SEOUL, REPUBLIC OF KOREA – In an extraordinary display of innovation and entrepreneurial prowess, Philippine startups made a significant impact on the international startup scene at two prestigious events held in Seoul, Republic of Korea. The ASEAN-Korea Startup Week 2023, held on 19-20 October 2023, and the ECOTHON 2023 during the COMEUP Global Startup Festival, held on 8-10 November 2023, showcased the excellence of Philippine startups, supported by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under its ILEAP program. 

The International and Local Exposure Program (ILEAP) is an initiative by the DTI that supports qualified startups in participating in local or international startup events or competitions. ILEAP is created to provide opportunities for startups to showcase their innovations, network with potential investors, and contribute to the growth of the Philippine startup ecosystem. 

ASEAN-Korea Startup Week: Celebrating Innovation Brilliance 

Thirty (30) startups, carefully selected by the 10 ASEAN Embassies in Korea and the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME), had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to venture capitalists from Korea at the ASEAN-Korea Startup Week 2023. 

Among these startups, three Philippine startups showcased groundbreaking ideas in sectors such as AI, e-commerce, fintech, education, and tourism. Mata Technologies specializes in cutting-edge AI solutions, providing virtual tours for real estate in the Philippines. Nanohubs is a pioneering tech company leveraging nanotechnology for transformative products. ChatGenie focuses on conversational AI and chatbot solutions, enhancing customer engagement for businesses. 

Mata Technologies, Nanohubs, and ChatGenie not only contributed to the vibrant ASEAN-Korea startup ecosystem but also represented the Philippines with brilliance on the global stage.  

ECOTHON 2023: Philippine Startup Emerges Victorious 

In a resounding victory for Philippine innovation, Sikai Inc. emerged as the winner at ECOTHON 2023, hosted during the COMEUP Global Startup Festival in Seoul, South Korea. The event, centered around “Eco-entrepreneurs for a Sustainable and Innovative Business Model Development,” unfolded on November 9, 2023. 

This global triumph marks a significant milestone in the third year of the Philippines’ participation, as Sikai Inc. secured its position as the first-time winner at ECOTHON. The competition, spanning the Philippines, Malaysia, Lao PDR, and Indonesia, served as a prelude to the international stage. Sikai Inc., with its focus on environmental, social, and economic sustainability, stood out among 12 participants from Ecothon winners in the aforementioned countries. 

Ecothon2023 DemoDayAwarding FromL-R: Mr.Vahn Marty Cagalawan (Sikai Inc.),Ms.Audwin Mocorro Jr. (Sikai Inc.), Mr. Chris Seung-chan Lee (ASEIC) 

Sikai Inc. was awarded an impressive KRW 3 Million for its software solutions focused on environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Notably, Session Groceries and Insiklo PH, Ecothon Philippines’ 2nd and 3rd place winners, joined Sikai Inc. in representing the country at ECOTHON 2023. Session Groceries supports local farmers, while Insiklo PH focuses on insect upcycling for a circular economy. 

This global competition, organized by the Ministry of SMEs and Startups (MSS) of the Republic of Korea, ASEM SMEs Eco-Innovation Center (ASEIC), and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), and supported by the government focal points and implementing partners, emphasized the commitment to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production. 

The global stage of ASEAN-Korea Startup Week 2023 and Ecothon 2023 not only reaffirmed the Philippines’ position as a hub for sustainable entrepreneurship but also showcased the nation’s prowess in addressing global challenges through innovative solutions. 

Since 2019, the DTI has propelled 221 unique startups into the international market through its ILEAP program and will continue to play a crucial role in supporting qualified startups to participate in local and international events, contributing to the growth of the Philippine startup landscape. 

Secretary Pascual said, “We at DTI remain committed to our goal of strengthening the Philippine startup ecosystem to facilitate their integration in the global value chain. These awards are a clear testament that the Philippine startup ecosystem is on its way to make its mark in the global arena.”

For more information about the participating ASEAN and ECOTHON startups and the programs in general, visit the official websites:, ♦

Date of Release: 17 November 2023