Photo of MOU Signing regarding startup cooperation

As part of the ongoing initiatives to promote the Philippine startup industry and connect it to the startup ecosystem in Silicon Valley for possible collaboration in the areas of training, mentorship, financing, and networking, the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco, the Philippine Trade and Investment Center – Silicon Valley, and Dynamico Space organized its first hybrid (in-person and online)  event entitled “Building Bridges: The Philippines and SF Startups and Mentoring.” 

As the Philippines and the United States recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, Department of Trade & Industry-Competitiveness and Innovation Group (DTI-CIG) Undersecretary Rafaelita M. Aldaba shared that the program brings with it hope and inspiration in shaping the future of Philippines-Silicon Valley startup cooperation.

In January 2020, prior to the pandemic and the lockdowns, DTI together with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) held consultations on the Innovative Startup Act in San Francisco.  This landmark legislation promotes innovation by providing financial subsidies, such as tax breaks and grants for startups, startup visas, building of startup ecozones, startup grant fund, and an innovative startup venture fund.

To date, the Philippines was able to implement a more comprehensive startup program focusing on incubation and acceleration services, mentorship, industry matching and development support, along with internationalization activities to expose local startups to ecosystems abroad. The National Development Company (NDC) already allocated P300 million for the matching grant fund program for this year. DTI is also collaborating with 500 Startups, a startup accelerator and global venture capital firm based in San Francisco, as the Philippines develops programs to foster the growth of local startups and accelerate the digital transformation in the country.

DOST allotted a total of P43 M to support the research & development (R&D) efforts of 14 local startups focusing on providing solutions to help jumpstart the economy and communities as the Philippines adjust to the new normal. 

Undersecretary Aldaba noted that despite the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting economies and lives, it is amazing to see how startups have been offering solutions through the creation of new products, services, and processes. Based on a survey by Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC), 49% of Philippine startups explored new product/services and more than 20% said that they experienced higher demand for their services and products.

Photo of Competitiveness and Innovation Group Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba

Using new technologies, startups have been providing support to government through contact tracing apps, personal and community health monitoring, chatbots, along with social distancing and online marketplaces. New innovative startups emerged during the crisis and some were even able to raise funds abroad. 

One key lesson that can be drawn from the pandemic is the acceleration of the use of digital technologies and innovation which played a crucial role in ensuring quick responses to the crisis. The Philippines’ strategy embraces Industry 4.0 and view these new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), as key drivers in achieving an inclusive, resilient, & sustainable industrial development. 

Amid the pandemic, DTI formulated and launched the Philippine A.I. Roadmap.  The roadmap focuses on uplifting the lives of Filipinos, industries, and the economy with the vision of positioning the Philippines as an A.I. regional hub. By adopting A.I., the Philippines can tap vast opportunities to help maintain the regional & global competitiveness of its industries, prepare the future workforce for the jobs of the future, and attract large companies to set up in the country.

One important goal of the roadmap is to identify and support local startups that can significantly contribute to the development of the A.I. ecosystem. Another equally important goal is the establishment of a National Center for A.I. Research. The A.I. Center will serve as hub for world-class A.I. scientists and researchers where multinational companies can explore various R&D projects with the researchers, and linkages with universities & research institutes. The Center will provide consultancy services, create A.I. tech products, along with data literacy trainings.

The Philippines will focus on the following applications of A.I.: precision farming to improve the productivity of the agriculture sector and increase the incomes of farmers, smart manufacturing, healthcare services, A.I.-powered BPO, smart cities, and resilient technology.

Another important initiative is the building of Regional Inclusive Innovation Centers (RIIC). The Philippines is made up of over 7,100 islands and 16 regions.  The RIICs serve as platforms that link together the different players in the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem: universities, local government units (LGUs), Intellectual Property Satellite Offices/Innovation and Technology Support Offices (IPSO/ITSOs), R&D labs, Science and Technology (S&T) parks, accelerators, startups, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), LEs, government agencies & other players. The RIICs are innovation and collaboration spaces that focus on addressing industry issues/societal and environmental problems applying technological solutions.

Since the last gathering in San Francisco, there are also milestones that were highlighted:

  • In January 2020, the architectural plans of Dynamico Space were revealed by JR Calanoc.  Today, it is fully operational and the host for the event “Building Bridges: The Philippines and SF Startups and Mentoring.”
  • Plentina Founder Kevin Gabayan, who was one of the panel speakers for the innovative startup act consultation, was at the early stages of implementing his vision for a company that aims to advance financial inclusion in the Philippines. Today, PLENTINA has grown significantly in the Philippines and had expanded its merchant partners to include 7-Eleven Philippines and Smart Communications.  
  • TaskUs, a Philippine-reared business business process outsourcing (BPO) debuted on Nasdaq last 11 June, valuing the company at USD 2.8 billion. TaskUs has not only triumphed, but it has helped to put the Philippines and the Philippine outsourcing industry in the spotlight on the global stage.

Undersecretary Aldaba emphasized that these partnerships and achievements are testament to the opportunities that can be harnessed through strong collaborations. Through the Innovative Startup Act and the strong focus of the A.I. Roadmap to promote startups, the Philippines could build more successful startups. Cooperation and collaboration between countries would be a vital step in facing the post crisis future.

She emphasized that this program offers a bridge between the Philippines and Silicon Valley that offers opportunities to engage and collaborate in the pursuit of innovation and interaction among startups and startup enablers.

The event is available on demand through this link.

Date of Release: 21 July 2021