WE CAN only be two things in the so-called new normal – we are either the disruptor or the disrupted. Almost every one of us belonged to the “disrupted” when the pandemic began this year. But eventually, those meant to rise above the situation began to become disruptors or rode the wave of disruption.
One sector is the startup ecosystem. This week, the innovators in the country mark Philippine Startup Week 2020 from November 23 to 27, 2020. We celebrate together with the Filipino startup community and the key players contributing to the burgeoning Philippine startup ecosystem by learning, collaborating, and connecting with relevant stakeholders from across the country and beyond! This large-scale collaborative initiative is organized by the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Information and Communications Technology, together with QBO Innovation Hub and other private agencies. I commend the organizers of the Philippine Startup Week for supporting startups by providing ways for their solutions to have a chance to work.
Many of us are hyped up about the Netflix K-Drama “Startup” and its protagonists - Nam Dosan and Han Ji-Pyeong - but for me, that happened seven years ago when I met Gian Scottie Javelona, a startup founder who scaled his idea at 19 years old. Today, orangeapps.ph empowers schools through innovation.
In his co-authorship speech of the Philippine Digital Workforce Bill, Senator Sonny Angara mentioned Gian, among others, as an inspiration for government to push for digital transformation by developing talent. Educational institutions must demonstrate how their systems support digital talent development by "walking the talk" in their processes. I am inviting all colleges and universities in Negros Occidental and Bacolod to check out Gian's comprehensive solutions especially in the face of the new normal. The best information for me is that Gian's parents come from Negros Occidental.
In many discussions over the years with local entrepreneurs, I have gained so many important insights that I always share on a wider scale. If an entrepreneur continues with the traditional path of not leveraging on digital technologies, or worse, fearing or having misplaced notions about these technologies, his or her business will eventually perish, especially when direct competitors take the innovation road.
The Digital Age affords everyone the option to go "down" due to economic and social challenges or to "pivot." Traditional entrepreneurs ask me - what the word means - in startup parlance, it generally means to change a product and find the one that the market really needs. My definition for brick and mortar businesses - it's not necessarily to change product but to change business model or simply put "the way you do things" and, in a larger sense, to change mindset.
I see governments and institutions spending millions, say in tourism, or the environment, and yet not achieving targets. It is because the planners lack many things. Here's to name a few - intelligent, disaggregated, relevant, accurate and processed data for purposes of policy and program implementation (at most data is for brochure purposes); an ecosystem that provides wider leeway for citizens (or stakeholders) engagement and participation, one that is open to feedback and experimentation of ideas; a symbiotic and healthy relationship among all key players who understand the role, mandate, and functions of each member of the community and a sustained platform to allow this relationship to grow and evolve.
There is certainly a lot to improve if we are to create an environment for startups to grow. This is our mission as movers. Let us believe in the capacity of our young Filipinos. Let us understand what is happening. Let us see the challenges from their eyes not from ours. We have the tendency to direct as if we are experts but there are no experts in entrepreneurship, only lessons learned. The countryside is calling, begging, we need to create entrepreneurs, more than we create startups. I have listened through the years to the aspirations and sentiments of young people, especially in the countryside.
David Brown says building a startup ecosystem is a 20-year plan. And I am willing to start from scratch to understand the jargons - if only to see more and more Filipinos really lifting themselves up from the quagmire where we are now. We deserve better, and oftentimes, many Filipinos just don't know it.