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Meet Our Mentors: Niña Terol, Founder, CEO & CIO of SparkImpact Ventures


Meet Our Mentors: Niña Terol, Founder, CEO & CIO of SparkImpact Ventures

Tell us more about yourself.

I'm Niña Terol, Founder, CEO & CIO of SparkImpact Ventures, an innovation, inclusion, and impact consulting firm. It's a new firm that I established to merge my passion for innovation and technology, my advocacies for diversity & inclusion and social impact, and my strengths as a communicator, brand and culture-builder, and consultant or mentor. I strongly believe that we need to support mission-driven leaders and innovators to succeed and grow, and this is where I can best be of service to the world.


Under SparkImpact, I've hatched the podcast Girl, Make Your Move with my good friend, Candice Quimpo. Girl, Make Your Move features brave, honest conversations for women looking to get unstuck in different areas of their lives. I'm also developing foundHER, a leadership and coaching program for women founders and entrepreneurs.


In addition, I am currently the director for growth and impact at The Final Pitch, the Philippines' hit business reality show that brings together the top business leaders with the most promising startups. We're now producing Season 9 on CNN Philippines and will soon scale to Southeast Asia! There are a lot of exciting things going on!


What made you want to become a mentor at Plug and Play?

I've always loved teaching, conducting workshops, and consulting - which I've been doing for about 20 years now, on and off (imagine that!) - and I formally added mentoring to my arsenal of 'services' in 2015, albeit with another program.


When Plug and Play invited me to be a mentor. I considered it an honor and a privilege! Plug and Play is one of the largest accelerators and is behind the growth of some of the most recognized tech companies today, and it was a thrill for me to be part of this ecosystem.


I love meeting founders, hearing about their backstories, and seeing their plans or MVPs; and I enjoy the process of unlocking insights that could lead them to critical feature build, go-to-market strategy, or even a pivot. I've been involved in the GIA Manila program as a mentor or speaker for a few cohorts now, and I always look forward to working with the Plug and Play team and its founders.


What are some of your highlights as a mentor for our Global Innovation Alliance program in Manila?

I've enjoyed being a mentor for every cohort I participated in so far, but what made this most recent cohort special was that I really got to meet the founders face-to-face and I'm now regularly in touch with not just my 'mentees', but also other startup founders whose work resonated with me! I've also developed friendships with some of my mentees, and it's great to see their progress, be able to cheer them on, and still catch up with them from time to time.


How do you help founders embarking on their entrepreneurial journey?

I put on my hats in venture building and marketing & communications and look at their business from a number of angles.


First, do they have a good, sticky name, and a memorable and clear elevator pitch that will attract people to listen to them?


Next, how are their overall communications and their pitch - are they clear about the problem they're solving, how they're solving it through the product, why they're the best team to bring this to life, and what they need from either investors or strategic partners?


Third, I love connecting with people, so in almost every mentoring session or office hour that I do, I identify potential local partners that would be best to connect with them and I aim to make that connection and bridge the gap. (This, I think, is super valuable for anyone!) I also put on my product and venture building hat and (gently) poke holes at the different parts of their business or product, to see where things need to be improved. I also add my experience of having worked in government, and try to see if there are regulatory or public policy/government affairs angles that they'll need to consider before trying to expand to the Philippines.


Why do you think the Manila market is ideal for startups looking to expand?

Have you seen our density and intensity here? Who wouldn't want to do business in this madness? Haha!


Kidding aside, Manila/the Philippines is not for the faint of heart, but it's an extremely great market to tap into. The Philippines is an extremely digitally connected country - with an almost 100% social media penetration rate and over 100% smartphone penetration rate - we've got more smartphones than people in a country of over 110 million! - plus we're topping the charts in social media viewing, content creation, and gaming! We're extremely digital - which is always a good start. But Manila is one of the world's largest and densest megacities is also the perfect laboratory for some of the world's most wicked problems - climate change, pollution, urban mobility and traffic etc. Anyone who is serious about solving problems at scale through technology should come to Manila, to build and test out solutions here.


