Startup Community in the Philippines

Where is the Philippines now in the Asian Startup Ecosystem?

Ever since the startup boom in the country during the early-2010s, more and more professionals now consider making the jump from the comforts of corporate life to a more challenging yet thriving one as digital nomads or freelancers in coworking spaces. With emerging technologies continuous development and non-traditional business models being adapted by many, large organizations in the private sector have likewise signified their interest to invest in startups through business incubation. Today, while the Philippine startup industry can still do a lot with a big push that form more foreign investors, the industry remains bullish having around 500 active startups that are engaged in various businesses and with more joining the bandwagon.      

Global research center StartupBlink has recently published a report placing the Philippines at 54th place out of 100 countries in the Startup Ecosystem Rankings for 2019. This is quite a significant jump by 16 notches up since the center’s last study two years ago. In over 1000 cities all around the world, three startup hotspot locations in the country were included in the top 600 with Manila placing 84th. These figures show the potential of the industry in the country as it continues to surge ahead, and with its progress mainly attributed to Filipinos’ high literacy in technology and English proficiency.

Moving forward, things are even getting brighter for startup entrepreneurs in the country. The government has finally recognized the potential of startups for economic growth and has established business programs courtesy of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), like the Kapatid Mentor ME (Micro-ent repreneur) Program which was launched in October 2016, aiming to assist small and medium enterprises by equipping them with the needed skills through mentoring platforms; and the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-Asenso (P3) Program in January 2017– an initiative that aims to bring down interest rates for micro-enterprises. The same year, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) collaborated with private sectors to establish the first Philippine Roadmap for Digital Startups that stamped the government’s pursuit for a true startup community focused on industry growth.

Last May also saw the Philippine Senate pass Republic Act 11337 or the “Innovative Startup Act” which will help more startups to break ground through venture funds, tax exemption, fast-tracked processing of business permits, and special access to related government services and grants among others. This time, the main government agencies behind the program include the DTI, DICT, and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which all have their respective responsibilities to carry out the Startup Assistance Program for eligible enterprises. 

To really get the gist of how serious the government is about a vibrant startup industry in the country, more agencies were tapped to provide the needed push for the Innovative Startup Act. The Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) are now to include entrepreneurship courses wherever they are applicable in their respective existing curricula, while the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is to issue startup visas that will exempt owners, employees, and investors from securing an Alien Employment Permit with a validity of five years.

With the rising interest from both public and private entities combined with the pool of Filipino talents who are equipped with high technological know-how and business IQ, the Philippine startup industry is slowly gaining momentum and more investors are taking notice of its progress. Confidently in a few years, the country can perhaps rise up and take the number one rank in Asia’s startup ecosystem once and for all.


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