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The Final Pitch returns for Season 9, non-tech startups now included

JOHN AGUILAR, Creator and Host

By Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

The ninth season of The Final Pitch, a business reality show, will feature broader investment opportunities that encompass non-tech startups and entrepreneurs, its creator said.

The Final Pitch Season 9: Open Edition is accepting applications until May 13. Those interested may apply on their website as an existing Philippine-based startup or business, or as someone with a great idea for a startup.

“The future partnerships should be open to various solutions, whether tech-related or not,” said John Aguilar, the show’s creator and host, who emphasized the importance of democratizing the scope beyond technology. 

“Our hybrid working environment has proven that it’s always good to be able to balance both,” he said during a launch event on Tuesday.

According to the Philippine Venture Capital Report 2023 by venture capital fund Foxmont Capital Partners (FCP) and global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, funds raised by Philippine startups exceeded $1 billion in 2022 for the second year in a row.

The report noted that as of February this year, the Philippines has already seen 17 investments, with the first quarter projected to hit 23. 

“The Philippine market is agile and fresh with new ideas and startups… [T]here has been a tremendous growth in later stage investments, reflecting the overall maturing state of the Philippine startup ecosystem,” the report said. 

“We are not at a level where some of our more advanced neighbors are at, but we’re certainly getting there,” Mr. Aguilar said. 

The country holds a 9% share of venture capital funds among Southeast Asian countries, growing from 2% in 2020 and 5% in 2021, according to the report. 

The new The Final Pitch season will feature investor-judges Brian P. Llamanzares, president of investment company Pantheon Holdings, Inc.; Henry Rhoel R. Aguda, chief executive officer and president of Union Digital Bank; Rico Bautista, chief executive officer and president of insurance provider Etiqa Philippines; and Robert Scott, vice president of hotel operations at casino-resort-hotel complex Okada Manila. 

The Final Pitch will also hold an open mentorship day led by business mentors on May 23 at Dragon’s Nest, Thames International School in Quezon City.

Mentors for the open house will include Dean Bernales, founder and chief executive officer of public relations firm Uniquecorn Strategies; Christopher Peralta, founder and chief executive officer of startup mentorship ecosystem Silicon Valley HQ; and Vince Golangco, founder and chief executive officer of local online metro guide book When in Manila.

INVESTOR-JUDGES’ CRITERIA AND ADVICEThe set of investor-judges said that they are eyeing ambitious entrepreneurs who have developed innovative business solutions during the pandemic, with next-generation approaches to the current Philippine landscape.

“Definitely I’m looking for something that addresses a real problem for the country,” Mr. Llamanzares said. “Something that people will be able to use, subscribe to… something that can help people in general.” 

He added that applicants must do their homework and build a pitch deck with the business’ clear financial status and seeking capital. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Aguda said he is looking for startups with an eye for scaling. “I follow this adage: ‘To test is easy; to fail is easy. To scale—that’s the business…’ That’s the only way you can be sustainable,” he said. 

For Mr. Bautista, he is seeking business partners and startups that would help increase the penetration rate and awareness of the insurance industry in the country. “We know that insurance is not only there as an expenditure for individuals and companies, but it is something very crucial.” 

According to the Insurance Commission, there were only 20,248 enterprises that provided healthcare coverage to their employees as of 2021. There were more than 1.08 million establishments in the country that year, according to the local statistics agency.  

Mr. Scott stressed the importance of people dynamics as one of his own criteria in selecting a startup to invest in. “Our industry is a people industry. Our most important assets are our people—be it our customers, be it our staff,” he said. 

“It’s not so much about the idea, but also the person behind the idea—the vision, the drive, the passion, what their end game is,” he added.

The Final Pitch is open to all Philippine-based startups or businesses who are generally operating for less than 5 years, but anyone with a solid business idea is encouraged to submit their application, according to creator and host Mr. Aguilar. 

Applications for the show can be done through The Final Pitch website at  

To gain entry to the Open Mentorship Day on May 23, interested attendees must bring a copy of The Art and Science of the Pitch written by Mr. Aguilar, which they can also purchase at the event location.

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