The theme of this year’s Philippine Startup Week 2021 is, Beyond Recovery: Filipino Startups Redefining Opportunity– and all this revolves around the perennial question, what’s next? What’s next for the Philippine startup ecosystem? The Philippines has been named the startup ecosystem to watch in Southeast Asia, but what exactly has been going on within the local community, particularly in the past year?

While we note that the pandemic has greatly affected our industries and enterprises across all sectors, particularly our micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), in 2020 through the first half of 2021, we have nevertheless seen how our startups, driven by the impressive level of innovation of our talented entrepreneurs and the need to innovate and adapt, have risen to the occasion and revolutionized the way business is done amidst the challenges, limitations and restrictions on movement brought about by the pandemic.

The impressive level at which our startups and businesses innovate, adjust their business models and create new products, services and solutions, are apparent, particularly in critical sectors, such as in healthcare, eCommerce, fintech, logistics and digitalization of business processes, ensured that our industries and economy thrive and survive. Our startups and innovative companies also played a critical role in helping traditional businesses continue to do business, by offering their ground-breaking solutions and services.

Take fintech, for example, which remains one of the Philippines’ brightest prospects in the world of innovation. The contribution of fintech companies in addressing financial inclusion and serving the unbanked and underbanked population has been very significant. During the pandemic, for instance, e-wallet became the platform for the Philippines to do transactions and for the government to disburse cash assistance. In addition, we have just recently witnessed our first ever Unicorn, Mynt, having been able to raise USD 300 million in the recent funding bringing its total valuation for its GCASH eWallet business to over $2 billion. Also, we now have 6 fully-licensed digital banks and at least 12 mobile eWallets which, together, are empowering consumer activity and ensuring that market transactions and exchanges continue despite the many roadblocks and challenges of the past year and a half.

Likewise, the Philippines’ e-commerce sector, composed by many of our startup companies alongside established enterprises, is anticipated to register record numbers in 2025, with gross merchandise value expected to reach USD15-B. The number of internet users in the country grew to approximately 79.7 million people in 2020, accounting for more than three fourths of the country’s total population. The Philippines (5.2 hours) also recorded the highest spike among Southeast Asian countries in terms of the average hours spent online per day (personal use).

The other day, according to e-Conomy Southeast Asia Report, our country is now the fastest growing internet economy in Southeast Asia, with the Philippines registering 93% growth rate from 2020 to 2021, while the whole Southeast Asian internet economies are showing double-digit growth. The forecast growth of transactions for the Philippines is from USD9-B to $17 billion, reaching USD40-B by 2025. We have also yielded 12 million new e-commerce users during the pandemic—the highest proportion of new users in the region.

Thanks to the government’s efforts in dramatically improving connectivity and the digital infrastructure of the country, and the numerous programs that empower thousands of MSMEs into digitalization and e-Commerce platforms. This certainly expanded their market reach that allow them not only to survive but thrive and even prosper during the pandemic. This reaffirms our commitment to facilitating the digitalization of our MSMEs and fostering the growth of our startups because these two could become strategic partners towards an innovative and resilient post-crisis future. Digitization is the future— not only will it optimize productivity, but it can also expand the reach of businesses further and garner new opportunities for all Filipino business owners.

Leveraging on the country’s strengths—fintech and eCommerce, we will be continuously working on policies and programs that would encourage startups to keep coming up with new products and revolutionary solutions, as our MSMEs continue to innovate and digitize their operations and business strategies.

DTI is working with strategic partners in helping organize b2b and business-matching activities that will connect startups with our MSMEs, as a way of optimizing available market opportunities for startups, while helping MSMEs innovate their business models and go to market strategies. We have likewise continued in the work on supporting our startups’ market expansion and growth through participation in local and international exhibitions and startup events.

We hope that with more investors interested in the Philippine startup ecosystem, DTI can help inject more capital into local startups to help them grow and scale their operations— expanding their reach and tapping into the sectors that need them most. This week, I am happy to announce that we will be launching the Philippine Startup Venture Fund with 250M for 2021 and 250M for 2022, precisely to make this aspiration a reality. This will help bring in the much-needed capital accessibility to these innovative startup companies.

In closing, it is my pleasure to invite you all to join us and the rest of the Philippine startup and innovation ecosystem for the entire Philippine Startup Week ahead Beyond Recovery: join us in Redefining Opportunity.

Thank you and mabuhay! ♦

Date of Release: 15 November 2021