As the ever-indulging human mind is constantly involved in thinking evolving ways of innovation, Startup culture is picking up steadily in the Southeast Asia and ASEAN countries. In my recent experience in learning the Philippines startup ecosystem, I understood that Philippines, a tourism savvy country with 1000 islands and a 100 million population, is at the helm to mobilize its youth towards developing Startups. With the government opening up to a larger change, the scope for the growth in startup culture is unfolding.
It is learnt that, over 100 thousand (approx.) talented people are working on outsourced Tech/IT projects from and around the world while being based in the Philippines. There are over 300 Startups in CEBU itself, which is developing and emerging as hub for talent and digital startups. CEBU hosts over 100 foreign startups, which are doing very well in digital technology, retail, innovative services, film production and Mobil technology development. Interestedly, along with a few Indian tech companies, we have a an Indian company, INSCOL setup at CEBU, they are into health Skills. “The western and European countries find Philippines to be one of the most suitable places to enterprise”, says Fionna, an Australian born women entrepreneur based out of CEBU. “Its affordable in terms of sourcing talent, working dedicated and happy work force” says Nick Brown from Engage Spark- an Indian owned Automated calls @ 2 way SMS company.
The Geeks on a Beech conference in its 4th consecutive year this time, saw over 700 participants, including: geeks, developers and entrepreneurs, mainly from Asia. To accelerate the Philippine Innovation economy, the government earlier 2016 organized SLINGSHOTS 2016. Tina Amper– Co-founder of Techtalks and GOAB, moved back from US after a long stint and later setup Geeks on a Beach program and is its proud co founder. She has been very instrumental in bringing Philippines at a noticeable position in the world of Startups and the mushrooming Startup culture in the Asian continent, a true community developer. Appreciating the government’s interest, it was a personal experience to witness a wonderful cultural evening hosted and sponsored by the Governor of BOHOL and the young and visionary Senator from BOHOL, Mr. Bam Aquino for over 700 GOAB delegates. Mr. Aquino is a well-respected politician and social entrepreneur in the Philippines. At the evening, he was very informal in his approach and was willingly engaged in candid conversations with local and foreign startups. While I invited him to India, he mentioned that, he had already been to Bangalore and Hyderabad recently, and will plan to come again.
Talking about some key factors that could and have excited entrepreneurs to venture out from Philippines is its English speaking population. Being under the British rule and a former Spanish colony, Philippines people speak very well English, 95% people in Philippines speak very affluently, a very pleasant community. If I am not wrong, it’s the highest English speaking country in the world after America. Most of the Germans, Australians, Eastern Europeans and Americans have their companies/startups based out of Philippines. According to Mr. JoJo, a Stalwart and a well respected entrepreneur from Philippines. He is the co founder of Plug and Play Technology Centre and is learnt that his incubated startups have raised over 2 billion USD. JoJo, addressed at an Investors meet setup by GOAB, and said, “that Philippine people are open to work with global startup diaspora, and added, that the Philippine government is very supportive of endeavours that mobilises the youth and help give direction”.
Though there is a considerable rise in Tech Startups in Philippines, Fintech Startups, digital startups and services startups are much in demand in the Philippine’s. A big load of transactions happens in Philippines. Investors mainly from Australia are looking forward to identify some good startups in Fintech. Apart from Fintech, startups are venturing into are Services and Technology enabling products, Education, Ed-tech, Content building, Online Retail, AI, VR, AR (artificial intelligence, Virtual reality, augmented reality).
Fresh rise in Maker labs is coming to join the startup ecosystem. Roland who is most commonly known as RJ, runs a wonderful Makers lab in Quezon city, PH along with his co founder friend Denis. The lab runs over 800 sq mtrs. Bases like these are great for preliminary Inventions and prototyping.
Interestingly, the rise of accelerators and co working spaces is a not to miss observation. A non-profit space accelerator IDEASPACE out of Manila is pretty excited about its growth in Philippines. “We are doing well and are planning to spread across Philippines”, says Goldy- Associate Director at IdeaSpace Foundation. Another success story of an accelerator cum incubator is, government run, Malaysia based MAGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre). MAGIC has done a phenomenal contribution to the rise of Startup Ecosystem in Malaysia.
Global and successful accelerator and community based Organisations as, TECHSTARS and Startup Weekend (Startup weekend is now a part of Techstars) had all good reasons to host their Annual Community Leaders Summit 2016, at BOHOL, a much sought after tourist destination in Philippines. Techstars and Startup weekend have played a pivotal role in shaping up the Startup Communities at a micro/macro level in over 130 countries and 700 cities around the world. This is really an achievement to applaud for. They have been conducting several Startup weekend Programs in Asia and the Philippines. Co founder of Startup Weekend Marc Nager, who is now an entrepreneur in residence with Techstars and also an Investor, said “Community engagement and integral working amongst startup communities at a regional level will and has changed the dynamics of growth in Startup Culture/rise in communities”. In a panel talk at an Investors meet chaired by serial entreprenur David Brown- Co founder and Managing Director, Techstars at the GOAB summit, I asked him on the scope and growth of inventions and innovations: He answered “ It will be good to focus more on developing Customer base”. He said he is a firm believer of building a business that has a potential to acquire larger customers.
Surging Startup scenario in Asia is a not to miss opportunity for Indian startups to think ASEAN, collaborate and venture into new markets.
The recent conferences (TECHSTARS APAC SUMMIT AND GOAB 2016), which saw Entrepreneurs, Geeks, Tech folks, Investors, Community leaders, Decision makers and facilitators from over 25 countries, have been able to achieve and propel successfully, a United Startup revolution in the mystical, cultural and enterprising Asia.
The above article is written & contributed by Sumeer Walia, Director – CEED, Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, Chitkara University.