Creating the Philippine Roadmap for Startups allowed stakeholders to identify the unique advantages and challenges of Filipino founders and how to further hone the ecosystem to support digital innovations, an official of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said.

Describing it as a work in progress, DOST Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) deputy executive director Mon Ibrahim said the roadmap does not seek to replicate Silicon Valley but is a unique innovative ecosystem.

“We are lagging behind in terms of digital innovations. We need to start being a major force in this area,” he said during last Friday’s forum on Investing in Tech and Telecom: The Mega Opportunities organized by the Cebu Business Club.

When the idea for a roadmap came about two years ago, Ibrahim said the government gathered together industry players for inputs and they were able to establish some unique opportunities and threats within the ecosystem.

Aside from competence in English, local startups also get a lot of inspiration in the unique ills that the country has to solve. “Major tech disruptions are aimed at solving problems,” Ibrahim said.

Philippine startups Mon Ibrahim

Challenges, opportunities

On the other hand, they discovered that majority of Filipinos have a poor grasp of what a startup is and can’t understand the concept of a business being created from an idea. One of their long-term solutions was to include entrepreneurship classes in the Senior High years under the K-12 curriculum.

He added that there is also a need to change some laws to make it easier for startups to do business. “The ecosystem is not really there yet. You know what is more difficult than registering a business? Closing a business,” he said, explaining that those who just stop when the venture fails are still actually indebted to the country’s tax agency.

Another area that needs improvement is on intellectual property protection. In the Philippines, a developer can’t copyright software without a hardware component, which is something that needs to change.

Ibrahim also sees the need for more competitors in the telecommunications industry to improve broadband services. To do this, Congress has to be convinced to change a provision in the Constitution that requires 60 percent of utilities to be Filipino-owned.

Mon Ibrahim Philippine startups
UNIQUE ECOSYSTEM. DOST Information and Communications Technology Office deputy executive director Mon Ibrahim says the Philippine Roadmap for Startups does not seek to replicate Silicon Valley but is a unique innovative ecosystem.


Philippine Startup bill

According to Ibrahim, what’s exciting is Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino using the roadmap as basis for the Startup Bill he recently filed.

With a startup law in place, founders will have an easier time registering their business and can get tax breaks for up to 10 years.

The roadmap, with its ultimate target of creating 500 startups with total valuation of US$ 2 billion by 2018, identifies a balanced set of strategies in 12 key areas, with the private sector and the government sharing the burden of execution. “We will only be able to achieve our goal if we work together,” he pointed out.

More innovation hubs that not only provide space and investors but mentors for startups are needed as well. He described as a good development the huge innovation hub that PLDT plans to put up in Intramuros with JP Morgan Chase and DOST.

Marlen is the editor of and co-founder of Cebu-based journalism startup InnoPub Media.

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