The Tide: Supporting the Philippines Startup Ecosystem

Doing business and attempting a startup in the Philippines can be a huge challenge because of the underdeveloped infrastructure in the country. After speaking with many startup founders, it was clear that one of the greatest hurdles for entrepreneurs is finding reliable and affordable internet. There are a few coworking spaces that have sprung up in Manila and Cebu but many charge fees that are simply not possible for the average founder who is bootstrapping development.

There is one exception: The Tide

The tide is a co-working and community space in Cebu, Philippines. What is unique is that it is a social enterprise, which means that all of their profits go back into making The TIDE community better. The founders also work hard to keep their prices as low as possible to be as inclusive as possible. This co-working space is at heart a community service more than a profitable business. Their goal is to allow all entrepreneurs (freelancers, company founders, etc…) to have the available infrastructure to build their business and increase their personal income.
This enterprise began because the founders of The Tide saw this big missing gap of available reliable infrastructure in the Cebu startup ecosystem and decided to come together to start it in July 2014 to try to solve the problem. Both Symph and engageSPARK happened to be looking for office spaces, so they decided to get an office space together that was larger than what they needed so that they could build a co-working space alongside their own offices.

The Tide offers:
1. Co-working (rent a seat by the day, week, or month). This includes awesome Internet, chair, desk, aircon, electricity, and water.
2. Event Space & Conference rooms: for private events/meetings and meetups.
3. Event Space & Meetups: free public events around various topics such as entrepreneurship, python, social enterprise, etc. They donate the space, the use of their projector and sometimes even chip in for drinks and snacks to help the local startup/entrepreneur community.

Because people in the Philippines often complain about the poor quality of Internet, it is one of the key features of The Tide. Because teams at Symph and engageSPARK needed awesomeInternet for their own development, they invested in a very high quality connection – 50 mbps up and 50 mbps down on an international backbone-speeds rare to find in Cebu-especially at their affordable rates.

Albert Padin: Co Founder & CTO at Symph, Google Developer Expert (Google Cloud). Albert is a developer and entrepreneur who’s worked on consumer, enterprise, and government software products. He is the co-founder and CTO of Symph, a design, development, and startup studio. At Symph, he has architected and developed solutions for 500 Startups, Office of the President of the Philippines, and the World Bank.

Dave Overton: Founder and CEO of Symph – a design, development and digital marketing studio in Cebu City, Philippines. Symph designs and develops for brands and startups and creates awesome things that people love. Prior to starting Symph, he was the CIO at Bigfoot – a media and entertainment company – where he oversaw all technology and digital media assets. He has a BA in International Economics from San Diego State University.

Avner Mizrahi: Founder/COO of engageSPARK, is a human rights lawyer. After practicing corporate litigation in Washington, D.C. for several years, he moved to Uganda to fight for the rights of vulnerable and marginalized individuals; while there, he cofounded and built the anticorruption reporting platform, Not In My Country. Avner then cofounded engageSPARK with Ravi, initially motivated by the idea that engageSPARK would empower NGOs to build their own anti corruption reporting tools in minutes using SMS & Voice.

Ravi Agarwal: Ravi Agarwal, Founder/CEO, engageSPARK; Limited Partner, 500 Startups. A self proclaimed ‘recovering capitalist pig’, Ravi founded three companies in Boston, two of which today employ over 3,000 people and one is public, NASDAQ:EIGI. In 2011, he volunteered with Grameen Foundation in Ghana and Uganda working on poverty alleviation programs, including mAgriculture and mHealth programs. He then founded engageSPARK, a not-for-profit social business, which is the world’s easiest tool to build interactive Automated Phone Calls (IVR) & 2-Way SMS Text campaigns in just minutes, in 200+ countries, and without the need for any tech skills.

While other co-working spaces are available, such as A Space, which has opened in Manila and Cebu, The Tide is less than ½ price. Because The Tide’s mission is to be an inclusive social enterprise, they charge fees as a means of covering cost, rather than making a profit.

(There are several other BPO-type office spaces where you get a cubicle, instead of an open workspace & community, and a PC. These are targeted at BPO companies and are at least 2-3x The Tide prices.)

The space currently makes about 4-5 thousand dollars a month. Most of that money covers internet, with the rest going towards rent and other amenities offered in the space.

Currently, The Tide has over 60 members (all paid memberships) for co-working space. These include freelancers, musicians, startups, and independent professionals. Noteworthy ones include engageSPARK and LegalMatch.