Published 29 November 2016 Category: Startups

Manila: The Latecomer Who Promises To Win The Startup Race in Asia

The Philippines startup and innovation community is looking at a bright future as the country is actively pulling resources and building infrastructure to grow the tech sector. And the future lies in Manila, the country’s capital and the second most populous city.

In the Global Innovation Index compiled by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) last year, the Philippines jumped a wooping 17 places from 2014’s 100 to 83rd.

An ambitious road map

The Southeast Asian country is already on the Philippine Digital Startup Roadmap, which envisions 500 startups backed by a total of US$200 million, and their valuation will go up to US$2 billion by 2020.
And more recently, the Department of Trade and Industry is taking this further by drafting a Startup Ecosystem Development Plan. The department’s forecast showed that by 2020, the Philippines startup and innovation community will be able to provide 8,500 jobs for Filipinos, and it is encouraging investments in local startups.
Tech companies in the Philippines also drew global attention. The English-speaking country with a young population attracts interests from venture capitalists from Japan, Singapore and the United States, which hoped the country could become a springboard for them to broaden their business interests in neighbouring markets such as Indonesia and India.

The strength of the Philippines

Manila then becomes the hub for tech startups, not only because it is the capital of the Philippines. The high concentration of young companies, incubators and venture capitalists created a synergy that allows young entrepreneurs to grow further. Currently, major incubators such as Kickstart Ventures and Launchgarage are located in Manila or the Metro Manila area. Manila also sees the mushrooming of co-working spaces and shared offices that are perfect solutions for young entrepreneurs and startups.
The relatively lower living costs compared to other countries and territories - as well as a relatively higher unemployment rate - offer the Philippines an advantage. The startup scene is young, but the high digital literacy -- 46 per cent of internet penetration, 47 per cent of social media penetration, a wooping 112 per cent of mobile connections --  easily makes businesses to with digital and technology a promising trend for the future.

A hopeful future

One of the key successes is Sustainable Alternative Lighting Corporation (SALt) founded by Filipino scientist Aisa Mijeno. The company developed a lamp that could stay on for eight hours powered by nothing but just one cup of saltwater. The country’s young innovators have come to use technology to address problems arising from not only the markets but also everyday life and environmental issues. Mijeno’s success also reflected the rise of Manila as a potential startup hub when she shared the stage with US president Barack Obama and Alibaba’s Jack Ma at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit, which took place last year in the capital of the Philippines.

Our survey in August revealed that more than 63 per cent of the employees in the Philippines are expecting a salary raise in the coming year. More than 20 per cent said that staff recruitment is one of the biggest challenges in 2016-17, meaning the abundant job opportunities are available in the country.

Nora Terrado, the Undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, has told the media in March this year that the country has a abundant opportunities to offer for startups, and this is only just a beginning. “There is no better time for the Philippines than now,” Terrado said.