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Young minds gather in nests for entrepreneurs


Young entrepreneurs are learning to become better entrepreneurs with the help of the Asian Institute of Management-Dado Banatao Incubator (The Incubator) and Impact Hub Manila.

Since it opened in March, 2018, the Makati-based institution has been offering two programs: the Cohort Program for early stage startups and the Open Mentorship Program for pre-early stage and ideation stage start-ups.

Prim Paypon, The Incubator’s Executive Director, told The Manila Times in an interview that “The Incubator is the first hybrid technology business incubator in a business school born from the partnership of the Asian Institute of Management and the DoST-PCIEERD.”

The DoST PCIEERD is the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology.

“When we re-opened The Incubator, we only thought of a full-time program that can accelerate startups to become taxpaying, revenue-generating, investment-ready Filipino enterprises,” Paypon said.

That would only qualify early stage startups that fit The Incubator’s minimum requirements in terms of organizational size, initial revenue, and initial investment of any form, he said. But during the first round of applications, he said, they realized that there were “very good” applications which were a bit premature but needed good help and support system.

“So we asked ourselves, do we say no to them outright? What we did, for the accelerator program, we call it the Cohort Program, open for early stage startups. For the pre-early stage and ideation stage startups, we created an incubator program which we call the Open Mentorship Program,” Paypon said.

“Under the Open Mentorship Program, we hope to incubate innovative concepts and ideas which have huge potential to become real startups. When it is ripe and right for them, they can freely apply to be part of the next Cohort Program. This time, with better chances of getting into the Cohort Program,” he said.

Pre-early stage startups, he explained, are those that have achieved a certain validation that the market is willing to purchase it but has not yet reached the stage that it has been “able to capture a distinct, sizable segment of the market as a purchasing market.”

“The Incubator is a thinking laboratory for future Filipino entrepreneurs. We are not a co-working space, or an events place. The Incubator is really a learning platform and a community of live-minded individuals where you get to see startups running their businesses 24/7 under a full-time program in a fully dedicated space. Expectedly, a lot of people, from mentors and partners to startup founders, like to work in here, because you rarely come across a physical space that you get to interact or get to be inside the same breathing space with very innovative, thinking, young founders. And I think that in itself creates the unique and inspiring vibrancy distinct to The Incubator at AIM,” Paypon said.

The Incubator provides a 12-month program, with the first six months running from July to December, and the second half running from January to June.

Paypon warned, however, that both programs are no picnic, and are strictly monitored.

“The 12-month program is not a free lunch. The second six-month program is only given to startups which performed excellently during their first six-month program. Otherwise, we ask them to leave The Incubator,” he said.

So far, 20 startups have graduated last July 4. Eight of these startups took the Cohort program while 12 have completed Open Mentorship that were both introduced last year.

The eight startups which graduated from the Cohort 2018 Program were: Antipara Exploration, Futuristic Aviation and Maritime Enterprises (FAME), InvestEd, Payruler, PodXTechnologies, Retailgate, Rurok Industries, and StyleGenie.

All these were “innovative and pioneering startups which won important local and global competitions,” Paypon said.

Paypon said, “Every time new and curious people visit us at The Incubator, they are always surprised with how our startups created their highly sophisticated technologies. But they are more surprised when we inform them that they are actually celebrated and even incubated abroad.”

For this year, four startups were qualified under the Cohort 2019 Program and 11 under the Open Mentorship 2019 Program. They will graduate in June 2020.

Paypon said that they provide startups with needs-responsive, progressive development curriculum-based mentorship programs with incubation partners namely Works of Heart for branding development, Microsoft for technology development, AIM School of Executive Education for startup management development, P&A Grant Thornton for finance and business development, and Trade Lawyers Philippines for legal and corporate compliance development.

“We also have AIM professors and alumni, who are mostly top executives and young entrepreneurs, who act as community of real and accessible mentors,” Paypon further noted and added that The Incubator is also privileged to have visiting mentors who are business pioneers, corporate executives, and decision makers.

Aside from having designated and fully dedicated incubation rooms that startups can use as their transient offices, startups can also use The Incubator’s specialized rooms for meetings, open houses, training employees, technology creation and assembly, among other things.

“For startups to be more visible in the market through physical and online means, startups need to shoot their products, creatively and strategically. To rent a studio with paraphernalia is very expensive for any startup. At The Incubator, we have a specialized room for such purpose. But more than that, they also get creative direction from Works of Heart and possible styling from StyleGenie, one of our Cohort 2018 startups,” Paypon said.

He said that from last year’s batch, only four founders were 40 and above.

