MOST Filipinos still have a low understanding of what digital startups are, a concern the Department of Science and Technology- Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO) hopes to address with the help of the Philippine Roadmap for Digital Startups.
DOST-ICTO Deputy Executive Director Monchito Ibrahim said there is much to be done in making the road map work, as it intends to address gaps in the startup ecosystem, encourage techno-preneurship among the locals, and attract more venture capitalists or angel investors.
“Few Filipinos believe that they can do startup business from simple ideas,” said Ibrahim.
At present, the Philippines is still in the strategic action agenda phase of the road map, identifying the gaps present per action agenda for easier road map implementation.
“This is a living document that is a work in progress. We are in the phase of identifying the gaps for each action agenda,” said Ibrahim in a Technology and Innovation forum held at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu last Friday.
Launched last year in Boracay Island during the Geeks On a Beach conference, the road map provides a framework for developing the Philippine startup ecosystem, which mainly consists of Internet-related innovation, the agency said.
It noted that while the country’s digital startup industry is still in the infancy stage, tech startup ideas have already drawn interest among the tech-savvy population in the country, a positive indicator that the industry would flourish in the coming years if all necessary assistance and resources are provided, said Ibrahim.
By 2018, the roadmap targets to achieve at least 500 Philippine startups with a cumulative valuation of $2 billion, resulting in 8,500 highly-skilled jobs created, 1,250 startup founders, 15,166,684 users acquired, and 719,737 paying customers.
“We will not replicate Silicon Valley, but be a unique innovative ecosystem,” said Ibrahim.
He emphasized that the road map is a collaborative effort between private and public stakeholders. It charts the country’s direction, not only in terms of producing solutions that would address the pressing needs of the country, but make startups an economic driver of the Philippines.
While the country has competitive advantages—best English speaking population, young and tech-savvy demographics, a leading business process outsourcing destination with a workforce that is highly competitive and trainable—it also has some unique weaknesses or problems to solve, which tech startups can be of help such as solutions that would address efficiency and productivity, said Ibrahim.
Problems in need of solutions
Looking at a bigger scope, Bikesh Lakhmichand, founding partner of 1337 Ventures based in Malaysia, said it is essential for the Philippines to invest and build on its ecosystem because the country has “more real problems that needed to be solved.”
ASEAN as a region, he added, which has 600 million consumers, also present opportunities for growth for Filipino startups.
The Philippine Roadmap for Digital Startups is the foundation of the Startup Bill filed by Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV last 2014, which is up to now waiting final approval. Aquino is the chairman of the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship.
“Timing may not be good for now (due to elections) but Senator Aquino still has three years in the Senate to refile the bill,” said Ibrahim. “Most of the salient features of the bill would come from the road map.”
Senate Bill 2217 aims to set a favorable business environment for budding tech startup entrepreneurs. It offers tax perks, among others, to stimulate more investments for the industry.
On top of pushing the Startup Bill, the industry is also working aggressively to inject entrepreneurship subjects not only in the K+12 education system but also in universities and colleges, regardless of courses.
“We are working out with the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) to adopt entrepreneurship subjects for one or two semesters in all college courses. Because even if you are studying nursing, at some point you need to be also entrepreneurial,” said Ibrahim.