Special Features Writer

Bayanihan, or the spirit of communal unity and collaboration, is a core essence of the Filipino culture. This ancient local custom lives on among Filipinos even in the modern age as they work hand-in-hand to achieve a common, ultimate goal. In a similar way, such kind of spirit is what the local startup community needs — collective action from the government, the academe, and private institutions across the spectrum — to sustain rapid development.

With the aim of fostering unity among every member of the Filipino startup ecosystem, SparkUp, BusinessWorld’s multimedia platform for the next generation of businessmen and the growing startup community, staged the second SparkUp Summit at ABS-CBN Vertis Tent, Quezon City last October 19 that gathered more than 450 delegates, who are mostly students and entrepreneurs.

This year’s SparkUp Summit, with the theme “The Bayanihan Ecosystem: Cultivating Philippine Startups,” brought together founders, incubators, accelerators, venture capitalists, mentors, and members of the national government to converse on various points and help forge vital connections among the different stakeholders of the startup community.

SparkUp Editor Santiago J. Arnaiz opened the summit with a welcome remarks, highlighting the support that the Philippine startup community needs to continuously grow. “It needs people shining light on the initiatives happening locally, the talents that exist locally,” he said.

Meanwhile, Butch Meily, president of IdeaSpace Foundation and the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, and head of QBO Innovation Hub, gave the summit’s keynote address where he underscored the importance of startups to the Philippine economy and the support needed from different sectors to help them grow.

Although the Philippine startup community is relatively small compared to other countries, Mr. Meily said that it is now on its right track. To further its growth, more mentorship, networking and funding are necessary, he said.

“The key message is we need to do this together. If one of you succeeds, we all succeed. So walang (there’s no) crab mentality because if one startup becomes a unicorn, it attracts more dollars, more pesos, more investments, more interests in this area of the economy. So we want you to succeed and we can only do it if we work together, if you collaborate with each other, if you exchange ideas and support,” Mr. Meily said.

The whole-day conference went on with six sessions and two panel discussions. In the first session titled “So You Want to Be a Founder?: The Trials and Triumphs of Launching a Startup,” Carmina Bayombong, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of InvestEd; and Spark Perreras, co-founder and CEO of Pearlpay, shared their respective entrepreneurial journeys and how they overcame challenges along their ways, especially in the early stages of a business.

In starting a company, Ms. Bayombong said that it’s important to focus on the mission. “It’s not about you and your ego,” she said, adding that criticisms must be taken constructively. For his part, Mr. Perreras highlighted the need for the kind of co-founder, mentor and early team members to look for in starting a business, who is somebody that a certain entrepreneur can grow old with.

During the second session, “From Seed to E: Founder’s Guide to Funding,” Patch Dulay, founder and CEO of The Spark Project, discussed the basics of crowdfunding and the things to keep in mind to crowdfund the right way. Mica F. Tan, CEO of MTF Group, also spoke during the session and discussed the guide to funding and how to get investors to say “yes.”

Meanwhile, the third session, “A Public-Private Effort: The Key Role of Governments in Empowering Startups,” centered on the government initiatives and legislation that empower the startup ecosystem. Speakers of the session include Agnes Legaspi, assistant director of the Department of Trade and Industry – Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB); Emmy Lou V. Delfin, director of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) – ICT Industry Development Bureau; and Dr. Enrico Paringit, executive director of Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD).

Andrew Rothgaber of drone-based delivery startup Zipline also joined the session and discussed how startups can complement the public sector in improving people’s lives.

The first part of the summit closed with a panel discussion about the challenges and opportunities of running a startup. Mr. Perreras, Mr. Dulay and Mr. Rothgaber sat as the panelists, with Ronster Baetiong of Podcast Network Asia as moderator.

The conference continued in the afternoon with a session titled “Stronger Together: Community Building Through Collaborative Entrepreneurship.” Sharing their insights about the topic were Diane Eustaquio, executive director of IdeaSpace Foundation; Richard Prodigalidad, founder of LEENTech Network Solutions; and Kat Chan, director of QBO Innovation Hub.

To discuss more about innovations and how to leverage on them, Jay Fajardo, founder and CEO of Launchgarage; and Ibba Bernardo, CEO of I Am Cardboard PH, shared the stage during the fifth session, “The Next Frontier: Identifying Opportunities for Innovation in the Philippines.”

The last session of the summit, “Future-proofing Through Learning: The Forces Shaping the Future, and How We Can Stay Ahead,” centered on the forces that will shape the future and the ways to keep ahead of the game. Speakers of the session include Henry Motte-Muñoz, CEO and founder of Edukasyon; Lope Doromal, Jr., chief technology officer of IBM Philippines; and Carlo Calimon, director of StartUp Village.

According to Mr. Doromal, the only way to future-proof the company and ourselves is to continue learning new things. Mr. Calimon during his presentation shared the same sentiment, adding the importance of sharing these learnings to others.

An insightful panel discussion on how to spot business opportunities concluded the summit. It was moderated by SparkUp Editor Mr. Arnaiz, with Mr. Bernardo, Mr. Prodigalidad and Mr. Calimon as the panelists.

The SparkUp Summit 2019 is made possible by sponsors EastWest Bank, De La Salle University, and Philippine Business Bank, with organization partners Asia Society Philippines, Business Economics Association, IdeaSpace Foundation, Launchgarage, QBO Innovation Hub, StartUp Village and The Spark Project; media partners The Philippine Star, One News, Ambidextr, Benildean Press Corp, DZUP, The Varsitarian, and UP Maroon FM; podcast partner Hustleshare; venue partner ABS-CBN Vertis Tent; event partner Fiera de Manila, Inc.; and featured brands 1Export, Cawil.Ai, Chub Chaser, COCOTEL, ECFulfill, Tipsy Pig, and iRentmo.