This Show is on the Lookout for the Next Big Business—Here’s How You Can Join

The latest season of The Final Pitch invites entrepreneurs from across all industries to present their innovative business solutions in front of a diverse panel of investor-judges.

The startup landscape in the Philippines is nascent—an up-and-coming player with lots of potential, much like the businesses under its wing. In fact, the number of start-ups in the country is expected to grow with statistics showing that the country boasts around 700 start-ups as of October 2021, which is a 156% increase from the 273 start-ups in 2017.

But that’s not all. In 2025, it was forecasted that the number of newly registered businesses would reach over 20 thousand.

Out of all the industries, financial technology—or fintech, for short—is the most funded start-up in the Philippines, with the value of deals received by startups in the FinTech sector, which accounted for over half of the total deal value in 2021. This is due to increased digitalization and campaigns by the government to boost financial inclusion and the adaption of digital payments.

But for these businesses to kickstart, they of course need to secure funding. This is where the country’s premier business reality TV show, The Final Pitch, comes in.

Beyond Tech: The Final Pitch, Open Edition

A longstanding business reality TV show, The Final Pitch is back for its ninth season on CNN Philippines with the theme “Open Edition.” Much like its precluding seasons, this new season is designed to “provide opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs, innovators, and startups from all industries to present their innovative business solutions catering to a diverse panel of investor-judges looking to fund and back their initiatives.”

Things, however, will be done slightly differently, as the upcoming season will be more inclusive and diverse. How? By giving opportunities for non-technology startups who are seeking investment and partnership opportunities and aiming to take their businesses to the next level.

“We have decided to make this an ‘Open Edition’ to be able to give a chance to entrepreneurs of different sizes, industries, and verticals to be able to participate in both the fundraising, mentoring, and market reach that The Final Pitch has been able to give the entrepreneurs who have pitched their enterprises on the show,” says John Aguilar, the show’s creator and host.

“This is also a way for us to democratize access to everything that show stands for, to go beyond tech startups, which have traditionally been the majority,” he adds.

Meet the Judges

That being said, this season’s judges will come from different industries, as they bring their brand of diverse perspectives and valuable insights. These include:

  • Rico Bautista, President and CEO of Etiqa Life & General Assurance Philippines
  • Brian Poe-Llamanzares, President of Pantheon Holdings
  • Henry Aguda, President and CEO of UnionDigital Bank and Member-convenor of GoDigital Pilipinas
  • Robert Scott, Vice President-Hotel Operations of Okada Manila.

And for the first time, two members of the diplomatic corps will also be participating in The Final Pitch: the Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines His Excellency Ilan Fluss, and the British Ambassador to the Philippines Her Excellency Laure Beaufils.

According to Aguila, beyond investors, this esteemed roster will not just be potential investors—they too will act as strategic partners for future contestants.

Esteemed judges of The Final Pitch Season 9

What The Judges Want in a Business

In a virtual press launch, the judges shared what they’re looking for in the upcoming season. Starting with Rico Bautista, he expressed a desire to collaborate with entrepreneurs who have strategic, feasible, and technological ideas with clear business opportunities.

“I am personally looking for startups who can help expand our business in Etiqa, especially when it relates to insurance, customer service, and distribution,” Bautista explains. “I am also looking for an entrepreneurial and passionate leader and a strong business team with the ability to combine art with technology.”

“Their passion in starting up and innovating, to come up with something so simple and yet very relevant—both to the market they’re playing in and to the company that they will be helping. Lastly, future potential and clear commercial teams resulting in early Return of Investment (ROI),” he adds.

On the other hand, Brian Poe-Llamanzares is looking for business solutions that not only directly address significant problems in the country, but are also usable and accessible to the public. “As an investor and entrepreneur, I am always on the lookout for innovative solutions that address real problems and benefit the general public. Simultaneously, I am also keen on identifying opportunities that align with our family business at Pantheon Holdings”

“However, my ultimate belief is investing in the entrepreneurs themselves,” Poe-Llamanzares continues. “In the Philippines, entrepreneurship is the driving force behind many successful companies, particularly at the startup level, and the person behind the venture is what ultimately makes it successful. I am thrilled to engage with entrepreneurs who possess a clear vision of what their company requires to grow and thrive, whether it be a technological solution, marketing assistance, or networking opportunities.”

As for Henry Aguda, his interest lies in finding the next big thing in the Philippine startup scene. But beyond that, he is looking for game-changing ideas that can transform the industry and provide solutions to the government’s problems. “Our main focus in UnionDigital Bank is to provide banking service to the under-banked, unbanked, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), that is why we have an open mind coming into this show to find the ‘diamond in the rough’—an SME that will become a unicorn one of these days.”

“My excitement is here also looking for solutions that we can take to the government and be the ones to scale up. Maybe an entrepreneur or a startup can solve a problem that the government is trying to solve and the government becomes the accelerator to make them a unicorn,” Aguda adds.

What Start-up Businesses Can Expect

Aside from a chance to get investor funding, participating start-ups can expect that this season’s mentoring sessions will be conducted differently. How? The Final Pitch will be inviting the show’s contestants, students, startups, and other organizations outside the show to come together for a one-day learning experience during the filming of the Open House Mentoring Day episode on May 23 at Thames International Business School.

Said mentorship program will include a diversified group of business mentors who will guide the participants, which include:

  • Dean Bernales, Founder & CEO of Uniquecorn Strategies
  • Chris Peralta, Founder of Silicon Valley HQ
  • Vince Golangco, CEO & Founder of When in Manila
  • Atty. Marlon Valderama, founder and CEO of LexMeet
  • Joel Santos, President of Thames International Business School
  • Paolo Rentero, Co-Founder of TechShake

Aguilar will likewise make an appearance there—giving a pitching masterclass based on his best-selling book: The Art and Science of the Pitch. “We are excited to offer opportunities to a varied range of entrepreneurs and startups to take advantage of the fundraising, mentoring, and market reach that The Final Pitch Open Edition can provide,” Aguilar ends.

“This is our way of promoting inclusivity and diversity on the show, and we’re eagerly anticipating the incredible concepts and companies that will emerge from this season.”

To join The Final Pitch, interested applicants will be required to fill out and submit an online entry form through this link via its official website The deadline for submission of applications is until Saturday, May 13, 2023.

Participants who wish to join the May 23 Open House Mentoring Day can register through or visit The Final Pitch Facebook and LinkedIn pages.