Challenge for startup community in PH
Filipino tech-entrepreneurs who are serious about becoming global startup champions should now be strategically leveraging the opportunities presented by being part of an ASEAN market of some 617 million people and a combined GDP of US $2.1 trillion.
Being extremely busy running companies, focusing on our latest app project, and balancing these with family life are no excuses for ignoring sweeping changes of the economic terrain. A common market of ten countries — the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), and Laos — is happening and will definitely affect our businesses.
Thus major Philippine industries have begun assessing the challenges of stiffer competition and the opportunities of a bigger regional market as they craft their respective industry road maps. The Philippine Startup Community is on the same track.
Philippine industry leaders have already gone ahead. The Ayala company Manila Water Co. Inc., for instance, has laid eyes on Vietnam and Indonesia. Universal Robina Corp., on the other hand, is looking at Myanmar. In Cebu, a local furniture maker even decided to transfer his base to Indonesia.
Emerging digital economies
For Philippine startups, a major consideration is that ASEAN now counts over 550 million mobile and 139 million internet subscribers.
“The economies of Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and Malaysia have high mobile, internet and smartphone penetration rates. The Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam represent emerging digital economies where penetration rates are lower but growing rapidly. Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos are starting from low bases and offer the highest growth potential for enterprising startups. Unlike China, which is dominated by home grown social media companies, US social media stalwarts like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, etc. find good adoption rates in Southeast Asia,” wrote Venturebeat.com.
The ability of the Startup Community to leverage this vast market likewise opens doors to investors and capital from within the ASEAN region along with American and European investors seeking digital business opportunities in the AEC.
Check out these presentations:
1. ASEAN Business Outlook Survey 2014 of the AmCham Singapore and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce International Affairs.
2. Investing in ASEAN 2013-14.
Moreover, the integration process means public and private sector huge investments on ICT and innovation, something that spells opportunities even as the Philippine startup community levels up regional cooperation. To give one an idea about the possibilities, feel free to check out E-ASEAN.
Can startups in the Philippines compete?
Offhand, let’s limit ourselves to three things that the Philippine Startup Community should seize and leverage to the hilt:
1. During the recent Sun.Star Economic Forum that focused on the Asean Economic Community, government trade officials encouraged among others cooperation among local entrepreneurs as part of our regional strategy to leverage AEC opportunities. Among the problems encountered in dealing with Filipino entrepreneurs, the officials led by Trade Secretary Greg Domingo said, is the “kanya-kanya” attitude.
One unique thing about startups in comparison with other industries. Startups are part of a community, the startup community that is conscious about developing the startup ecosystem to be able to breed more startups and create champions.
“Always remember that community is at the heart of the startup community,” said Brad Feld in Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. In the best startup communities he said, “leaders talk to each other and share strategies, relationships, ideas, and resources.”
2. The Philippines possesses two qualities one cannot find in other ASEAN countries.
- An awesome work-play environment blended with that famous Filipino hospitality that enchants both investors and geeks. As the Philippine tourism department puts it, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”
- A unique cultural mix of East and West that makes it a natural cultural gateway to Southeast Asia.
No wonder, talented and well-connected people like Bowei Gai of worldstartupreport.com have come to extend their stay here. To recall, he concluded his nine-month journey around 29 countries with his presentation during the first Geeks on a Beach (GOAB) conference at the world famous Boracay island. Then, he decided to hole up for several months in Cebu City in central Philippines to write the report.
Just this teaser guys: the next Geeks on a Beach this August 21, 2014 will be in Cebu with the theme “Roadmap Beyond ASEAN 2015.”
3. The boom in the business process outsourcing industry is producing a highly digital-savvy and English-speaking millennial generation that provides not only the needed work force, but more significant, more idealistic, dynamic, and energetic entrepreneurs to grow the Philippine Startup Community. This is a generation that wants to change the world faster.