On the first day of the Asia-Pacific Weeks (APW) forum that was held last May in Berlin, I already sensed an excitement hovering in the air among the participants. Here’s why: the Asia-Pacific Weeks (APW) is an annual forum that invites leading experts from all over the world to Berlin for an exchange of ideas with economic regions having the highest growth-rates, therefore, providing notable influence to the global future. Specialists from the Asia-Pacific region and their European colleagues discuss vital topics ranging from economics and politics, research and science, culture and society, to transfer of knowledge. Since 1997, the Asia-Pacific Weeks Berlin (APW) has offered a unique European platform for an interdisciplinary, European-Asian dialogue with players from various fields, enabling debates on globally relevant subjects like smart cities, industry 4.0, digitalization, startups and innovations. Under the title “Asia-Europe Innovation Dialogue”, this year’s focus was on startups and their facilitative, innovative ecosystems.
What particularly interested me as one of the participants coming from the Asean region, was the topic “Innovation and Exchange,” which tackled questions such as what does innovation management mean? How can the old economy learn from the new economy and vice versa? How are synergies created? How are these young enterprises being funded? Participants were also introduced to the different funding models like venture capital (VCs), incubators, crowd funding, corporations and public funds.
Apart from Berlin as a champion of startups in Europe, a diverse range of startup communities has grown in the Asia-Pacific region in the past decade. Some of them are still in a nascent stage, while others are already established startup hubs with a mature ecosystem. In each country, entrepreneurs, accelerators, incubators, VCs and governmental institutions work together in multifaceted ways to create global and thriving business opportunities. These startup cities have been identified as Bangalore, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shenzhen, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.
Philippines startup ecosystem
Where does the Philippines stand in the startup circle? According to the Philippines Digital Statistics, the Philippines has a total population of 102.4 million (49 percent urbanization), 47.1 million active internet users (46 percent penetration); 48 million active social media users (47 percent penetration); 114.6 million mobile connections (112 percent vs population), and 40 million active mobile social media users or a 39 percent penetration, a far cry from Singapore with a total population of 5.54 million (100 percent urbanization), 4.65 million active internet users (84 percent penetration), 3.7 million active social media users (67 percent penetration), 8.1 million mobile connections (146 percent vs population), and 3.4 million active mobile social media users (61 percent penetration).
Though the Philippines’ startup scene is considered young, innovation is picking up, and is expected to further accelerate with a number of public-private initiatives that have been laid down by the Aquino administration. From just a hundred startups currently, the Philippines targets to have 500 startups, with a total valuation of $2 billion by 2020. The country dubbed as the second fastest growing economy in Asia (second to China), has been eyed by foreign investors who want to enter into joint ventures with small but promising startups and slowly making the country their production hubs in Asean.
An example of a local startup figured prominently at the APEC Summit in Manila late last year where entrepreneur Aisa Mijeno founded Sustainable Alternative Lighting Corporation (SALT), whose main product is a lamp that runs for eight hours powered by one cup of saltwater.
Indeed the Philippines can become a leader in startups using technology to address emerging market problems, if one is to believe Earl Valencia, president and founder of IdeaSpace Foundation, a Manila based incubator and accelerator program that supports technology entrepreneurs in the country.
Dr. Beatriz Kaamino-Tschoepke is a faculty member of the Management and Organization Department, of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business (RVRCOB). She teaches International Business, Human Resource Management & Organizational Behavior, and Management Principles & Dynamics. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.