startupvision

Every Filipino is familiar with the concept of Filipino pride. It’s when we vocally support one of our own who has succeeded in their field, whether it is in the real world or in the online one.

#FilipinoPride is often the target of criticism, mostly surrounded by how hollow it can appear to be. In some cases, the person we’re taking pride in may only have a small fraction of Filipino blood, while in others, the person may not even self-identify as Filipino.

These points are problematic on their own; they reveal the larger issue with Filipino pride. It has us putting our faith in individual Filipinos who are fallible, rather than our country as a whole, which is — forgive my patriotism — always the case. What is now Filipino pride should really become Philippine pride. We need to celebrate what we collectively achieve rather than keep a laser focus on instances of individual greatness.

I see Philippine tech as the beacon of hope in which all our countrymen can take pride in and append their dreams to.

It’s why, after graduating from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, I moved back to the Philippines to establish Ideaspace Foundation rather than land a cushy job abroad. It’s also why I strive to collaborate with other innovative organisations, such as Voyager Innovations and Talas — I want to build great products and companies with my compatriots.

Filipinos all over the archipelago have startup ideas that can not only uplift our nation but the entire planet. Though I love all the startups that have been a part of Ideaspace’s three batches, I must hold up SALt as an example of great Philippine tech, for the world is already recognising its contributions.

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SALt stands for sustainable alternative lighting, and the lamp that Founders Aisa and Raphael Mijeno have developed can be powered by just a smidgen of salt. An invention such as SALt’s lamp can improve the quality of life for the millions of Filipinos with little light access, in addition to tens of millions people around the world living in similar conditions, many of whom are already clamouring for the product’s commercial release.

Indeed, the Philippines can be as good as any country at producing original, impactful technology. Luckily I am not the only person who thinks this way. A growing contingent of Filipinos, even those from traditional business industries, are looking to Philippine tech as a new pillar in our quickly rising economy.

One of the faithful converted is Oliver Segovia, the CEO of Ava.ph, who in a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review, described a trend by which Filipinos can move up the value creation chain for businesses.

I would like to offer my own spin on this idea, tailored for and from my experiences mentoring my startups at Ideaspace. Filipinos can certainly move up the value creation chain, and another way of doing this is starting from square one: an idea.

At Ideaspace, we take on many founders who do not have a prototype, but only an idea and the courage to pursue it with all their being.

Many of these founders may not even necessarily have a business background, but we do not hold the lack of one against them. Changing our country and the world will not hinge on how many marketing classes you took. It’s up to business professionals like us to pass on to them the best practices they need to develop their idea into a product, get that product into the hands of paying customers, and turn those customers into a loyal following for the brand. In short, we must incubate what they set out to innovate.

That’s step one and step two. Step three is export. Our products must make a dent in the universe beyond Philippine shores. Yet in a field as competitive as technology, it’s not just about having the will to send our Philippine tech abroad — we must have the resolve to make sure it can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the world. When something carries a ‘Made in Philippines’ designation, either explicitly or implicitly, it must have the gravitas of something great, something lasting.

Customers around the world should be excited to embrace what we collectively create.

I offer this view in the hope of inspiring the next Dado Banatao, who may be living out there in the most remote part of the Philippines, dreaming of a better world. It’s to him that I want to share the good news to — Philippine tech is not like one of our traditional industries, where it’s all about who you know, how much money you have, or even what your last name is.

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Philippine tech is meritocratic. As long as you have a great idea and the passion to pursue it into being, you will rise to the top. Technology has a tendency to be democratic in that way — we vote in the entrepreneurs with the boldest visions, the best products.

Given the extent of this opportunity before us, I have but one question to pose to the Filipinos out there who may have a startup idea but may be hesitant to dive into it: What are you waiting for?

The views expressed here are of the author, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email to writers[at]e27[dot]co