Modern ‘kubo’ in Makati to serve as innovation hub for startups, investors

By Edd K. Usman

Startups, innovators, investors, academic institutions, startup mentors, funders, as well as enablers, now have a means to connect with each other.

DTI chief Ramon M. Lopez (3rd, right) and IdeaSpace chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan (3rd, left) shake hands after formalizing the partnership between DTI and IdeaSpace. Also signatories to MOU are Rene “Butch” Meily (left) and DTI director Senen M. Perlada (right). The ladies in the group are Diane Eustaquio (2nd, left), executive director of IdeaSpace, and DTI undersecretary Nora K. Terrado

DTI chief Ramon M. Lopez (3rd, right) and IdeaSpace chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan (3rd, left) shake hands after formalizing the partnership between DTI and IdeaSpace. Also signatories to MOU are Rene “Butch” Meily (left) and DTI director Senen M. Perlada (right). The ladies in the group are Diane Eustaquio (2nd, left), executive director of IdeaSpace, and DTI undersecretary Nora K. Terrado

This was made possible with the partnership of the government and the private sector that paved the way for the recent launch of the QBO Innovation Hub, which is located at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) International Building along Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City.

The “QBO” in the facility’s name takes after the Filipino iconic house “kubo” and reflects the modern re-imagination of the traditional home and community space of Filipinos.

The center is a joint initiative of the DTI-Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB) and tech incubator IdeaSpace Foundation, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formalize the establishment of the lab.

DTI secretary Ramon M. Lopez, IdeaSpace chair Manny V. Pangilinan, DTI director Senen M. Perlada, and Rene “Butch” Meily, who will lead the center, were the signatories of the MOU.

“As a strong supporter of the startup ecosystem in this country since we launched IdeaSpace a few years back, we are glad that many other players have emerged to help build and grow such startups. As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child,” Pangilinan said.

DTI’s Perlada said the initiative is the agency’s way of providing assistance to boost the climate of collaboration within the startup community, private sector, the academe and the government.

The trade department also is counting on the hub to become a vehicle for the country’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to collaborate and explore opportunities in line with the 2015-2017 Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP).

The PEDP calls for the enhancement of the innovative capacity of the export sector through an efficient system of national innovation.

“We hope to open more opportunities for market access and capital, and mentorship for our startups, especially the growing number of young entrepreneurs,” added Perlada.

For his part, Meily is optimistic of the facility’s role in pushing for the development of the country’s startup community.

“Our hope is that the hub will help spur the Philippine startup ecosystem and trigger the spirit of innovation, risk-taking and creativity that will give birth to new companies, new jobs and wealth for entrepreneurs, their partners and their employees,” he said.

Meily said the center will seek to be more inclusive and bring in all different groups, including those competing with each other as well as foreign funders.

“We are open to anyone but we are also eyeing some mature startups and have spoken to some Singapore funders as well,” said Meily. “We want to make this inclusive. We are talking to business groups. We want to be as inclusive as possible.”

Meily, who also heads the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), emphasized that the QBO Innovation Hub should not produce some tangible results.

“If you have creativity, you have hard work, and you have the dedication to make this happen, you, too, can be a Google, or a Yahoo, or a Facebook,” he said.

Meily said Filipinos should learn to take risks and discard the mentality that being average is enough.

The DTI said the facility will run under its Negosyo Center Plus operating model, although it will be focus on more mature startups.

Negosyo Center Plus is a flagship initiative of the DTI to encourage entrepreneurship in the country. Its 250 Negosyo Centers around the Philippines have materials and resource supports designed to assist entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs.

“As the agency adds more services catering to the needs of the startup community, more centers under the Negosyo Center Plus model will start assisting those in the startup and innovation sector,” the DTI said.

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