story from the project: “One of Jay’s drivers took the program. He ended up resigning as a driver to become a full-time entrepreneur instead. In the end, he grew his own company and became the largest distributor of load in the south.”

Following the success of the program was Carlo’s own success as a founder. Mobkard, a mobile application that provides a platform for deals and discounts, won the #BeTheBoss Award for Mobile Readiness. For their prize, the Mobkard team toured Silicon Valley and learned more about the startup community there. Carlo says, “From that trip, we were further inspired to do StartUp Village already.”

In 2017, LET’S GO finally decided to start a facility where they can continue their entrepreneurship programs and offer more resources to match the needs of growing businesses. They named that facility StartUp Village, and to date, they have helped hundreds of entrepreneurs.

Carlo shares, “Since setting it up, we have been actively engaged in developing more startups; connecting them with potential investors; mentoring them; and doing anything and everything to develop the startup ecosystem.”

Raising Startups

Though the true origins of StartUp Village’s name reveal that it wasn’t directly based on the popular African proverb, Carlo loved that it serendipitously worked out to represent what they were offering. “It is really about collaboration and helping each other. True enough, it takes a village to raise a child, so we thought it was perfect-- it also takes a village to raise a startup,” Carlo quipped.

StartUp Village is an incubator/accelerator that provides startups with the support and resources to turn their ideas into reality.

They offer mentorship, training, co-working spaces, and access to their network of investors and customers. StartUp Village is also backed by Google Developers Launchpad, a branch of Google that pushes for global acceleration of startups. As a Google mentor himself, Carlo shared that he hopes to “provide an avenue for startups to really transition from being a Filipino company to becoming a global company.”

Their services are not exclusive to experienced entrepreneurs and established startups though. This village welcomes anyone and everyone who wants to get started. In fact, StartUp Village offers a training program called “The Gift” specifically to help budding entrepreneurs grow.

Carlo says, “It doesn’t matter whether you have the experience or not, or whether you have an idea or not. Our role is basically to help you and guide you through the process of finding what business idea is for you.”

Looking forward, StartUp Village plans to send more startups abroad. “We want to connect more startups to investors and the right organizations. Personally, I want to be able to mentor a unicorn too,” Carlo shared optimistically.

At the end of the day, Carlo’s main vision is to be able to teach, inspire, and encourage more people to become entrepreneurs. And it is through StartUp Village that he is making it happen.

For anyone feeling entrepreneurial, Carlo shares one piece of advice: “You wouldn’t know until you try it, but just know that StartUp Village is here to help -- because we’re a village, we take care of each other.”