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Let’s Have More ‘QMUNITIES’ of Startups and Dreamers

August 1, 2022

This article was written by Butch Meily for pressreader

WHAT IF THERE WERE MORE FREE AND ACCESSIBLE COMMUNITY SPACES WHERE ENTREPRENEURS AND CREATORS COULD TEST THEIR IDEAS AND SHARE THEIR SKILLS?

THE MULTIPLIER EFFECT OF A SUCCESSFUL STARTUP ON THE ECONOMY IS ENORMOUS; IT CREATES WEALTH FOR ITS FOUNDERS AND EMPLOYEES, AND FOR THE COUNTRY.

Six years ago, kids Kat­rina RausaChan, now IdeaSpace exec­ut­ive dir­ector, and Nata­sha Bautista; and myself, an out-of-place boomer – met in a back office in Mer­alco with noth­ing but a legal-size yel­low pad paper, ball­point pens and a vis­ion for a free space where star­tups could meet and share ideas.

Today, that vis­ion has come true. If you find your­self near the Depart­ment of Trade and Industry (DTI) build­ing on Jupiter Street in Makati, you can drop by the first floor and walk into a piece of Sil­icon Val­ley magic­ally trans­por­ted to the Phil­ip­pines. It’s called QBO Innov­a­tion Hub, and in it, star­tups can hold office, sched­ule meet­ings or avail them­selves of the inter­net, all for free. There are monthly gath­er­ings called QLITANS (Everything starts with a Q – very mil­len­nial, or so I’m told) where people can net­work with like-minded folk and listen to talks and panel dis­cus­sions.

Four groups made this pub­lic-private sec­tor part­ner­ship work: DTI, the Depart­ment of Sci­ence and Tech­no­logy (DOST), JP Mor­gan and IdeaSpace Found­a­tion, the accel­er­ator for the MVP group of com­pan­ies. DOST and JP Mor­gan provided a grant. DTI donated the space and the monthly upkeep. MVP Group chair Manny Pangil­inan and IdeaSpace sup­plied the staff and an ini­tial budget.

You can google QBO and find an entire com­munity of star­tups – or QMUNITY as we like to call it (there’s that Q again) – that will open its arms to any entre­pren­eur with a dream. The focus is on tech-enabled star­tups, because they can scale quickly to grow. The mul­ti­plier effect of a suc­cess­ful star­tup on the eco­nomy is enorm­ous; it cre­ates wealth for its founders and employ­ees, and for the coun­try.

My hope is that, someday, there will be 500 QBOs around the coun­try, all provid­ing free facil­it­ies for would-be star­tup build­ers to nur­ture their ideas and make them hap­pen. Already, there have been suc­cess stor­ies.

Ron Bae­tiong star­ted meet­ing at QBO when he was estab­lish­ing his star­tup Chat­botPH, the coun­try’s first chat­bot devel­op­ment agency, which he later sold to Ster­ling Indus­tries. Ron earned enough money to buy his mother a house. He is cur­rently the founder and CEO of Pod­cast Net­work Asia, which sup­ports prom­ising pod­casts and helps mon­et­ize them.

Roland Ros also met with his team at QBO when they were cre­at­ing Kumu, a life­style app that now has nine mil­lion view­ers around the world. Today, Kumu is pro­jec­ted to be worth some half a bil­lion dol­lars.

The DOST has already fun­ded more than a dozen col­lege-based incub­at­ors around the coun­try. QBO received a sig­ni­fic­ant grant to level them up to world-class stand­ards. Each incub­ator acts as a mag­net to draw entre­pren­eurs and assist them through ment­or­ing and meet­ing poten­tial investors, both of which are vital to help­ing them gain trac­tion.

There are sev­eral ways by which investors can make money on star­tups. Some are sold to stra­tegic part­ners, like what happened with Chat­botPH. My favor­ite strategy is to take the best com­pan­ies pub­lic, allow­ing the founders to give stock options to their employ­ees and enabling their angel investors to cash out. To that end, QBO cur­rently has a part­ner­ship with the Phil­ip­pine Stock Exchange (PSE) to groom star­tups for pub­lic offer­ings. We can even set up what is known as an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), a bas­ket where selec­ted star­tups can be placed. The ETF would be traded on the PSE and would track the earn­ings of this bas­ket of star­tups. Such a vehicle would allow local and for­eign investors to place bets on the emer­ging Phil­ip­pine star­tup scene, a hitherto untapped resource for the PSE.

If we can provide free com­munity spaces for entre­pren­eurs and cre­at­ors, per­haps in part­ner­ship with local gov­ern­ments or schools, we will reap the bene­fits many times over.

Our chil­dren will not have to go abroad or join a big com­pany in order to suc­ceed. They can start their own com­pany and, in a rel­at­ively short time, gen­er­ate wealth that would have been unbe­liev­able just two dec­ades ago. Star­tups and stock options are a clear and potent path to genu­ine eco­nomic advance­ment and empower­ment.

We are now at the begin­ning of a brand-new admin­is­tra­tion, and the pos­sib­il­it­ies for inclus­ive growth and real change are lim­it­less. QBO has shown us what is pos­sible. We merely have to sup­port QBO and sim­ilar pro­grams and recre­ate them in every region of the coun­try to give our youth a chance at becom­ing their own boss and mak­ing a mark on the world.

We have the tal­ent; wit­ness the large num­ber of suc­cess­ful entre­pren­eurs among Filipi­nos who have gone over­seas. We have a blue­print for suc­cess in QBO. And we have the motiv­a­tion to make it hap­pen – to enable our people to live hap­pier and more ful­filling lives.

* * * Rene “Butch” Meily is pres­id­ent of IdeaSpace Found­a­tion Inc., the organ­iz­a­tion behind IdeaSpace, a tech­no­logy accel­er­ator for early-stage star­tup com­pan­ies; and QBO Innov­a­tion Hub, a pub­lic-private part­ner­ship launched to mentor star­tups. He is also the pres­id­ent of the Phil­ip­pine Dis­aster Resi­li­ence Found­a­tion (PDRF), a private sec­tor dis­aster man­age­ment organ­iz­a­tion that includes many of the major busi­ness groups in the coun­try. He is the author of an upcom­ing mem­oir, “From Manila to Wall Street and Back – An Immig­rant’s Jour­ney with Regin­ald Lewis, The First Black Bil­lion-Dol­lar Deal­maker.”

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