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Philippines needs more startups

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DAVAO CITY – With already more than 500 members in the country, Philippines still needs more members to pave way for an effective digital innovation, according to StartupPH, the country’s umbrella organization of all stakeholders and supporters of the startup and innovation communities.

StartupPH convener Jojo Flores said the country only has a 540-strong startup ecosystem. Of this number, 320 have already been cross verified by the organization, 137 are subject for verification and 83 are non-operating as of August 2017.

“This number is far behind compared to other countries like Israel and Bangalore in India as these have over 20,000 startups,” Flores said, adding that the way to have a thriving startup ecosystem is through the numbers.

Of the operational startups, Flores bared that majority of the startups in the country are involved in e-commerce (56 percent), financial technology, software as a service and business solutions (55 percent), financial technology (48 percent), and consumer apps (40 percent).

Of the 320 startups, more than half do business to business (B2B) products and services.

“We target to reach a total of 1,000 startups next year,” he said. Flores, who recently gathered stakeholders for the 5th Geeks on a beach (Goab) international tech and startup conference at the Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa Hotel in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Goab featured series of talks for corporates and businesses who intend to start their digital innovation.

Goab is an annual event for the Philippine startup community. On its 5th year, some 400 participants from the government and the private sector, including successful technology entrepreneurs from Southeast Asia and Silicon Valley, have gathered in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

GOAB is organized by TechTalks.ph, powered by Sym.ph, branding by Happy Garaje, and public relations by PRWorks.

TechTalks.ph founder Tina Amper said her company encourages companies to partner with local startup and technology community and jumpstart their digital transformation, a necessary move for companies to stay relevant in today’s realities.

“All businesses who want to incorporate automated processes and tools, use software to reach out to new customers and expand profits, harness the power of social media and digital marketing techniques to increase revenue and boost their branding, and partner with experienced and trusted digital experts,” she said.

Barriers of growth

Flores said that among those that dampen growth in the startup ecosystem are founders’ relationship with its people, funding, product scalability, infrastructure, talent, and lack of awareness among startups on government programs and support.

These barriers made Philippine startup ecosystem considered as still in its infancy as against to other economies like Israel, US, India, and Singapore.

He said that if the country produces more startups, there are more chances of producing success stories and unicorns or technology businesses valued at $1 billion.

Creating value US-based investor, Aldo Carrascoso, emphasized that in winning the game, startups should not focus on how to become a unicorn, instead, on how to “create value” first.

“It’s not about getting the highest valuation, but creating the most value. If you create value, the valuation/dollars will follow,” said Carrascoso, who is the founder and chief executive officer of GlycoProX Biosciences, a firm based in California that combines next generation glycomics (carbohydrates), instrumentation and deep machine learning to augment cancer diagnosis and therapeutics.

“Fix a problem that affects a billion people. That’s what you aim for, rather than trying to be a billion-dollar company,” added US-based ClickSWITCH.com chief technology officer Yobie Benjamin.

Entrepreneurial mindset

Diane Eustaquio, Executive Director at IdeaSpace Foundation, Inc., said entrepreneurial mindset should be the focus to prepare the nation for innovation and digital change.

“We really believe that the entrepreneurial mindset is what we need to prepare our whole nation, especially to our young people. There’s more jobs as they say that will be lost to bots, and we need people, entrepreneurs who can adjust to disruptions and the more we have that in our culture, it’s better for the Philippines to adjust to changing times,” Eustaquio said. (ASP/PNA)

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