August marks the fourth anniversary since QBO Innovation Hub first opened its doors in 2016. As the country’s first public-private initiative created through a partnership between IdeaSpace, J.P. Morgan, Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of Trade and Industry, QBO has significantly contributed to the growth of the Philippine start-up ecosystem by serving as a platform for the startup community to collaborate, develop talent, and grow. Although a lot has changed, one thing remains true: QBO remains fiercely committed to their mission of creating a globally competitive startup ecosystem in the Philippines through championing innovation.

Nobody could have imagined how far QBO would go, or that it would foster such an incredible community. In sharing their pride in all that they’ve accomplished, QBO organized a simple yet meaningful virtual birthday celebration to thank everyone for their support as well as look back at some amazing milestones.

Of course, QBO would not have been possible without the incredible support of PLDT and Metro Pacific Chairman Manuel “Manny” V. Pangilinan who also took part in celebrating the fourth anniversary of QBO. In his message, Manny Pangilinan stated that “everyone—business, government, communities, families, and individuals—has to change the way they do things to survive and prosper. This simply means going digital. But that’s precisely up [QBO’s] alley—digital innovation is in your genes; it is actually what defines you.”

High-impact tech startups gathered during the INQBATION Startup Showcase, an initiative of QBO Innovation Hub in partnership with J.P. Morgan that aims to put a spotlight on 15 scalable startups and help them connect with potential investors and partners.

Indeed, QBO has raised over P167 million in funding assistance and successfully incubated many tech-enabled start-ups including Kumu, a Filipino-centric live streaming social app; Payo, a gateway that simplifies cash on delivery transactions; Senti, a customer-centric AI solutions start-up that’s been actively supporting the Department of Health in the Covid-19 fight; Cropital, a crowdfunding platform connecting anyone to finance local farmers; Mad Travel, a social tourism platform that supports marginalized communities in the Philippines; among others. With over 205 partners and collaborators, it also continues to assist start-ups across all stages and sectors in the different parts of their venture’s journey. QBO currently supports a total of 7,700 members and 421 start-ups in the QMMUNITY by providing a full range of free programs and services including introductory classes, workshops, feedback and consultation sessions, mentorship, and investment support and other growth opportunities.

With Science Secretary Fortunato  de la Peña’s relentless pursuit of innovation, he believes that in tandem with various government initiatives, QBO will continue to push the boundaries of tech despite the challenges posed by the pandemic through  “[supporting] more startups that will meet the demands of the new normal.” He is optimistic and confident that QBO will create waves that will propel “the Philippines to be [the] top in the region for having the best and the biggest number of start-ups.”

In continuing the growth momentum of the Philippine startup ecosystem and bringing cutting-edge tech to life, QBO has also kicked off its national Roadshow program last year where they visited 22 cities, and are now looking to hit even more cities in the coming months. As QBO President Butch Meily puts it, “Many of the largest companies in the world today—Google, Facebook, and Apple—didn’t exist just a few decades ago. Startups can change the world, and they can change the lives of our people.” So with that, the nationwide program aims to continue to inspire innovators, empower communities, and spark entrepreneurs’ creativity as they jumpstart their startup journey and be tomorrow’s unicorns.

QBO Startup Roadshow participants in 2019.

In addition to this, they have organized large scale events such as the Tectonic Summit in 2018 and the first Philippine Startup Week in 2019. QBO also provides support for founders in underrepresented communities, from offering funding, mentorship, and exposure opportunities to women founders through the Startup Pinay program, to providing a holistic package to startups contributing during the pandemic through the recent RESQUE: Startups v. Covid-19 Competition. QBO is also part of the DOST technology business incubator network and has been selected to lead the DOST TBI 4.0 project that aims to elevate and upgrade a network of a dozen university-based incubators from all around the country. The TBI 4.0 Program provides capacity building activities including training, workshops, and study missions to improve their ability to provide high-quality services to startups through standardization of frameworks and benchmarking against global best practices.

By continuing to provide the startup community with tailored support and resources through events, capacity building programs, and focused interventions, QBO bagged awards such as the Philippine Rice Bowl Startup Award for Best Accelerator Program in 2017 and 2019, the Silver Anvil Award in 2018, and the IN_PACT Asia Accelerator of the Year Award in 2019. Aside from these prestigious awards, QBO was also awarded  three more grants—from the Investing In Women, supported by the Australian government for a female empowerment project; from the U.S. Embassy for a holistic program to support early-stage startups; and from the Youth Business International (YBI) for an urgent support package to help startup founders with COVID-related solutions and pivots get back on their feet.

Just like the humble one-room house that inspired their name, QBO will continue to cultivate dynamic collaboration and bayanihan or teamwork, staying committed to taking the Philippine startup ecosystem to greater heights through launching programs that will champion entrepreneurship, power Filipino innovation and shape the next generation of startups.♦

Date of release: 21 September 2020