‘Slingshot’ brings together startups, investors in Asean

By Edd K. Usman

Filipino entrepreneurs involved in startups can count on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which sees technology as “a great equalizer.”

These remarks came from DTI secretary Ramon Lopez during his speech at “Slingshot Asean: Startup and Innovation Summit” that assembled the region’s startups, innovators, investors, corporations, academe, and government representatives from across the members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez (center) poses for a photo with delegates of the 2017 Slingshot ASEAN: Startup and Innovation Summit. From right to left are angel investor John Aston of the United States; Artie Lopez, Brainsparks co-founder and startup coach; Trade Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado; and Raineir Seider, head of Unit on Foreign Trade, European Economic Policy and Development Corporation, Ministry for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises of Germany. (EKU)

DTI secretary Ramon Lopez (center) poses for a photo with delegates of the 2017 Slingshot Asean: Startup and Innovation Summit. From right to left are angel investor John Aston of the United States; Artie Lopez, Brainsparks co-founder and startup coach; DTI undersecretary Nora K. Terrado; and Raineir Seider, head of unit on foreign trade, European Economic Policy and Development Corporation, Ministry for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises of Germany

Around 1,200 local and foreign delegates participated in the event, which began on Friday, October 20. The event was highlighted by panel discussions, and learning hubs featuring different topics designed to help entrepreneurs in their digital journey.

The youth will not find any problem in riding on the digital bandwagon because technology is accessible to everyone, Lopez said.

“If the business is technology-based they can compete in their country, let’s say in the Philippines, or in the United States, or any country. They can compete worldwide, they can compete with the big companies,” Lopez said at the Slingshot press conference.

The DTI chief recalled the story of Facebook and Google, which everybody knows, were founded by young entrepreneurs who were able to develop and grow their business models. They are businesses that are even bigger than the brick-and-mortar companies and have have a very high market valuation.

“That is what we meant. When they started they were not already big, or capital-intensive, like billions or millions of dollars of investment,” he added.

The youth can go into startups and they can enter without money. That’s the equalizer, everybody would have a chance to bring forward, carry forward their business models.

“If you want to establish a (technology) business, whether with no capital or you are a youth you can also grow big; there is no limitation, no barriers either in joining in. You just need a big idea, because if the idea is great many will support and there will be many investors,” said Lopez.

The DTI organized the summit, which it said showcased “the growing collaboration between the public and private sector in catapulting new businesses to the aspired inclusive, innovation-led regional economy.”

DTI is the lead agency for the Asean Committee on Business and Investment Promotion (CBIP). Slingshot Asean is an initiative of the DTI, mustering the biggest government-initiated platform for Philippine and Asean startups.

Lopez acknowledged the collaboration, in effect lauding the private sector for its contributions in helping the Philippine startup ecosystem thrive better.

“With the outpouring support from the private sector and the increasing awareness in the government on how to further support and enable startups and entrepreneurs, we are confident that the Philippines will continue to unfold the potentials of the growing startup community and influence more businesses to scale up,” the DTI chief said.

Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado, for DTI’s Trade and Investments Promotion Group, said Slingshot Asean came about through partnerships.

“Now on its third staging, we wish to elevate dialogues and conversations between the public and private sector to further address the need of the (startup) community,” Terrado, also chairperson of the Asean CBIP, said.

Slingshot is the official platform of the DTI in advancing the development and promotion of the startup ecosystem in the Philippines.

To entrepreneurs out there whose having ideas about building a startup, of course, involving technology, Terrado cited what the government is looking for, perhaps even investors.

She said there are brick-and-mortar startups and there are startups of the technology kind.

“I would say we are looking for startups that have a big ambition, and there is technology involved,” the DTI undersecretary said.

She said what she meant by “technology-involved” does not mean a startup that is merely digital, but it must also have something to do with biotechnology, advanced materials to enhance the country’s chances in the global stage, say in hardware development, among others.

Startups must also respond to problems concerning the environment and energy, she added.

Thus, the startups they are looking for are technology-enabled, with ambitious founders, looking forward to scaling up, which means not only a small livelihood initiative but something that would bring the Philippines a good brand to the world.

“Startups with entrepreneurs that have the grit to make it work, a new breed of businesses that will three in the innovation, algorithm economy, which is coming today and in the future,” she said.

Meanwhile, one of the initiatives under the DTI actively engaged in helping the country’s startup community is QBO Philippines, a public-private partnership, as innovation hub.

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