According to the Tech in Asia database, the Southeast Asia Startup scene has grown at an impressive pace, with disclosing funding deals jumping over 100% from 2016 to 2017 (from US$2.5 billion to US$7.8 billion). In a country with over 900,000 micro, small, and medium enterprises, the Philippines has stood out as one of the most thriving startup scenes in the region. In addition, that number represents 90% of all Philippine enterprises and 70% of total employment. But there’s a lot more contributing to the Filipino startup scene than just enterprise and employment numbers – the Philippines has a large English-speaking population as well as high mobile usage rates.
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Industries doing well in The Philippines
Since having a more stable socio-political system, businesses have been increasingly attracted to the Philippines. Two of the top performers are business outsourcing and retail.
A business insider report by the CB Richard Ellis Group in 2015 named business process outsourcing as the main drive for investment, that generates 11% of the country’s GDP. Much like the rise of the business outsourcing economy, retail is also growing strong with brands like Uniqlo, Cotton On, and H&M. Other industries that are doing well are gaming, hospitality and leisure, real estate, manufacturing, construction, energy and automotive, and shipping. Where the real opportunity for growth is coming from though, most particularly for startups, is filling in the gaps of technology with innovation.
Where’s growth coming from?
According to some, the growth being seen in the Philippines may soon surpass China’s. So where is this growth coming from? Thanks to new policy reforms that are helping to facilitate new business growth and improve old infrastructure, the Philippines has moved forward with new initiatives in human capital; among these investments, the making of a national ID card, which may sustain future growth.
The government is aiming to do this with ₱$180 billion or US$3.4 billion. The result could be a new powerhouse economy where a huge population is exposed to banking and other infrastructure systems that could uplift the country’s reputation from its current moniker as ‘the sick man of Asia.’ For startups that are currently building a base, this could mean exponential growth that would not only rival India and China, but also surpass them.
The companies leading the way
Which companies have found a formula for startup success? For most companies in the Filipino startup space, a combination between helping the economy grow through already established industries, like real estate and retail, and uplifting the nation’s infrastructure has been a recipe for Filipino startup success. Here are six startups that are impressively paving the way for a more robust Filipino economy.
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- Revolution Precrafted. Started by the son of a real estate tycoon, Revolution Precrafted is focused on providing the best architecture and design for buildings on a massive scale—uniting 61 of the best designers, architects, celebrities, models, and athletes to create remarkably innovative buildings. Though only being in business for a couple years, its founder, Robbie Antonio, has signed numerous contracts with companies domestically and overseas. Because of its successful global reach, it is considered a unicorn among Filipino and Southeast Asian startups.
- Tactiles. If any startup is leading the way to a better future for the Filipino people, it is Joshua De Le Llana’s Tactiles. His venture teaches young students science and engineering through gaming methods with the aim of discovering children’s passions within the technical fields.
- Carmudi. With economic growth also comes an increase demand for vehicles. Making car buying easier, Carmudi claims to be the Philippines’ leading online vehicle marketplace. Backed by startup innovation labs in Berlin, it also has branches in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and a dozen other developing countries.
- Cropital. Cropital is another example of a company helping to make the Filipino economy sustainable. Founded by the son of poor farmers, Cropital is a crowdfunding platform that uses fintech (financial technology) to finance farmers, uplifting the economy of the nation’s rural people. Currently, they have been able to assist 1,000 farmers and plan to increase that number to 15,000 to 50,000 in the future.
- Flyspaces. Like Revolution Precrafted, Flyspaces is turning heads in the real estate market. How so? It is capitalising on the need of entrepreneurs to find suitable business and office space. Today it has over 500 clients across Southeast Asia.
- Micab. A classic formula for startup success across the region has been to penetrate the commuter space. In this tradition, Micab is doing well by creating an on-demand cab-hailing app that provides the most affordable prices on the market. It plans to have 7,000 taxis by the end of the year.
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Thus far, the Filipino startup community is off to a great start. With efforts coming from both the private and public sectors, great success is expected in the future from the innovative thinkers of this once-tattered nation. The startup scene in the Philippines is young, but it is thriving in all directions.