Cebu as Silicon Valley alternative

CEBU was recently identified as one of the global alternative cities to Silicon Valley for startups.

The report was published in July 23 in Entrepreneur’s website authored by Josh Steimle. It ranked Cebu fourth after Santiago in Chile, Shenzhen in China, and Hong Kong, citing these areas as having abundant startup incentives, availability of technical expertise, and growing number of investors, which make them ideal for startups.

Cebu, meanwhile, was described as a “perfect place for social enterprise” and an “economical” place to live in for startups.

“Cebu is the perfect place for social enterprise startups because it’s got a large talent pool of locals and ex-pats who are English speakers. It’s got good infrastructure and the Philippines has a high concentration of urban poverty (60 to 70 million out of 100 million people), which makes it easy to target campaigns that aim to improve quality of life,” the report said, quoting Ravi Agarwal of social enterprise, EngageSpark.

Cost of living

Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information Technology managing director Jun Sa-a said Agarwal is speaking from experience, as EngageSpark is based in Cebu.

Moreover, since Cebu’s cost of living is relatively lower than Silicon Valley and some other areas in the world, it was dubbed as a “great place” to build, test, and scale products to the global market at a low cost. The outdoor nature activities available in Cebu was also cited as conducive to startups.

“It is an honor for Cebu to be identified as one of the top six global alternative cities to Silicon Valley for startups,” said Anthony Noel, startup committee head of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Aside from social enterprise startups, Noel said Cebu is also a good destination for other types of startups in the business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer space. The official said Cebu is a “conducive jump off point” or test bed for various startup technologies focusing on transportation, tourism, food and beverage, as well as retail.

However, Cebu’s technology and startup influencers believe that there are a number of actions to be undertaken to make Cebu startup-friendly.

For Sa-a, the culture of encouraging entrepreneurship, especially in the field of technology, among students as an option from being employed is a good training ground.

“ICTO (Information and Communications Technology Office of DOST) has done its share by training our teachers in the Lean Startup Methodology so they can in turn train our students to do startups the right,” Sa-a said.

Meanwhile, Tina Amper of believes that teaching students as early as high school on how to code will be an effective program to sensitize them on how technology can change lives.

She also suggested the creation of physical centers for innovation and entrepreneurship. With this, Amper suggested that the government can designate some of their unused buildings for this purpose.

“But allow these centers to be run by the private industry, managers, and mentors or entities who are free from traditional bureaucracy. Bureaucracy tends to stifle growth,” Amper said. More training, especially on software development and related tech careers, are also recommended to foster the startup ecosystem.

The infrastructure, particularly the expensive and uneven Internet connectivity, is still a challenge, not just to the startup community but the entire country as well.

The traffic and flooding, although may be initially perceived as distant from technology and the startup community, discourage not just startups, but investors and the business community.

“Fix traffic. Fix foooding. Clean up the city. These in-your-face problems will blow up and jeopardize our booming economy,” Amper stressed.

Noel, on the other hand, remains optimistic that the startup community in Cebu will improve in the next years.

“Cebu as a startup destination will dynamically improve and grow through the continuous support and participation of various players in the local startup ecosystem,” Noel said.

Also in the global alternative cities’ list are Berlin in Germany and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

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