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Filipino startups step up, harness the power of tech to help combat COVID-19

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Photo shows startup founders Shahab Shabibi, co-founder of MyKuya; Gabby Dizon, CEO and cofounder of Altitude Games; Moritz Gastl, vice-president of Growth of First Circle; Stefano Fazzini, CEO of MetroMart; and Bonnie Factor, founder of Leading with Success; with moderator Rocky Chan and QBO Head of Operations Natasha Bautista and QBO Director Katrina Chan during the first virtual QLITAN session held amidst COVID-19. Photo credit by QBO Innovation Hub.

The impact of COVID-19 left many businesses navigating the digital space. Some are caught off guard while others utilize their expertise in technology. Take it from Filipino startups who have been stepping up to help combat COVID-19 in their own ways. To provide tips on how they’re doing it, startup founders gathered for a QLITAN, a bi-weekly networking event hosted by QBO Philippines since 2016.

But this time, QLITAN was held online. In this virtual event, founders shared how they are responding to the crisis. Headlining the session titled “Startup Survival Guide — Adapting to the New Norm” are Moritz Gastl, vice-president of Growth of First Circle, a startup which provides business financing and access to credit; Shahab Shabibi, co-founder of MyKuya, an app that allows on-demand services such as grocery deliveries; Gabby Dizon, CEO and cofounder of mobile and blockchain game studio Altitude Games; Stefano Fazzini, CEO of online grocery delivery service MetroMart; and Bonnie Factor, founder of Leading with Success.

These startups are now using this opportunity to create a lasting difference — banding together and using technology not only to ease people’s burdens but even potentially save lives.

“Startups are called to do what they do best — they are rising up to this challenge by deploying innovative solutions, moving quickly, and showing us how we can harness the power of technology for the greater good. We are seeing startups from different industries working hard at this time, from logistics to ecommerce to fintech and edutech,” said Katrina Chan, director of QBO.

Startups aiding the government on the battle against COVID-19

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Now more than ever, the tech capability of startups can help the government in a number of ways. The Department of Science and Technology with Developers Connect helped launch the RapidPass system where frontliners manning checkpoints can easily inspect vehicles and individuals by scanning QR codes.

Senti, a startup specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning, provides the knowledge-base for the chatbots that the Department of Health deploys in different channels to address COVID-19-related inquiries. Local tech company Multisys, on the other hand, developed the online and mobile platform StaySafe.ph which aims to help the government in conducting efficient contact tracing.

To enable faster response from local government units (LGUs) in the fight against COVID-19, Limitless Lab, in partnership with The Asia Foundation, developed LGU vs COVID PH. The platform is an easy-to-use, updated, and reliable dashboard of all COVID-19 related information which LGUs can use and refer to.

Startups offering convenience, on-demand services

Unknown to many, some of the essential needs met at this time are also powered by startups. MetroMart enables people who are stuck at home to have their goods delivered right at their doorstep. To further harness its capability, MetroMart launched MetroMart Cares, a special online store for grocery donations in partnership with World Vision and Gawad Kalinga. Another startup, Zagana, helps bridge the gap for local farmers and consumers in need of fresh fruits and vegetables.

MyKuya also provides convenience during the quarantine by helping run errands for those stuck at home and vulnerable to COVID-19. Some of its services include meal delivery, bills payment, and pharmacy and grocery runs. AIDE, a home healthcare platform, connects patients and medical professionals straight from their smartphones.

Even outside the Metro, startups continue to thrive. Pandalivery, an on-demand food delivery service available in Camarines Sur and Albay, expanded its service by including groceries and medicines to help amidst the quarantine. Streetby, an app that allows different merchants to continue to reach households in areas in Mindanao including Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, Camiguin, Davao, General Santos, and Iligan.

Startups connecting the world, bringing communities together

Aside from providing essentials, startups are also mobilizing their resources and skills to aid in addressing challenges brought about by COVID-19. QBO incubatees Container Living and Kumu are harnessing the power of their community.

Container Living, a startup which converts containers to buildings in its effort to lower carbon footprint and costs, saw the opportunity to pivot their innovation to address the overcrowding of medical facilities brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Container Living CEO Mac Evangelista spearheaded Rapid Deployment (RAD) Hospitals alongside its team of local architects, professionals and engineers to build scalable, easy-to-deploy, isolation and intensive care facilities for COVID-19 patients.

Livestreaming app Kumu launched Kumu Lives Streaming Service which conducts private live streams for free in an effort to enable Filipino communities, here and around the world, to hold events and gatherings online amid the quarantine, and Social DistanSING, a livestreaming initiative for a cause which brought together artists and celebrities online to share their talents and help raise funds for families affected by COVID-19. To date, Kumu’s cause has raised an estimate of P1.2 million pesos for charity.

“At a time when most of us are relying on technology to stay connected and keep working, these startups are showing us how it can be done. They are, in a way, frontliners in their own rights, taking initiative to tackle this crisis by leveraging their strengths in technology to help our country move forward despite the challenges brought by this pandemic,” added Ms. Chan.

“Our mantra at QBO is ‘Filipino Startups Changing the World’. We have always believed that our homegrown ventures and innovators can make a meaningful contribution to solving critical challenges and create impact. Now, our startups are showing what they’re capable of, and we hope that everyone will take notice, and recognize the crucial role that Filipino startups can play in bringing fresh ideas into action and will continue to support them in future,” she added.

For its part, QBO also harnesses the power of tech by continuously providing support and learning opportunities to Filipino startups, making sure they are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to push forward despite the threat of COVID-19. For more information, visit facebook.com/QBOphilippines/ and qbo.com.ph/.

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