By Edd K. Usman
Startups in the Philippines now have another venue to call home as the QBO Innovation Hub officially opened its doors to local technology entrepreneurs.
Global financial services provider JP Morgan, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) banded together to launch the QBO, located at the ground floor of the International Building of DTI, along Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City.
The QBO Innovation Hub is a public-private sector partnership between the DTI and technology incubator IdeaSpace Foundation. The two entities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in August 2016.
The QBO aims to bring together startups, innovators, investors, academic institutions, startup mentors, fund providers, and enablers under one roof for them to easily connect with each other.
It is hailed as the country’s pioneering public-private effort to establish an innovation ecosystem in the country, inspired by Silicon Valley in the United States, Blk 71 in Singapore, and MaGIC in Malaysia.
As partners in the first QBO site, IdeaSpace, JP Morgan, DTI and DOST will offer startup programs to interested startups and entrepreneurs who are looking to scale their ventures and benefit from the many programs being offered at the Hub.
Rene “Butch” Meily, president of IdeaSpace and QBO, cited the role of the QBO in driving the growth of startups in the Philippines.
“We are excited to create success stories that will inspire Filipinos to start their own companies instead of pursuing opportunities overseas,” he said.
The QBO is inspired by the “bahay kubo,” a humble single-room house. Like the “kubo”, QBO stands for bayanihan — meaning teamwork — to nurture the local startup system. QBO, then, is a place where the community can meet to push their ideas to grow as well as showcase Filipino innovation and build great companies.
To be offered at the QBO are programs aimed at developing, and growing the startup ecosystem. The programs will be made available nationwide, whatever the stage of maturity of the startup.
Among the QBO programs and services are the following:
• Access to QBO’s networking events
• Use of the QBO HQ co-working space
• Professional consultations on legal, accounting, marketing and design
• Referrals to corporate and government partner resources
• Assistance in incorporation, business registration, and IP filing
• Classes, workshops, mentorship and feedback sessions
• Pitching avenues to investors and potential partners
Also, a few startups can also participate in the JP Morgan Incubation Program, described as a stage-agnostic module that will be available year-round to startups with high potential.
Roberto L. Panlilio, senior country officer at JP Morgan Philippines, cited the importance of assisting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), saying engagement with them “is critical” in their rudimentary stages.
Panlilio voiced excitement at the potential of MSMEs in ushering tremendous opportunities that will in turn help in developing sectors and generating jobs.
On the other hand, DOST undersecretary for research and development Rowena Cristina L. Guevara noted that the Philippine startup scene is growing quickly, boosted by the country’s young population who are digitally savvy.
“By continuing to develop ideas into innovative products and technologies, startups can evolve to become great companies that positively impact the future of the Philippines,” said Guevara.
Dr. Carlos Primo David, executive director of the DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Research and Development (PCIEERD), said QBO is the 11th incubator in the country and the only one that is not school-based.
He said DOST-PCIEERD provided funding to QBO to help build technology in the startup sphere. “We have the talent and skills in the Philippines,” David said.
QBO and JP Morgan are planning to enroll 15 startups in the incubation program by the end of 2017.