Entrepreneurship ‘part of Filipino culture’

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


THE lack of an entrepreneurial culture is often cited as a challenge for growing startups in the Philippines. For the founder of online boutique Ava.ph, the country’s history will say otherwise.

Oliver Segovia, who spoke at the Geeks on a Beach conference last week, said that even before the Spanish claimed the Philippines as a territory, it consisted of sultanates that traded with neighboring countries. He said the Banaue rice terraces would show they were engineers from the start, solving the problem of not having wide fields by creating a solution to grow rice. He considers Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere the first pitch deck and the Katipunan as the first to scale.

“Filipino culture is full of startup stories. The Filipino psyche is naturally predisposed to entrepreneurship,” he said.

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Segovia admitted that the high expectations for local startups to create the next big thing is not helping, but hopes that events that get stakeholders together will help boost interest in entrepreneurship.

Segovia said most are afraid to fail or are not confident they have what it takes to launch a startup. He said that from that alone, it means many are not even trying.

He also feels encouragement for entrepreneurship is an uphill battle, noting that even during the President’s state of the nation address, there was no mention of it while only a few mentions of science and technology.

Bright spots

However, he feels there are bright spots on the horizon, such as Senator Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV’s Startup Bill. He also noted that the world is taking notice of the Philippines as the next spot for startups and that the culture for it is being built.

Wesley Chiongbian, founder of Cebu-based online job portal MyNimo, said that back when he started in 2007, there were no such events that he could get support from. Venture capitalists had not yet heard of Cebu, which meant that built his own company on his own, using an unused room in his parents’ house to be his office.

He also had to convince companies that his web portal would benefit them, saying most were still wary about shifting to the new medium when they had been so used to traditional advertising methods. However, he said it was a blessing for him that Cebu was a small market and that it allowed him to engage with clients and build a relationship with them.

Last year, MyNimo found themselves host to three million job applicants and now have about 10,000 corporate clients annually.

While most dream of becoming as big as Facebook or Instagram, a panel discussion raised the idea of serving the local market as an equally good opportunity for startups to succeed.

Opportunities

Aurora Soriano, who founded bus ticket reservation system Pinoy Travel, said there are many opportunities to solve problems of the mass market.

Her system allows commuters to book bus tickets ahead for an added fee. She said those who value their time are willing to pay extra if it means their seat is ensured and they won’t have to line up to get on a bus.

Stephen Jagger of Payroll Hero said the Philippines has problems different from developed countries, which his why he does not think the idea of bringing everything western into the country is a sure hit.

Chiongbian believes that there are enough tools and community support in place. “We just need more entrepreneurs.”

Soriano, for her part, said having communities can help as they share experiences and practices that everyone can learn from.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 27, 2014.

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