The beauty in attending these startup events is that they present an opportunity to mingle with movers and shakers.
No, let me correct that: It’s more the opportunity to bask in the presence of startup movers and shakers—as I silently hope that their just-do-it, never-say-never, I-will-survive mentality would rub off on me.
Unlike traditional corporate events, startup meetups tend to be more relaxed, where the t-shirt-and-jeans combo is an accepted attire, and low-key founders mingle and chat with even aspirational entrepreneurs.
That was what I experienced at the Bootstrap Manila Conference last October 2016, at least. I loved that I didn’t have to wear a blazer for this event.
Intercontinental Startup Ecosystem
That week, representatives from Philippine incubators ImpactHub Manila and Launchgarage had just flown back to Manila from Bangalore, I was told. So far, it had been a three-city roadshow for them and other startup representatives from Jakarta, Bangalore, and Berlin the whole month of October.
From Manila, they would be off to Jakarta next.
Bootstrap Manila 2016 Conference, organized by both ImpactHub and Launchgarage, is one of the activities behind Berlin-based StartHubs AsiaBerlin’s big picture. The ultimate aim is for Jakarta, Bangalore, Berlin, and Manila to form a “single intercontinental startup ecosystem”, backed by a soon-to-be-launched online platform.
StartHubs AsiaBerlin is an initiative of the City Senate of Berlin in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
Learning from Silicon Valley
If there is one lesson I got from the event (and there were many, actually), it is the story of Silicon Valley. Various writers and thought leaders had said that Silicon Valley could not be replicated elsewhere because the elements that drove Silicon Valley to achieve such growth are not necessarily present in other cities.
While that reasoning makes sense, social enterprise Endeavor Global is more optimistic than them.
“It all started with these eight founders of Fairchild Semiconductor”, said Manny Ayala, managing director of Endeavor’s Philippine office, the only global non-profit organization that helps high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets accelerate their growth.
He was referring to the eight young men in the 1950s who came to a farming community in San Francisco, USA and spawned more companies in what is now known as Silicon Valley. Later, Fairchild Semiconductor’s employees themselves were inspired by these eight men’s success so much so that they created their own companies after they left the firm.
In a nutshell, Ayala’s narrative retraced the steps that made Silicon Valley what it is today. The process was a cycle consisting of building and scaling tbusinesses, committing to helping and sharing resources with new companies in the Bay Area, and reinvesting and mentoring startup owners in their community.
Today, almost 70 percent of the firms in Silicon Valley can be traced back to Fairchild Semiconductor.
And the lesson in this little story?
That the same can be replicated in other places. Yes, even in the Philippines.
Best Anti-Poverty Program Ever
Ayala explained how this mutual symbiosis between veteran founders and newbies in the startup ecosystem can translate into job creation. Consider this: 90 percent of companies in the Philippines are micro enterprises, and employ one to nine employees. In contrast, high-impact entrepreneurs create hundreds, even thousands, of jobs.
It is for this reason that Endeavor concentrates its assistance on entrepreneurs with the biggest potential to scale and to replicate their success by investing and mentoring others. This model is what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman calls “the best anti-poverty program of all” .
In our country, there are local high-impact entrepreneurs such as Nix Nolledo—founder of mobile content provider Xurpas and one of “Southeast Asia’s Top 30 Tech Founders”, according to Tech in Asia—who has either invested in or co-founded about 20 of the Philippines’ tech startups such as Rappler, Kalibrr, Storm Systems and PawnHero. It will take a while, though, before the Philippines can complete its own Silicon Valley kind-of-story.
Or better yet, I hope it ends up creating its own happily-ever-after story.