SCENE CITY| Davao: PLDT Group leads support for digital startups at 3rd ‘Geeks on a Beach’

FIRMS under PLDT, the country’s leading telecommunications and digital services provider, threw their full support behind the fast-emerging startup ecosystem and the need for innovation to advance the Philippines’ digital economy during the ‘Geeks on a Beach’ (GOAB) technology and startup conference held recently in Boracay Island, Aklan.

Now on its third year, the GOAB conference, organized by Cebu-based TechTalks.ph pooled some 500 participants from around the Philippines and abroad to hear more than 35 local and international speakers, including investors and guests from Silicon Valley, share about how to further boost the startup ecosystem of the country.

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INVESTORS, startup founders, corporations and everyday ‘geeks’ converge in Boracay for the 3rd annual Geeks on a Beach conference

The conference was co-presented by IdeaSpace Foundation, Smart Communications, Smart Bro, Smart Developer Network (DevNet), and PLDT Innolab.

Smart e-Money, Inc. (SMI) Chief Operating Officer Paolo Azzola, the keynote speaker for the conference, underscored the need for sound and efficient execution of startup ideas in order to ensure growth, especially since the local startup ecosystem has already started taking off.

“While ideas are useful, execution is critical, and efficiency comes with sound execution. Too often we see startups being built with useless bells and whistles, with founders deploying funds on useless things,” Azzola said, adding that execution, and not “sushi and comfy chairs” as one of his mentors put it, is the most important component of a startup.

Azzola likewise highlighted the need to collaborate with other startups, even among competitors, so that they may be able to build the ecosystem together. “No matter how smart and driven you are, if you go alone, you will fail alone,” he added.

IdeaSpace Foundation President Earl Martin Valencia, pointed out how 2015 is a pivotal year for the local startup ecosystem as more groups from here and around the world pour support for startups in the country, from idea stage up to expansion stage.

IdeaSpace, a tech incubator and accelerator for early-stage startups supported by companies under the First Pacific Group including PLDT and Smart, has for one received a record-breaking 1,028 ideas for its national startup competition this year. “Many are now realizing that the Philippines is a good market to start a business. The fact that many of these ideas came from various regions around the country is a testament that the ecosystem is growing way beyond major urban cities in the Philippines,” Valencia explained.

Even the government and the academe are stepping up their game, Valencia added. Just recently, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) collaborated with IdeaSpace to help build the country’s first national innovation hub, which will help nurture and build on the successes of startups around the country.

During the GOAB conference, the DOST-Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) launched the Philippine Roadmap for Digital Startups in collaboration with ecosystem partners in government, the academe and the private sector.

Participants were able to take part in various break-out sessions that tackled various aspects of founding, running, and making startups grow in the country.

This included a quick session by Smart DevNet Developer Evangelist Paul Pajo on how to create mobile web applications that can be accessed from just about any phone, including feature phones that are not as sophisticated as most smartphones today.

Pajo said developing these types of applications could allow majority of mobile users in the country, which are still using feature phones, access sites and applications that are relevant to their needs. Sites developed through this approach could also be included in the Internet.org initiative of Facebook, which is currently being pushed by Smart’s value brand Talk ’N Text.

Startup founders were able to hear from PLDT Innolab’s Joey Limjap on how the innovation center of PLDT could help them accelerate the growth of their startups. With presence in major urban centers around the country, PLDT Innolab provides the right space and infrastructure for startups so that they may develop the country’s next-generation ICT solutions.

The third GOAB conference also hosted an international pitching competition supported by Smart Bro, which saw five founders from the Philippines and around the world pitch their startups to investors and speakers present during the event. Singapore’s Nearcircles, a location-based service that allows users to connect with their neighbors, eventually won the grand prize, which included $1,000 in cash plus gadgets from Smart Bro.

Michele Curran, FVP and Head of Data Services at Smart, said: “Smart Bro is proud to support these startups that create such innovative breakthroughs and digital services that we all get to enjoy today. We share their vision of helping improve the Philippines’ digital ecosystem through game-changing technologies that improve the lives of many people.”

Posted in Lifestyle