For some, the old practice of bayanihan has faded in between the pages of history books—one custom that is unique to the Filipino culture geared towards one goal through the collaboration of the community; but in a little corner of the Department of Trade and Industry International Building, the bayanihan spirit lives on and is being innovated to bring the Filipino start-up ecosystem to a global scale.
QBO’s Director Katrina Chan welcomes us into their space and tells us about the initiative inspired by the bahay kubo. Rooted on what they have to call q-llaboration, QBO is a public-private initiative that brings startups together towards a globally competitive startup ecosystem in the Philippines.
“QBO’s a community for everyone that wants to be involved in the tech startups.” Whether it is developing an actual product, or getting the word out to the public, Chan believes that everyone has a role to play in building the ecosystem.
Chan tells us that the two key aspects they look for in a startup: first is innovation and second is scalability. Innovation meaning it does not have to be something that was conceived out of thin air but it can be something that disrupts the norm and reinvents something that has always existed.
She mentions how the idea of TNVS and ride-hailing services would have sounded outrageous decades ago. Yet today, companies like Grab and Uber have leveraged technology and innovated the traditional transport system into providing jobs and services to the world.
“You may start small but that does not mean that your ambition shouldn’t be global,” she adds.
QBO’s global vision of having a thriving startup ecosystem prompted the first mapping to be done in the Philippines. In partnership with Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of Trade and Industry, QBO identified the interested stakeholders—businessmen, entrepreneurs, investors, government—and brought them together.
“For us to be able to develop what types of program to implement, what strategies we need to do to to grow our startup ecosystem is understand where we are,” she explains. They were then able to identify the gaps, and the areas that needed focus to be able to progress to the next stage.
“There are lots of innovation and startups around education, agriculture, healthcare, where you see people emerging to the middle class, wanting to have a better way of life and technology helps them achieve that change.”
One notable thing that QBO did in their startup ecosystem mapping is highlighting women-centric initiatives including Connected Women Magazine, She Talks Asia, and FTW Foundation. Being aware of the low female participation in tech, QBO made an effort to invite women stakeholders in the startup ecosystem.
Among the strongest startups in the country are AI, enterprise solutions, and financial technologies focused on going cashless, and access to credit.
More importantly, QBO found out that startups thrive on passion and an enabling community. “Startup founders share the same DNA whether they’re from Clark or they’re from Naga or from Iligan,” adds Chan.
Because of this, Chan hopes in the future that there will be a QBO in every community to support homegrown companies and for Filipino startups to capture more global attention.
Through QBO, bayanihan is no longer an idea nearing obsolescence but is given a new meaning to uplift people’s lives and celebrate innovation.
“Our whole goal is to be able to create companies that can thrive and prosper in the Philippines,” she says, “If you have the idea, it should not matter where you were born or where you grew up. You’ll have that enabling environment to build a scalable, huge business that can change the world and that’s really our vision.”