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Philippine tech start-ups: infancy stage

Written by John Guzman

Philippine tech start-up environment is still in its infancy stage. The young technopreneurs are not only hindered by the constraints on funding, but also with the bureaucracy that comes with registering a business. Education is another concern as schools do not emphasize entrepreneurship in most of its curriculum.

The backbone of any tech start-up is internet. It is almost impossible to start one without a stable and fast connection. In the Philippines, fast and stable internet connection is considered a luxury. According to BBC, internet speeds are atrocious – a measly 3.6 megabits per second (Mbps), well below the regional average of 12.4 Mbps. The US has an average of 22.3 while neighboring Singapore boasts 61 Mbps. This is Filipino technopreneurs’ worst nightmare. This is the same reason why foreign technopreneurs opted to start their businesses somewhere else. However, with the bright prospects of Philippine economy growing more than the rest of ASEAN, technopreneurs are taking their shot trying to make it big.

20-year old CEO Gian Javelona of OrangeApps is raising the profile of young technopreneurs to the next level. According to Rappler, the young lad emphasized his desire to have his own company since he was in college. It was not an easy journey as his school curriculum is not designed for entrepreneurship right after graduation, but instead designed for employment. Clearly, his ambitions do not fit perfectly with his environment. This was until he learned about IdeaSpace Foundation. IdeaSpace is an incubation program which was launched in March 2012 by business tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan. It aims to help nourish the country’s start-ups and support budding tech companies that could make a mark in the global marketplace. It currently has half a billion pesos in funding for over five years.

IdeaSpace is now changing the landscape of tech startup scene. It recently awarded 10 startup companies to advance to the acceleration phase and receive PHP 1 million worth of funding, training and services to implement their projects. IdeaSpace is an excellent platform for budding entrepreneurs who can solve problems in the country while realizing their potential that is not available as employed individual.

Foreign tech companies are also looking at the untapped opportunities in the Philippines. Japanese telecommunication company Softbank will invest over USD 20 million in startups in the Philippines with the creation of a new fund, according to Tech in Asia report. Softbank cited the country’s robust macroeconomic growth and abundance of local talent for its decision to invest massive amount. The growing foreign tech companies in the Philippines may be a threat to the growth of local companies. More platforms should be made available so that potential entrepreneurs would be able to showcase their ideas.

In the recent Cebu ICT/BPM Conference, shortcomings of the tech start-up environment were cited. Among them are affordability of smart phone to common people, bureaucracy in setting up a business, and efficiency of online payment system. On the positive side, abundance of talent and low-labor cost are the driving factors of the Philippines.

–Edited by Kristine Diaz

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