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David Bonifacio: Accelerating Value Creation as Partner at TNB Aura


Southeast Asia


David Bonifacio

David Bonifacio recently took on the role of Managing Partner and Head of Philippines at TNB Aura, bringing extensive in-country knowledge, strategic relationships, and a wealth of operating experience to support the company. David will focus on strengthening the existing portfolio companies across governance, organisational alignment, and strategic execution - a key tenet of TNB Aura's approach to high-conviction investing.

David Bonifacio's Transition to Managing Partner at TNB Aura

Drawing from his extensive experience in the Philippine startup landscape, David seamlessly transitioned from Managing Director at New Leaf Ventures to his current position as Managing Partner at TNB Aura. Since stepping into this role in September 2020, David has spearheaded TNB Aura's strategic initiatives, focusing on amplifying their presence in the burgeoning Philippine market.

With over two decades of investment expertise, David brings a wealth of knowledge to TNB Aura, where he diligently oversees top-tier deal flow within the Philippines. His astute leadership has fortified TNB Aura's foothold in the region, positioning the firm as a key player in the ever-evolving startup ecosystem.

Furthermore, David's multifaceted background as the Founder and CEO of Bridge Southeast Asia underscores his commitment to driving social impact in emerging markets. His visionary approach to venture building has propelled Bridge Southeast Asia to prominence and is a testament to his unwavering dedication to fostering sustainable growth.

Beyond his contributions to TNB Aura, David is a director in other for-profit and non-profit organisations, including Archangel Impact, ULI Philippines, and Elevate Dental Group, championing initiatives that catalyse positive change and uplift communities.

Strategic Focus on Portfolio Strengthening and Value Creation

TNB Aura’s Founding Partner, Charles Wong, added, “As TNB Aura's Managing Partner and Head of Philippines, David has been pivotal in enhancing our approach to value creation. His initiatives have played a key role in empowering portfolio companies, exemplifying our dedication to driving sustained impact and growth within the ecosystem.”

Impact on the Philippine Venture Capital Ecosystem

His multifaceted approach positions him as a notable figure in the Philippine entrepreneurial landscape, contributing significantly to TNB Aura's growth in the country and the rest of the region. Moreover, David is pivotal in managing TNB Aura's research and back office operations in the Philippines, ensuring seamless support for the investment team and fostering a robust infrastructure for strategic decision-making.

Interview with David Bonifacio

Q: Could you elaborate on TNB Aura's vision for the venture capital landscape in the Philippines and how your leadership is instrumental in achieving these goals?

TNB Aura's vision for the venture capital landscape in the Philippines is deeply rooted in uplifting the Southeast Asian community, particularly in countries brimming with talent and untapped potential. Despite the nascent state of the Philippine VC landscape, the statistics speak volumes: with a young population and a high propensity for technology, the Philippines sees approximately 65,000 IT graduates annually, comparable to IT graduates per capita in Vietnam. This abundance of talent underscores the immense potential for growth and innovation in the Philippine tech scene.

By spearheading the development of a robust Philippine team, I ensure that TNB Aura can effectively execute our investment strategy tailored to the Philippines' unique landscape. Moreover, studies indicate a gap between available talent and the needs of high-growth startups, with only 30% to 49% of IT graduates meeting global standards due to a lack of experience in product-building environments. This highlights the urgency of our mission to bridge this gap and nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Through collaborative projects with universities, like Ateneo de Manila University, and government partners, TNB Aura, under my leadership, is investing in ventures and shaping research culture to foster innovation and impact. Together, we empower Filipino entrepreneurs with the knowledge and resources to address the nation's most pressing challenges and drive long-term success. With a data-driven investment strategy and a commitment to fostering impactful research, TNB Aura is poised to be a transformative force in shaping the future of the Philippine venture capital landscape.

Q: In what ways does TNB Aura distinguish itself in the venture capital arena, and how does your experience as a founder and CEO align with the fund?

What truly sets TNB Aura apart and drew me to this team is our research-backed and data-driven approach to investing, coupled with a strong commitment to supporting the right founders. As an early-stage investor, we understand the inherent risk involved and navigate it by combining foresight with adaptability. This translates into a deep understanding of market trends and potential based on data and the agility to recognise promising ventures that traditional metrics might not fully capture.

My experience as a founder and CEO allows me to see things from the entrepreneur's perspective. Having walked that path myself, I understand the challenges and the value of an enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and supportive investor. At TNB Aura, we strive to be that kind of partner for our portfolio companies.

Q: With your role in leading the TNB Aura Value-Add team, can you elaborate on how the value-add framework's systematic approach ensures precision and effectiveness in the investment process?

Our value-add framework is grounded in pragmatic analysis and data-driven research, tailored to the unique context of each portfolio company. By leveraging comprehensive data on past funding rounds, valuations, exits, and liquidity events, we craft strategic playbooks that guide long-term decisions and day-to-day execution.

Rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, we begin by envisioning the desired outcome: a target funding round or exit. This allows us to pinpoint the key metrics that drive success for each company. For instance, if sustainable growth is the aim, we concentrate on optimising factors such as monthly recurring revenue while carefully managing metrics like loan-to-value (LTV) and customer acquisition cost (CAC).

Our systematic approach offers startups a clear advantage in resource allocation. By drawing on industry best practices and a wealth of precedent data, we empower companies to make informed decisions, eliminating the need for blind trade-offs and ensuring that every resource is strategically deployed for maximum impact.

Q: TNB Aura has actively fostered a robust startup ecosystem. How do you see your role influencing the growth and development of startups in the Philippines?

This question intrigues me, as I'm excited about the potential of the Philippines. Realising this potential goes beyond public relations, event-based activities, and hype. To cultivate a thriving startup ecosystem, we must build a foundation grounded in individuals who understand and can lead teams toward sustained growth.

Instead of relying on superficial measures, I focus on fostering an environment where the fundamentals of successful startups are deeply understood. This involves sharing our research methodology with incoming team members and partners, such as local universities. By emphasising the importance of research and analysis, we aim to contribute to developing a strong foundation for startups in the Philippines, fostering an ecosystem poised for sustainable growth.

Q: Could you share a specific success story or achievement during your tenure at TNB Aura that highlights the firm's positive impact and strategic direction under your leadership?

It's still early in my tenure at TNB Aura Philippines, but I'm already passionate about implementing strategies aligning with our commitment to positive impact. Recognising the diverse needs of startups in the Philippines, I've been working with the team to tailor our support beyond just funding.

This shift echoes the challenges highlighted in the Philippine startup ecosystem, where a gap exists between the talent pool and the requirements of high-growth ventures.

Our approach emphasises effectiveness over mere activity. We're focusing on providing the right tools and resources to address our portfolio companies' specific needs, helping them secure funding, build robust teams, and navigate the intricacies of scaling a startup. This aligns perfectly with TNB Aura's strategic direction of fostering a thriving startup ecosystem in the Philippines.

One achievement I'm proud of is developing an institutionalised framework for our portfolio companies. This framework considers the unique landscape of the Philippines and allows us to manage our growing portfolio across multiple funds effectively. This ensures we can provide consistent and high-quality support to all our ventures, regardless of their stage or specific focus.

By implementing these changes, we aim to empower our portfolio companies to become successful businesses and drivers of innovation and job creation in the Philippines. This directly addresses the need for a skilled workforce and fosters a more vibrant startup ecosystem.

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