Culturally, we've also got the benefit of being located in Southeast Asia while being culturally similar to Latin America. So if you want to work in emerging markets in Asia and Latin America, this is really a great place to incubate your business.


How can startups benefit from joining an ecosystem such as Plug and Play’s?

Plug and Play have arguably the world's largest and most robust ecosystem, and its longevity in the technology scene means that being 'plugged into' its ecosystem could potentially connect you with anyone and everyone who has been there, done that in the tech space. It's a treasure trove of connections, experience, and insight that no other ecosystem could boast.


Want to learn from the unicorns and investors or tap into the future and cross-pollinate ideas? Plug and Play has them - their global network could also accelerate ideation, collaboration, and growth.


I had the privilege of visiting their headquarters in Silicon Valley in 2017. While it was great to see them right in the epicenter of all their action back then, it's great to see that they've now expanded their reach worldwide through their regional offices and programs. Entrepreneurs from this side of the world can reap the benefits from Plug and Play's decades of experience without having to travel all the way to Silicon Valley, and also generate our own insights that are unique and valuable to this side of the world.


What are the biggest challenges and most important lessons you learned in your career?

My biggest challenges always revolved around speaking truth to power, fighting for or advocating for what was right, then working within the system to be part of the change that I sought in the world. I did that in my younger years as a youth leader, then I had a brief stint in which I moved from being a political activist to working in the halls of the Senate - with two of the best senators the Philippines has ever had! - to make those changes real from a policy and program standpoint. When I moved into the tech startup space, my biggest challenges revolved around ensuring that a rapidly growing organization was growing in the right direction and still aligned with values and principles, then once again speaking truth to power to call out the gaps and anything else that needed to be done to realign the organization and somehow work towards the sustainability of the organization, its team, and its processes. All these weren't easy, but I learned that if you want to truly lead and make a lasting impact, you gotta stick your neck out for what you believe to be right, and you need to have skin in the game to make it happen.


I've also been in many situations where I was either the only woman or the youngest in the room, and I learned to find and use my voice despite whatever 'limitations' people thought I had. I now make sure that my work involves opening the doors for others, and supporting them so they can walk through those now-open doors with greater confidence.


But, to be honest, the most important lessons ever boil down to these two:

  1. Don't be a jerk, because the world is round and any trouble you sow on others will come back to you a millionfold - sometimes years later, when you least expect it

  2. Be kind and generous in spirit and in action. I always like to say that I am the product of so many people's generosity of spirit. I stand on the shoulders of previous bosses, clients, mentors, and collaborators who opened doors, paved the road for me, believed in me and cheered me on, or took a chance to do great work with me. I am the product of a village of support, which is why I am always happy to pay it forward.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

ALWAYS. DO. THE. RIGHT. THING. ALWAYS. Even when it's hard. ESPECIALLY when it's hard and hurts. Do not take ethical shortcuts. Do not ever sacrifice integrity and character simply for money or short-term gain or growth. You don't want to be the subject of the next documentary of the hotshot entrepreneur who lost their way and spiralled down to an inferno. DO. NOT. EVER. GO. THERE. It is never worth it.

I truly am grateful to be part of the ecosystem and look forward to future collaborations!


 

Written by: Niña Terol

Niña Terol is one of our Global Innovation Alliance Manila mentors.


Niña Terol has joined the GIA Manila program by mentoring two startups from Batch 1 — Edufied and Kinobi, both of which were able to come out with case studies in the Manila market, like product launching, and marketing partnerships. For Batch 2 and 3, she held an extensive and helpful workshop to pitch in Manila: Philippines business landscape and local pitching practices. And finally, for Batch 4, Niña has committed her time and efforts to mentor two more startups, Quest and GLS.


About Spark Impact

Spark Impact empowers leaders and brands to spark impact from the inside-out, through a 5Cs framework for branding, culture-building, and stakeholder engagement.


To find out more about our GIA Manila Program, click here.

Interested in being one of our mentors? Join our platform here!

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