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Biggest Ever: Philippine Startup Conference 2020 Points to a Bright Future for Local Startups

There were lots to be excited about during this year’s conference.
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If there was ever any doubt about the vibrancy and rich culture of startups in the Philippines, Philippine Startup Week 2020, put those doubts to rest. More than 10,000 people attended this year’s edition of the annual startup conference that was held virtuallly for the first time. Organizers said it was the largest startup virtual conference in the country. 

With the theme, “Filipino Startups Powering Up the New Normal,” PHSW20 made history as it brought together startup founders, startup enablers, techpreneurs, investors, government stakeholders, and thought leaders from across the country and beyond in one virtual stage. 

Towards a ‘better normal’ 

Guests of honor included Vice President Leni Robredo, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II, and Rene “Butch” S. Meily, president of QBO Innovation Hub. 

PHSW20 had 56 community events within the event’s five specialized tracks—Discover, Develop, Collaborate, Invest, and Showcase—and featured over 100 startups including those in the Top 100 by QBO, a daily segment that showcased the country’s hottest, high potential startups to watch in 2020.

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More than 240 acclaimed local and international speakers also joined the virtual stage. Vice President Robredo, who was the event’s keynote speaker, delivered an inspiring message during the Startup Pinay segment led by QBO Innovation Hub in Partnership with Investing in Women (IW).

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“If there is any lesson we can draw from this pandemic, it is that there is no better way through any crisis but together—by collaborating to survive, to innovate, to adapt,” she said. 

Commitment to PH startups

All three participating government agencies held events to highlight their commitment to the Philippine startup ecosystem. DICT’s InnovNation kickstarted Day one of PHSW20 by announcing the completion of the first phase of the Startup Philippines website—a step closer to bridging the information gap and making vital data accessible to startups, enablers, and stakeholders. DICT’s InnovNation also featured speakers and panelists to tackle inspiring stories of startups creating impact in the countryside, building an inclusive startup community, and enabling the next generation of community builders in the Philippines.

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Meanwhile DOST’s Technology Business Incubation Virtual Summit during day two was headlined by Sec. De la Peña and Usec. Rowena Cristina Guevara, who presented the DOST TBIs COVID-19 Report. Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) The Executive Director Dr. Enrico C. Paringit also launched the PCIEERD Startup Research Grant Fund Program that seeks to provide a fund mechanism for startups to reinvigorate the economy in the post-COVID era.

On day three, PHSW20 opened with DTI’s Slingshot, an annual international conference gathering stakeholders of the country’s startup ecosystem to discuss scaling opportunities and globalizing startups. A highlight of the event was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between DTI and 500 Startups, a global venture capital and startup accelerator based in Silicon Valley, to work together as DTI prepares to implement the Strategic MSMLE and Startup (or SMART) Link Program.

Winning startups

One of the most-awaited portions of the conference was the series of startup competitions, including Microsoft: Emerge X Regional Pitching Competition—where the top 20 startups pitched their ideas to a panel of judges from prominent VCs. The ARISE Startup Pitch Competition was also part of PHSW20, where NextPay and Zagana earned second and third place, respectively. 

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But the big winner of PHSW20 was HealthTech startup MedHyve, which bagged first place both in the ARISE Startup Pitch Competition and Seedstars Manila Competition—which capped off the entire PHSW20 conference. MedHyve’s interconnected platform for medical communities across ASEAN to acquire their medical product needs was certainly relevant as the country and the whole world is still in the midst of a health crisis.

There were also a handful of sessions led by the different Technology Business Incubators (TBIs), featuring their programs, incubated startups, and the current state of their city’s startup ecosystem. Apart from the main events, competitions, and ecosystem features, PHSW20 presented a full range of community events throughout the five-day conference, where the PHSW20 attendees were given the chance to further explore the available opportunities, gain insight into the startup landscape, and hear inspiring stories from acclaimed speakers and Filipino startup founders. 

Another highlight of the event was the launch of the Philippine Capital Venture Report 2020, a comprehensive startup report project of local VC fund Foxmont Capital Partners. 

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On the global map

“The local startup community has rightfully earned its spot under the limelight. With PHSW20 successfully showcasing the brightest minds and most innovative techpreneurs, the Philippine startup ecosystem is on the global map," Meily said. 

“We believe startups can help in enabling the digital transformation of our micro, small, and medium enterprises, our traditional brick and mortar businesses, and especially the SMEs need to digitize their  operations in order to thrive and be competitive in the post-pandemic economy,”  said DTI Secretary Lopez. 

“Let this Philippine Startup Week 2020 be also our way of showing our startups that you are not alone and that the government is here with you as you power up the new normal,” said DOST Sec. De la Peña. “Let us continue to work hand in hand with the government and private sector so we can do more,”

“The [Innovative Startup] Act mandates the creation of the Philippine startup development program or PSDP, which offers benefits and incentives for startups and startup enablers,” said DICT Secretary Honasan. “A program recognized by the Digital Riser Report as a lighthouse initiative.

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The five-day conference was made possible through the joint collaboration of the DTI, DOST, DICT, QBO Innovation Hub, with support from 917Ventures, AWS, Investing in Women, Microsoft, Youth Business International, Google.org, PHILEXPORT, TeamAsia, Paymongo, PLDT Global, Prosperna, and Credit Information Corporation and 61 community partners.

Esquire Philippines was a media partner of the event.

If you want to relive the PHSW20 experience or catch up on missed sessions, all events will be available to registrants to rewatch on demand from November 28 to December 15 on the virtual platform at https://bit.ly/joinphsw20

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