Fernando’s Views on Entrep Development

Entrepreneurship and Development: Supporting Young Filipino Entrepreneurs
By Fernando Zobel de Ayala

Go Negosyo is a movement that constantly inspires. I congratulate Joey Concepcion for the outstanding work he has done with the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship and for creating a program for entrepreneurial support. I also thank him for allowing me to share some thoughts in his column.

Joey has brought so much awareness and the much needed encouragement for the youth to pursue an alternative career path beyond the traditional corporate life — the path of entrepreneurship. This is certainly not the easy route for anyone, especially with the intensified volatility of markets and the increasingly competitive business environment. But there are great opportunities for individuals with the courage to pursue their dreams. Entrepreneurship offers an exciting way to engage all of one’s senses. It requires creative energy, self-discipline, a keen analytical mind, an appetite for risk, and the ability to constantly innovate, reinvent, and evolve.

Entrepreneurship puts one at the center of a thriving economy. For after all, a country’s capacity to grow rests on the ability of its people to develop new businesses, generate new jobs, and create new wealth.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry, the majority of entrepreneurs create new businesses in the small and medium scale, which today account for 99.6% of the country’s total business enterprises and generate 69.1% of all jobs. Clearly, SMEs are a major backbone of our country’s economy. It must be sustained with the necessary support not only from government and public policy, but also from the private sector and the academe.

How can we continue to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship, especially among our youth? To my mind, the private sector can play an important role and contribute to sustaining the entrepreneurial drive. We have tried to do our part, in a modest way, through the Ayala Foundation, Inc. (AFI). AFI has chosen to focus on entrepreneurship as one of the key areas of its corporate social responsibility initiatives, alongside education and the environment.

We believe entrepreneurship builds on our innate creativity and innovativeness; the ability to spot, to create, or to take advantage of opportunities around us and to transform them into something useful and productive. In addition, by encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit of the Filipino, we also nurture the values of integrity, independence, hard work, excellence, and responsibility.

There are, however, a number of challenges that we face in harnessing the potential of entrepreneurship among Filipinos. One of the most pressing ones is to increase entrepreneurial opportunities among the youth.

One of the ways that the Ayala Foundation is addressing this challenge is through a program called Technology Business Incubation (TBI). The first TBI established to promote entrepreneurship in the field of technology is our partnership with the University of the Philippines under the UP-Ayala Technology Business Incubator (TBI). Launched in 2000, the UP-Ayala TBI assists new technology businesses by offering them a space in the incubator building at the UP Diliman campus at lower than market rates. An additional benefit is that they can tap into the unique skills and talents of the professors in UP who can also offer students part-time work on campus. The start-ups are likewise offered a range of services and training programs to facilitate business growth.

In today’s global business environment, there is an enormous need for information, technology, and communication (ICT). Many of our youth have a unique skill in this area and can certainly play an important role in the development of this sector. Currently, the UP-Ayala technology business incubator houses nine techno-preneurs in information and communications technology – both hardware and software design. They currently employ over 160 people. Two of our incubatees have already graduated from the incubator to become full-fledged medium to large-scale businesses.

The UP-Ayala TBI caught the attention and garnered the support of the World Bank and its InfoDev Program because of its unique feature of being supported by the private sector. Many of the other business incubators in their global program were supported by the government.

Buoyed by the success of the UP partnership, AFI also recently opened a new incubator at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) which will have the capacity to house 15 to 17 businesses, primarily engaged in software development and services.

As in UP, the technology business incubator at AIM offers a range of services and training programs to assist entrepreneurs in growing and nurturing their businesses. These include an Innovation Forum and the Kape at Teknolohiya series where scientists, technical experts, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs meet to discuss the possible commercialization of scientific or technical discoveries. In the past year, some of the topics discussed included Open Source software, mobile telecommunications, the internet, biotech, health and medicine, and renewable energy.

TBI also supports technology start-ups through its training programs. These programs have included a series on Intellectual Property Protection for businesses as well as Technology Licensing Policies and Practices for universities. Through these courses, entrepreneurs and university science administrators are taught how to file for copyrights, trademarks, and patents as well as develop technology licensing agreements between developers and academic institutions. These practices help ensure that both developers and university research labs are protected and are appropriately rewarded commercially for their discoveries.

The latest offering at TBI is the Technology Boot Camp, an intensive three-day course on how to take a technology business from idea to marketplace. This seminar walks entrepreneurs through the essential steps of building up a business plan, sourcing funds, making a pitch to investors, marketing, and operations.

The boot camp is unique in the sense that almost all instructors and lecturers are themselves successful technology entrepreneurs or venture capitalists or both. They include the likes of Dado Banatao of Tallwood VC and Denny Roja of Acuity Ventures, Paco Sandejas (Narra VC), Dan Pagulayan (ICCP), Donald Lim (Yehey), Winston Damarillo (Exist Global), Joey Gurango (Gurango Software), Dondi Mapa (Dell), Dickie Gonzales (PESO), Martin Lichauco (AO Capital), and many others.

This camp is also unique because it ends with a session where each entrepreneur makes a three-minute presentation to a panel of venture capitalists in the hope of attracting enough interest to warrant a serious discussion and proposal for equity in their ventures. In this year’s Tech Boot Camp Release 1.0, about 75 entrepreneurs of various ages attended the three-day camp and vied for the attention of VCs through their project presentations. The camp has attracted so much interest that a second Tech Boot Camp and perhaps even a Biotech Boot Camp are planned for 2008.

By pushing these technology incubator services, we hope to encourage and nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs to propel the country forward and enable us to compete more aggressively in the global business arena.

We hope that in our own modest way, we can make entrepreneurship a launching pad for the Filipino youth to create a better future for themselves and for the country, while striving to showcase the ingenuity, talent, creativity for which the Filipino is known. By doing so, we too share in the spirit to “GoNegosyo”.

Interested parties for the AFI Tech Boot Camp may contact Mr. Guillermo Luz at tel. no. 752-1214 or email [email protected] or Mitch Barcelon at tel. nos. 928-9344 and 928-9451 or email [email protected]