August 22, 2017
Robert A. Vergara Jr.
Cover art Erka Capili Inciong
If brainy dot‑com geeks were to name their Mecca, it must be Silicon Valley, which takes its name from silicon chips, and is home to the world’s largest high‑tech corporations. It even inspired an eponymous American comedy series (which has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, btw) which follows the misadventures of an introverted computer programmer navigating thorough the high‑tech gold mine that is the tech industry.
In the Philippines, while there is no direct equivalent of that San Francisco region, there are pockets of incubators that nurture small, young businesses that are off to succeed. Recently, a new one was born: the Asian Institute of Management‑Dado Banatao Incubator.
The two names that collaborated for this project are Philippine Development Foundation (PhilDev), founded by deep‑pocketed venture capitalist (and Silicon Valley alum) Diosdado “Dado” Banatao, and the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), which was established in partnership with Harvard Business School.
For its initial operation, the AIM‑Dado Banatao Incubator will choose 11 tech startups that will receive mentorship from serial entrepreneurs, top executives, and industry experts, including those who have successful ventures in Silicon Valley. They will also be given access to the global funding network of Mr. Banatao, PhilDev, and AIM, as well as an office space at the AIM campus in Makati City.
Sounds like it’s gonna get really competitive.
PhilDev and AIM received a ₱14.8‑million grant from the Department of Science and Technology Incubation Creation Program for the initial funding of the incubator.
According to its website, the startup must meet the following criteria to be accepted into the AIM‑Dado Banatao Incubator Program:
Team of two to six members with at least one founder with rigorous science, engineering, or technical expertise and one founder with market and business development expertise.
Both tech and business co‑founders will work on the business full‑time.
Open to non‑AIM students and graduates.
Early product demonstrating a strong core science, technology or engineering innovation, or vetted market need, up to a minimum viable product.
Open to early‑stage startups with or without prior external funding, revenues, or customer traction.
Focus on sectors that need innovative solutions.
S&T‑based solutions in communications, agriculture, health, AI, IoT, and so on.
Need not be limited to software; can also include hardware and business model innovations.
Art Erka Capili Inciong
According to AIM President and Dean Jikyeong Kang, having Mr. Banatao, who invented the first chip set installed in computers in 1984, sets this incubator apart from other existing support service providers in the country.
In her speech during the launch of the incubator at AIM campus last Aug. 10, Ms. Kang said Filipino startups are “crucial drivers of the Philippine economy” and have a “huge potential” to succeed. Though small, she said startups are “agile and can pivot quickly in response to a fickle, demanding market.”
“Startups are primed to rapidly deploy technology simply because resources—both human and capital—are limited and members can easily benefit from mentoring because they can instantly apply what they learn without wrestling with the bureaucracy of a large organization,” she said.
Mr. Banatao lauded the rise of entrepreneurial events in the country, which he said are “conducive to intense discussions and thinking.” These discussions, he said, have moved to classroom settings.
“This formal practice of integration in the classroom creates critical thinking in research, development, design, and the most important social learning in inclusiveness,” he said. “Inclusiveness in this sense is the proper sharing of ownership in the enterprise between money and intellect. When successful, this is why entrepreneurship is the best example of bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.”
According to him, the toughest phases in the life of a startup (which may lead to its early demise) include forming a team and moving to a space to create a business plan, applying for funding, and beginning to design a product.
“Unless there is help from investors or friendly mentors, founders of the company are either suicidal or crazy, putting at risk their life status, family, friends, and future,” he said.
Mr. Banatao said a successful incubator provides “support in the form of real expertise and experience in building successful companies and other business supporting materials.”
“What we are opening is an incubator with these attributes and more. Experience in building technology based, innovative, and very successful companies from Silicon Valley, arguably the most successful region in the world for startups, will be used, albeit, always being aware of local culture and practices,” he said.
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