US-ABC Organizes Workshop in Response to COVID-19 Crisis Focused on Advancing the Competitiveness of Philippines Start-ups

(Manila, Philippines) – On October 14, the US-ASEAN Business Council (the Council), in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, Philippines and QBO, conducted a workshop for start-ups in the Philippines. The event was part of the Council’s broader workshop series in response to the COVID-19 crisis. More than 250 Filipino startup founders participated in the workshop session themed, “Advancing the Competitiveness of Philippines Start-ups.”

The workshop was officially opened by Ambassador Michael Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director of the Council and Ms. Clare Amador, Head of Public Policy from Facebook Philippines.

“The Philippines’ start-up ecosystem was valued at $584 million, with early-stage funding reaching $101 million. However, this amount is still far from the global average of $13.68 billion in total start-up ecosystem value, and $548 million in early-stage funding value. Today’s workshop is aimed exactly that – accelerating the growth and competitiveness of Philippines start-ups as well as supporting Philippine government programs aimed at helping startups,” said Ambassador Michalak his opening remarks. “We hope this will provide a platform for dialogue between the private sector and government to learn, network, improve skills and creativity. To keep the momentum going, we know how important it is to support the Philippines start-up ecosystem through a conducive policy environment,” he continued.

The workshop was also supported by US-ABC member company Facebook who delivered welcoming remarks, highlighting how Facebook has been supporting startups in the Philippines and specific tools that startups can utilize. “One of Facebook’s aspirations is to create an enabling digital environment for businesses through our tools, programs, and solutions. We will continue to work with government agencies, civil society, and industry organizations to promote policies that foster growth and advance business opportunities. We look forward to helping more industries and businesses flourish as we explore the potential of the digital economy and work together towards inclusive economic recovery,” said Ms. Clare Amador, Head of Public Policy Facebook Philippines.

The workshop began with a keynote address from Ms. Rafaelita Aldaba, Undersecretary from the Competitiveness and Innovation Group, DTI. She gave update regarding DTI’s efforts in supporting Philippines’ start-ups as well as ways in creating better environment that nourishes innovation and growth.

“Innovation and the adoption of new technologies would be crucial in advancing the competitiveness of startups as well as in achieving sustainable and inclusive recovery. The adoption of these new technologies offers opportunities for startups to design solutions to address the needs and pain points of firms and consumers. The proposed National Center for AI Research could provide a venue where startups could go for R&D support",” said Ms. Rafaelita Aldaba in her keynote address.

The workshop consisted of two panel sessions featuring prominent speakers from the Philippines government and from start-ups who shared their insights on digital transformation.

In the first session, Mr. Karl Pacolor, Chief of the Innovation and Collaboration Division (ICD) of the Competitiveness Bureau, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippines, Ms. Emmy Lou Delfin, Director IV, ICT Industry Development Bureau, Department of Information and Communications Technology, Philippines, Dr. Enrico Paringit Executive Director for Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, Department of Science and Technology, and Ms. Cherry Murillon, Founder/Lead Innovator, Cawil AI, discussed the Joint Administrative Order (Innovative Startup Act), the impact of COVID-19 on startups, and government efforts to boost innovation and grant support opportunities for start-ups. From this session, the audience heard insights as to how the government had responded to and managed the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the second session, Mr. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Former Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, Mr. Ragde Falcis, Co-Founder and CEO/CTO of Chatgenie, and Ms. Anna Melissa Nava, Co-Founder and CEO of 1Export discussed initiatives that can help build a solid and inventive start-up community in the Philippines. The speakers They shared insights on emerging new consumer behaviors during the pandemic, consumer protection trends, and safety issues. They also shared possible strategies to overcome the rising challenges from online marketing and operation.

Finally, the start-ups participated in two interactive breakout rooms which focused on the Present and the Future of Start-ups in the Philippines. One breakout room identified the start-ups characteristics, analyzed the current business environment in the Philippines, and discussed various viable business models. Meanwhile the second break out room developed a “wish list” to thrive during and after COVID-19. Start-ups shared their experiences with current government policies and best practices that helped their businesses during COVID-19. This session closed with a final discussion moderated by Ma. Margarita S. Lim, Country Representative – Philippines, US-ASEAN Business Council, which resulted in a draft set of recommendations that will be given to the Philippines government.

This is the first start-up capacity building activity that the Council has conducted in the Philippines. The ongoing capacity building initiatives in the ASEAN Member States (AMS) have been a key pillar of the Council for one decade now. In 2011, the Council established a training program for ASEAN small businesses in response to a request by ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) to support ASEAN small businesses in leveraging technology and the intra-global consumer and supply base. Currently, nearly 15,000 small businesses have benefitted from Council’s SME programs across the region.

In line with making material on the SME Academy more accessible to entrepreneurs, the Council launched the online ASEAN SME Academy in 2016. The Online Academy is a self-help and self-paced learning platform for SMEs that provides access to free courses and resources from the Council’s member companies. The Academy is co-administered with the Philippines Department Trade and Industry (DTI) and Philippine Trade Training Centre (PTTC) on behalf of the Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME). To read more about the academy or should you want to know more on how to develop your SME, please visit the link www.asean-sme-academy.org for more information.


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Since 1984, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for U.S. corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Worldwide, the Council's membership of nearly 170 companies generates almost US$7 trillion in revenue and employs more than 14.5 million people.  Today our members include the largest U.S. companies conducting business in ASEAN and range from newcomers to the region to companies that have been working in Southeast Asia for more than 100 years. The Council has nine offices around the globe, in Washington, DC; New York, NY; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; Singapore; and Yangon, Myanmar.