STARTUP incubator QBO Innovation Hub plans to add 150 new startups into its ecosystem by the end of 2021, its operations head said.

The incubator now has around 450 startups in its system, falling short of its target of 500 for 2020.

QBO Operations Head Natasha Dawn S. Bautista said in a recent online interview that the shortfall was caused by the incubator’s busy November and December months, along with a decline in the number of startups it could reach after the onboarding of hundreds.

QBO is also assessing its database of startups as some may have shut down or pivoted, which means that its current numbers may fall.

The effects of the pandemic on startups have been mixed, she said. Sectors like financial and health technology that address pandemic-related concerns grew, while some companies had to pivot to other types of businesses.

QBO expects steady growth going into 2021.

“We’re actually seeing a few startups being made because of the pandemic. Traditional businesses are also starting to listen to our meetings; a lot of traditional entrepreneurs are moving into this digital age finally, and that’s a big factor to consider. That’s why I feel like it will be growing even more (in 2021),” Ms. Bautista said.

QBO is planning online bootcamps and incubation programs to help create new startups.

A study by Isla Lipana & Co./PwC Philippines found that startup founders identified the financial impact and effects on operations, potential global recession, and difficulties with funding as top concerns caused by the pandemic.

According to the survey done in May, founders who said that they needed additional funding identified its use for their working capital requirements, technology improvements, and hiring.

For startup funding, Ms. Bautista is hoping for assistance from the Innovative Startup Act or Republic Act No. 11337, which provides incentives for startups and enablers. Its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) was signed the other year.

“From private money, we have a few venture capital players in the ecosystem that actually have been quite busy also even (in 2020),” she said.

She found that QBO received more funding in 2020. Most pre-pandemic funding came from the local public sector, she said. But last year, the incubator received grants from international private and public sources.

Ms. Bautista is optimistic about the future of Philippine startups as more companies look into funding and adopting digital tools.

“I do believe that our economy will be hit hard (in 2021), for another two or three years, but I do see that it’s forcing us to shift towards the digital age,” she said. — Jenina P. Ibañez