The first Philippine Startup Week, held on November 18 to 22, 2019 capped off with the 5th Slingshot Conference and the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Republic Act 11337 or the Innovative Startup Act.
The law provides startups and startup enablers with incentives like travel grants, venture funds, and assistance in getting visas and business permits. At the center of the law’s implementation will be the Philippine Startup Development Plan that reviews and harmonizes existing government programs for startups.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said that among his agency’s responsibilities, as mandated by the Innovative Startup Act, is ensuring ease of doing business for startups through a Startup Business One-Stop Shop (Startup BOSS) and administering a Startup Venture Fund, through its attached agency, the National Development Company (NDC).
The fund will match funding from venture capitalists for startups based in the Philippines. Sec. Lopez said that NDC can allocate an initial fund of Php 125 million to fund 50 startups and grow the fund as needed.
The Philippines in the global startup scene
In his welcome remarks at the Slingshot Conference on 22 November, the trade chief shared the Philippines’s standing according to the Startup Genome’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2019.
Startup Genome ranked Manila among the top Activation Phase Ecosystems in the world, together with Taipei, Busan, Calgary, and Frankfurt. The secretary reported that DTI has counted over 600 startups in the country; around 50 incubators and accelerators; and about 45 funders.
“Though our startup community is still relatively small, with Manila valued at US$ 378 million, we are seeing so much talent, value, and potential for growth among our young and dynamic Filipino startups,” said Sec. Lopez.
Adam Bregu, Business Development Manager of Startup Genome, gave a talk about the global startup ecosystem, with a deep dive on the Philippines. He said that 68% of the US$ 2.8 trillion value of the startup community is still concentrated in the top cities, namely San Francisco, New York, London, Beijing, Boston and Tel Aviv. This, however, already decreased from an 87% share from 2011 to 2012.
Bregu cited that Philippine startups are strong in agri-tech and food, blockchain, and fintech; the first two are the highest growing sectors globally. He also reported that the Filipino startup community has a strong local connectedness driven by its sense of community and the above-average number of female founders.
However, Bregu pointed out that to maximize growth, Philippine startups should develop a globally-focused mindset, wherein startup founders should plan to go global as early as day one. Globally-focused startups, Bregu said, grow twice as fast as their nationally-focused peers. To develop this mindset, he suggested a stronger link to the key startup hubs in the world, with an emphasis on founder-to-founder connections.
In 2016, DTI developed Startup Pilipinas as the industry cluster program to foster inter-enterprise linkages among startups and strengthen collaborative networks. As part of this program, DTI funds Filipino startup founders to participate in international events.
A delegation of Pinay-led startups recently participated in the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology 2019 (SWITCH) on 11 to 15 November. Aside from Singapore, DTI sent startups to 17 international events this year, including those in Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Canada, and Germany.
DTI’s foreign commercial attaches also initiated their own programs such as the Bridging the Philippines and Silicon Valley Innovation Ecosystems program and SPARK447, a co-working space at the Philippine Center in San Francisco was launched in October 2019 to provide Philippine Startups access to a virtual address and physical space.
Meanwhile, KALA Works, a 10,659-square feet co-working space founded by Fil-Am investors will be operational by the 2nd quarter of 2020. This will be the first Fil-Am managed co-working space in San Francisco with the goal of helping startups scale up by providing a state-of-the-art facility and best possible mentorship.