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DTI, Plug and Play accelerator program expected to help 40 startups each year

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AT LEAST 40 startups annually are expected to obtain funding and training from an accelerator program launched by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and US venture capital firm Plug and Play Tech Center.

 On the sidelines of the program launch late Wednesday, Plug and Play Co-Founder Jose Avelino Flores said in partnership with the DTI, Plug and Play will act as the facilitator in identifying the problems faced by startups and market them to sources of capital worldwide.

 “Normally, with startups, and we see about 20,000 a year globally; these startups will not have 100% of the solutions,” he said.

 “So they will have to go through that acceleration program where, on that platform, they will work with the industry to build the products that will work,” he added.

Plug & Play can help the startups tap the $10 billion pool of the firm’s network globally, said Mr. Flores.

“You know, I invest about $25 million a year in startups. But… it’s just one fund. I am relatively small, and I have access to at least $10 billion worth of funding from our network globally,” he said.

The project will not only be open to Filipino startups but also international ones as well, and will cycle every six months with at least 20 participants in each batch.

“The idea is that these startups will now also attract foreign direct investment from venture capitalists in the Philippines, attract other companies that also want to look at their solutions and build those solutions,” he said.

“Because these solutions will be built anyway in other parts of the world, so why are we waiting and buying these solutions made outside of the country when we can build them here? So that is the idea, so we will have the intellectual property,” he added.

He said that the long-term goal of the program is for the startups to sell their solutions to the global market after being deployed in the Philippines.

Called the National Startup Accelerator Platform, the program will initially run for two years and is expected to be extended to five years.

Under the partnership, the DTI will be providing the office and coworking space to house the startups at the National Innovation Gateway.

“And of course, we’ll introduce them to existing startups that we’re working with already out of our other programs,” Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said.

In terms of priorities, Mr. Pascual said these include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, software development, animation, agritech, and foodtech.

During the launch, Plug and Play also signed a memorandum of understanding with its first corporate partner under the accelerator program, DFNN, Inc.

Under the partnership, DFNN Executive Chairman Ramon C. Garcia, Jr., said that the company will provide the incubating companies with access to markets for their products.

“Second, we ourselves are also contributing cash for the next five years to seed these startups, and what the DFNN Group hopes to get in return is an external way to look at innovative processes that we ourselves may tap and use within our own operations,” he said. 

“Remember, when you talk about seed funding, you’re talking about $10,000–$20,000 per investee. So it really doesn’t take a lot, but we’re hoping to get a big return over the next number of years,” he added.

In particular, the DFNN is interested in innovations involving cybersecurity, defense technology, and space technology. — Justine Irish D. Tabile

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