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Local startups seek gov’t, private sector support

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STARTUP COMPANIES are looking for government and private sector support as they deal with the effects of the Luzon enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Startup support platform QBO Innovation Hub Operations Head Natasha Dawn S. Bautista said Philippine startups are either racing to meet increased demand or pausing operations.

Live streaming and food delivery services companies are “overwhelmed with demand,” she said in an online interview on Friday.

“They’re definitely hiring…getting more people onboarded, but at the same time doing overtime.”

On the other hand, companies like AdMov that place advertising in ride-hailing app vehicles, can’t run their usual operations.

Luzon is currently under ECQ to limit the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, limiting the movement of people, suspending public transport, and placing most businesses under work-from-home schemes.

While she said QBO has not yet seen any startups signalling possible closure or bankruptcy given the quarantine measures, Ms. Bautista said small companies are concerned.

“It is definitely a valid concern. There are some startup founders that are worried.”

Ms. Bautista said she is hoping bigger companies would collaborate with startups, such as partnering with car rental startups looking to help deliver necessities like personal protective equipment.

She explained that startups are able to execute quicker decision-making amid the outbreak as they are spared from the hierarchies of larger corporations.

Ms. Bautista is also asking that deferred utilities payments be staggered or flexible instead.

“Instead of deferring the entire payment to next month, why don’t we spread it out in the remaining of the year at zero percent instalment?”

Manila Electric Co. has granted its customers a 30-day extension for bills due between March 1 to April 14, while Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. have announced a 30-day grace period for bills payments, as well as suspended meter readings.

Startups are looking for allowances and loans from government, Ms. Bautista said, noting that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced loans for micro and small businesses.

DTI last week said it is allotting P1 billion in an economic relief program for micro and small businesses affected by COVID-19.

Ms. Bautista added that she supports government’s call for companies to pay and offer incentives to employees regardless of their current work status under the quarantine. But startups are also looking for government support as they do so.

“Not all employers are rich, not all employers are able to provide for the next number of months, so what can the government do to also support the employers?” she said.

QBO is retaining its target of onboarding nearly 150 new startups in 2020 to reach 500 startups. As QBO switched to work-from-home arrangements, Ms. Bautista said they are noticing more startups as they become more active in promoting their products and services on social media.

QBO also moved its technology business innovation conference with the Department of Science and Technology online. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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