What to Expect at Philippine Startup Week 2021

It’s everything startup this week.

Philippine Startup Week actually started Monday (November 15), but if you missed the big events today, don’t fret because you have four other days to catch all of the action in the biggest event for startups in the country. 

“From an organizer’s perspective I think we’ve matured quite a bit this year and I think this shows in everything from the quality of the programs and speakers to the capabilities of our online platform,” said Katrina Chan, executive director of QBO Innovation Hub, which organizes PHSW in cooperation with government agencies Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), as well as with other community partners.

After the first PHSW in 2019, the second edition in 2020 was almost a complete overhaul as it was held entirely online due to the pandemic. Chan said it was almost like having to start.

“I think now we’re really hitting our stride,” she said. “Of course, every year we have a new theme, and this time we decided to focus on ‘Beyond Recovery: Filipino Startups Redefining Opportunity.’ The core idea of having together major government-led summits, dozens of startup community organized events by dozens of organizations, and hundreds of startups all showcased in one massive celebration of the Philippine startup ecosystem in one week, however, remains.” 

The lineup of speakers at this year’s edition reads like a who’s who of the entire startup industry in the country: Vice President Leni Robredo; DICT Acting Secretary Jose Arturo de Castro, DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, Rexy Dorado, co-founders & CEO and President, Kumu; Cathy Yap-Yang, FVP and Group Head of Corporate Communications, PLDT; Minette Navarrete, president and Co-Founder, Kickstart Ventures; Franco Varona, Founding Partner, Foxmont Capital; Xelia Tong, Managing Partner, ScaleUp Malaysia; Phi Vân Nguy?n, Chairwoman, Vietnam Angel Network; Maureen Alexandra Ramos-Padilla, Managing Director, National Book Store; Dado Banatao, Founding Chairperson, PhilDev; Stephan Kuester, Partner and Head of Ecosystem Consulting, Startup Genome; Francis Plaza, Co-Founder and CEO, Paymongo; and, Toby Claudio, President, Toby’s Sports.


Chan said she’s optimistic about the current state of startups in the Philippines. “We’ve seen massive news in the regional giants like Grab, GoTo, Bukalapak and Philippine startups themselves are raising record amounts of funding, which you can learn more about in the reports that will be released by Foxmont and Gobi Core VC respectively during PHSW. 

Photo by PHSW.

“The pandemic has also created opportunities not only for new solutions but also accelerated digital adoption both for consumers and enterprise. Starting up is still inherently risky and not for the faint of heart, but I’d say it’s a good time to be a startup founder in the Philippines right now on the whole.” 

If your time is limited, Chan suggests checking out the following tracks and discussions: Startup Pinay on Friday, where the biggest women leaders in the tech space are scheduled to speak, including founders, investors, and government, including VP Leni, and others; QBO’s Top 100 (daily at noon); and Venture Pilipinas, the final pitch competition and announcement of the Philippine national Startup Venture Fund, which is all about showing off the best startup pitches.

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“But honestly there’s really something in it for everyone,” Chan says. “That’s why we organized 5 tracks and have so many community partners (discover, develop, collaborate invest, showcase)— like if you’re a graduating student or young professional, you might be more interested in the Job Fair for Startup Careers or events in the Discover track. Educators or those running incubators might want to check out the Technology Business Incubator summit by DOST or the collaborate track. Founders might be more interested in the Develop classes, or the tracks for international expansion like Slingshot DTI or Arise by UN Youth, whereas for investors, on top of the Invest track, we have at least 5 different pitching competitions and startup showcases and networking ongoing just like I mentioned earlier where you can discover your next investible gem.”

According to the news release, PHSW 2021 is expected to draw over 5,000 participants from over 150 startups, investors, corporate partners, academia, media, and government are expected to join PHSW21. Over 70 community events are also organized by accelerators, tech companies, schools, investors, and other organizations from across the country, covering a diverse array of topics and sectors.

Best of all, PHSW is 100 percent free to attend.

“To echo our theme for this year of “Beyond Recovery: Filipino Startups Redefining Opportunity,” I think this is a pivotal time for our startup ecosystem, Chan says. “It’s in our hands now to reshape our economy and to rebuild our country post-pandemic, and I believe our startups and the innovations and solutions they bring forward are key to that future.”


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Paul John Caña
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