“Majority of the founders are from are 22 to 35. Young and promising, right? That’s why a lot of people get so inspired by them because most professionals from top multinational corporations who would visit us would ask themselves, ‘What was I doing when I was at their age?’ It’s one thing to be a topnotch professional, it’s another thing to build an enterprise of pioneering technology from scratch with employees under a payroll,” Paypon said.

“I think young people are really the market of innovation, entrepreneurship, and startup movement. Since most of the historical revolutions, from cultural to industrial, were then led by young people, I personally feel that the innovation now through startups is the modern concept of such revolution,” he said in part.

Asked on the current batch’s age group, he said that most were 25 to 35 years old.

“They are very promising. Their sincere sense to create sustainable impact, grit, hard work, intelligent capacity to absorb and learn, due diligence are enough assurance for us at The Incubator that they will actually go a long way in their journey to lead, inspire, and transform our society,” Paypon said.

Meanwhile, incubator-accelerator Impact Hub Manila (IHM) is part of the Impact Hub Network which it described as “the largest network of impact entrepreneurs in the world.”

“As part of this global network, Impact Hub can tap its roster of thought leaders and experts from all over and bring them in to connect with the local entrepreneurial community,” Impact Hub Manila told the Manila Times.

“It also offers effective capacity building programs and co-working spaces accessible anywhere in the world via its passport membership to inspire and encourage collaborations amongst the community,” the incubation hub (Impact Hub Manila) added.

“They are the conduit of Filipino Startups to the world, giving them a greater chance at scaling globally,” it said.

Currently, the entrepreneurs being trained by Impact Hub Manila are aged 27 years old to 35 years old.

Ces Rondario, Impact Hub Manila’s founder and chief executive officer, led the establishment of Impact Hub in the country in 2015.

Rondario, according to Impact Hub Manila, “has been immersed in the social development community since she was 16. Having volunteered for a number of NGOs and local government units, she got exposed to providing livelihood training programs to marginalized communities where she realized that it was access to opportunities that made the difference between those who could advance themselves in life from those who could not. This fueled her vision of becoming an enabler in giving people a platform to execute their ideas.”

“Globally connected and locally rooted, the Impact Hub network is the largest network of impact driven entrepreneurs in the world. This resonated with Ces’ vision of catalysingFilipino impact entrepreneurs to start and scale their ventures globally,” Impact Hub Manila said.

“Four and a half years since it opened its doors, Impact Hub Manila has reached over 5,000 individuals through its events, trainings, incubation programs and funneled over 750,000 USD of cash grants and entrepreneurial support”, it said.

Impact Hub Manila’s success stories include CoCoAsenso and Silent Beads, both of which it incubated from ideation to scaling stage.

CocoAsenso said in its website, “We are establishing a network of medium-scale coconut processing centers in remote regions of the Philippines. Coconuts are purchased directly from local farmers. Farmers and their families are employed to process coconuts into desiccated coconut.”

“I first connected with Impact Hub Manila right around the time I first started my journey with CocoAsenso. All along the way they have been super useful in connecting me with great opportunities, events and people in the social enterprise community. I really appreciate the work that they do to build the vibrancy of the social enterprise ecosystem in the Philippines as myself, CocoAsenso and the people we work with in Samar have all benefited a lot from this,”CoCoAsenso founder Asa Feinstein said.

Silent Beads, located in Quezon City, began as an advocacy. It gave a free workshop on accessory making for a deaf-mute community in the country which was sponsored by the local Rotary Club.

“The experience exposed them to this oft-neglected sector in society which tugged our hearts. Fast forward to the future, They came up with a startup that turn paper waste into plantable beads, seed papers and other plantable paper products that grow into herbs and veggies after use,” Impact Hub Manila said.

Silent Beads accepts brown paper bag donations through its Paperbag Movement.

“When we were chosen among many applicants to join one of IHM’s cohort programs in 2018, it helped us focus on things that would make the most impact possible. With that said, we would like to thank the program authors and trainers who helped us organize items in our to do list, even helping us change specific strategies in product development and others,”Silent Beads’s co-founder said.

Impact Hub Manila said that it wanted to end this year strong through its banner event Impact Hackathon which is a part of its Impact 2050 initiative.

The Impact 2015 initiative is a multi-year program supported by the DoST, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Energy, the League of Cities of the Philippines, the Asian Development Bank, GIZ, PLDT, Smart, Deskera, PhilStar Media Group, Microsoft, Dentsu Aegis Network, Forest Philippines Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, and KMC Solutions, among others.

Impact Hub Manila said in its website that participants in the program will undergo “a record-breaking multi-city hackathon,” as well as “a two-day bootcamp under business pioneers.”

The winners “will receive full incubation support from” Impact Hub Manila, “from seed funding down to coaching.”

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Today’s Front Page January 21, 2020

Today’s Front Page January 21, 2020