Startups Are Crucial in Spurring Post-Pandemic Economic Growth, Says Government

The country’s biggest gathering of startups is happening this week in a five-day Philippine Startup Week 2021 virtual conference with the theme: “Beyond Recovery: Filipino Startups Redefining Opportunity.”

At a press conference for the event held last Tuesday, November 16, representatives from government agencies spearheading the event, Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), together with QBO Innovation Hub, shared several of government’s initiatives and responses to the evolving needs of local startups and an outlook of where PH startups are heading.

Enabling the PH Startup ecosystem. DICT Undersecretary Emmanuel Rey Caintic, DTI Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba,
DOST Undersecretary Sancho Mabborang, and QBO Innovation Hub & Ideaspace Foundation President Butch Meily
share the projects and programs of their respective organizations to support the PH startup ecosystem
at the Philippine Startup Week 2021 Media Press Conference last Tuesday, November 16.

Enabling the PH Startup Ecosystem 

In a recent e-Conomy SEA 2021 study by Google, Temasek, and Bain and Company, the Philippines 2021 has shown a notable 93% year-on-year surge with Gross Merchandise Value(GMV) reaching a total of $17B–driven by a 132% growth in e-commerce. Looking ahead to 2025, the internet economy of the Philippines alone is expected to reach $40B in value, growing at 24%.

The study also revealed how 12M Filipinos became new digital consumers from the start of the pandemic until Half 1 of 2021, with 99% of them saying that they are likely to continue using these services going forward.

“We’ve also seen this growth in our startups. The first half of 2021 alone has surpassed the deal value in terms of funding of the last four years. This report estimates the value of deals to be over $400B and we’ve seen this in the recent success stories of some Philippine startups.” shared QBO Innovation Hub and IdeaSpace Foundation Executive Director, Katrina Rausa Chan, in her opening remarks at the media press conference.

Despite this, however, the report showed how the Philippines still has the lowest digital consumer penetration in the SEA region with only 68% of internet users consuming online services. Something the PH startup enablers believe is an indication that there’s more room for growth.

“The whole movement towards tech, innovation, and startups, it’s not just theory because now we’re seeing it start to materialize. There’s a great opportunity for all of this to create significant value in our economy and for our nation, and this makes the work of our startup ecosystem even more important,” Chan added.

This backdrop underscores the need for education, investments, funding, talent development, and connectivity to respond to the evolving needs of Philippines startups.

PH startups at the forefront of PH digital economy

The DTI is putting innovation at the heart of the country’s industrial policy in order to accelerate the growth of the Philippine startup ecosystem.

“Startups have emerged as key drivers of economic recovery, inclusive, and sustainable growth and job creation. We also view startups as catalysts for disruptive innovation.  As we enter the post-pandemic future, we are focusing on growing the number of startups, increasing early-stage funding, and building quality startups,” shared Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba.

Regulatory reforms such as the Innovative Startup Act, the Philippine Innovation Act, Ease of Doing Business, and One Person Corporation are all geared towards encouraging the growth of startups. Under the Innovative Startup Act, some of the government’s policy measures that aid the development of startups include the startup visa for those setting up in the Philippines, startup ecozones for availment of certain incentives, government subsidies on business registration and use of facilities, startup grant fund, and startup venture fund, among others. The DTI together with the National Development Company (NDC) will also launch the Startup Venture Fund, with an allocated Php250M funding (USD5M) for tech startups.

More funding opportunities 

Undersecretary Sancho Mabborang of the DOST discussed the department’s funding and talent development programs for both startups and startup enablers, such as the Startup Grant Fund Program, Regional Startup Enablers for Ecosystem Development (ReSEED) Program, Women-Helping-Women:Innovating Social Enterprises (WHWise) Program, and Higher Education Institution Readiness for Innovation and Technopreneurship(HEIRIT) Program.

“The DOST has several programs that cater to the different stages of technology and product development, from idea to prototype, marketing, and expansion. We provide funding support and assistance not just to university researchers and innovators but also to startups, startup enablers, and SMEs,” explained Usec. Mabborang.

The Startup Grant Program aims to help local startups focus on providing solutions that are relevant to the needs of the people, and reinvigorate the economy. Launched in January this year, it is providing funding support of Php84.9M to 25 startups.

The WHWise program aims to create an inclusive, diverse, and impactful ecosystem by supporting women founders and entrepreneurs running social enterprises that impact the larger community. Launched last June, the program aims to help 10 women social entrepreneurs every year through funding support. This year, the DOST is providing Php30M in grants to 9 women-led enterprises.

The DOST also continues to support technology business incubators in providing training, mentoring, tools, and market exposure to startup founders with the ReSEED program and the HEIRIT Program.

Bridging communities through connectivity 

The DICT is also looking to support promising startup teams through the DICT Philippine Startup Challenge under the Digital Startup Development and Acceleration Program, with the winning teams set to receive equity-free grants, equipment, cloud credits, and mentor hours from industry partners.

“The DICT, as one of the lead agencies implementing the Digital Startup Development and Acceleration Program, aims to foster an environment where innovation is given every opportunity to be designed, tested, and turned into actual products,” explained DICT Undersecretary Emmanuel Rey Caintic. “One of the key elements of this program is the conduct of the Philippine Startup Challenge, an annual pitching competition that encourages Filipinos to create innovative and relevant ICT products and services that may also be viable business ventures and help solve social problems.

The DICT also continues to focus on an important engine of the digital economy—connectivity—focusing on the rollout of its National Broadband Program and the Free Wi-Fi for All program.

It takes a village to build the future of PH startups 

With full support from the government, the inspiring successes of many local startups, and the country’s digital transformation, the future looks bright for the Philippine startup ecosystem.

“The projects from DOST, DICT, and DTI reflect the kind of commitment we hope to see from key government agencies. We’re also starting to see local government units engage with startups, especially over the past year, when the pandemic required LGUs to respond to our challenges with contact tracing tools, cashless distribution of aid, and educational tools,” said QBO Innovation Hub’s Butch Meily.

“Our community of close to 600 startups and hundreds of founders and tech professionals stand to gain from the progress we make year on year, and I hope that this entices more people to participate, invest, and engage in this space. Our digital economy depends on it. With these activities, we will create a clear path to recovery and to sustainable growth and development, and open opportunities for more Filipinos, no matter where they are.”

Taking place from November 15 to 19, PHSW21 is the country’s large-scale collaborative event to showcase the Filipino startup community. PHSW21 is expected to attract over 5,000 participants, 250 speakers, 150 startups, and 70 communities and startup enablers, in 7 main events. Some of the main highlights of this year’s event include QBO Top 100, the Startup Pinay conference, and pitching competitions.

Philippine Startup Week 2021 is co-presented by Accelevents, 917Ventures, Multisys, PLDT and Paymaya, in collaboration with Dream Bigger Ventures, PayMongo, Openspace Ventures, Jobstreet, The Final Pitch, Facebook, UBx, AWS with support from Unionbank and Red Havas. For a complete list of events for PHSW21, visit https://www.phstartupweek.com.






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