[Tech] Creating a Philippine silicon valley

Leandro Inumerable
The passion to help the country's start-up businesses comes alive in IdeaSpace

THERE IS HOPE for the Filipino entrepreneur. Don't let the dreams go. Screen grab from ideaspace.ph

MANILA, Philippines – “Can you help me start up Silicon Valley in the Philippines?”

Back in 2011, Filipino business tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan raised this question to Earl Valencia, who was then one of the senior members of the Emerging Technologies group of Cisco, one of the world’s leading tech companies based in San Jose, California. 

A few months later, Valencia was back in the Philippines with Marthyn Cuan, Chief Information Officer at Meralco, starting up IdeaSpace Foundation, a non-profit, P500-million project catered to incubate start-up businesses and promote a culture of innovation in the Philippines. 

Pushing for a “Why not?” culture

According to Valencia, most Filipinos would rather work for multi-national corporations rather than start-up their own companies. In our culture, when people ask you what you do for a living and you tell them you’re a senior vice president for so-and-so company, they’ll think very highly of you.

But if you tell them you’re working on an idea that you think is going to be huge, people will think you’re a bum. 

So many businesses fail even before they lift off the ground. We keep seeing the risks and the tendency of people is to keep asking, “Why bother?”

But according to Valencia, the greatest success stories started with the question, “Why not?” 

Starting with the youth

IdeaSpace, in partnership with Smart, kicks off their vision by holding various legs of their Technopreneur Bootcamp series in the different universities of the country. In each school, the foundation will have a crash course in entrepreneurship where participants will go through various lectures by industry experts and come up and pitch a tech-business concept to a panel of judges all in one day. 

The organizers are also looking to hold the Bootcamp series in the provinces as well. “We don’t want to be Manila-centric. We’re very excited about going to the provinces because I’m sure they have good ideas that don’t have a chance to be heard,” says Cuan. 

Later this year, IdeaSpace wants to kick its mission into high gear by having a national competition for technology-entrepreneurship.

Aspiring entrepreneurs will develop a business case and prototype for their product and pitch it to the foundation. Winners will go through an incubation program with the foundation for their start-up businesses. 

These start-ups will not just get funding but will be closely supervised by IdeaSpace. They will receive mentorship from top executives, go through various leadership programs, and have access to the numerous resources of the foundation.

“We want people to collaborate — hindi kanya-kanya. This goes beyond angel investing; we want to work with you, incubate your idea, accelerate your idea and give you access to markets. We want to build success stories.” says Cuan. 

For Cuan, it’s the passion of the youth that makes the future of the country exciting. “It’s about pinning our hopes on the youth. You can’t expect a 50-year old man to create the next Facebook. But the youth is crazy with ideas.” 

Finding the Filipino Microsoft

Valencia dreams of having the next big tech company to come from the Philippines.

According to Valencia, “Dado Banatao is the Philippines’ Bill Gates but the problem is that Filipinos don’t know him. That’s because he made his name in the U.S. What we want to happen with IdeaSpace is to find the next big idea, incorporate here in the Philippines, incubate it and make it grow globally.” 

You can really feel the passion of Valencia and Cuan for their vision when they speak about it.

Aside from IdeaSpace, these two have their respective day jobs with Smart and Meralco. But at night and on the weekends, the rest of their time and effort goes into IdeaSpace.

They don’t get paid for working for the foundation but they believe in the vision so much that they’re devoting so much to it. 

Valencia remarks on how so many statistics are pointing towards the Philippines to become next big economy, that it is now our time. But for him, “it will only become our time if we make it our time.” IdeaSpace is how he sees the Philippines rising up to become a competitive nation. 

For Valencia, “This is a nation-building responsibility. If the businesses grow, the nation grows as well.” – Rappler.com

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