HELPING small entrepreneurs struggling to embrace digital transformation will be among the new thrusts of the Department of Trade and Industry in Cebu as it prepares to mount a “more substantive” Slingshot conference this August, which will be expanded to assist not only local startups but also the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) entrepreneurs.
Maria Elena Arbon, DTI Cebu provincial director, said between today and when they first introduced Slingshot to the province July of last year, the agency had done a lot of interventions to develop the local startup community.
“For this year’s conference, however, it’s not just about startups, but about digital innovation as a whole. A big number of participants will be MSMEs,” she said in a press conference on Tuesday.
She said they would want to encourage more MSMEs to embrace digital innovation as well as to provide a venue for these businesses to partner with existing tech startups, shaping a more dynamic innovation ecosystem in Cebu.
On its second year, the Slingshot Cebu Conference will be held on August 8 to 9 at the Marco Polo Plaza in Cebu City.
DTI expects around 300 participants coming from tech startups, enterprises, government, academe, business chambers, media, as well as other members of the startup and innovation ecosystem in the country.
Last year, the agency launched the first Slingshot PH Cebu Conference to signify its commitment to helping the local startup community grow.
This year, Slingshot PH aims to improve the capacity of both startups and MSMEs in line with the Asean Strategic Action Plan through keeping up with current trends in the tech industry, preparing brick-and-mortar enterprises for transformation into the digital era, and linking enterprises with potentially groundbreaking ideas to investors.
The DTI-initiated platform is aimed at spurring economic growth by giving innovators, startups, and entrepreneurs the opportunities to learn and exchange ideas; be up to date with recent technological changes that affect the business environment; determine policies; and seek funding support from investors who are ready to embrace innovative ideas.
For this year, Slingshot PH Cebu will banner the theme “Accelerating the Innovation Economy through Digital Transformation.”
While DTI still cannot quantify how much the local startup community has grown since the first Slingshot PH Cebu Conference, Arbon said more startups have been sprouting these days.
“‘Startup’ is a buzzword now. But behind the sexiness of the word, we have to help them grow their business,” she said.
According to the 2015 Philippine Roadmap for Digital Startups, a startup is defined as any business idea less than five years old, registered with the financial regulatory authorities of any country, provided that majority of its team is operating and residing in the Philippines.
The DTI is currently working on a database that will identify Cebu-based startups, which is part of the agency’s Cebu Startup Ecosystem Development Plan.
Joel Mari Yu, the Cebu City government’s consultant on business and economic development, said there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.
“Digital innovation’s time has come and it is time to accept this reality,” he said.
Yu said Cebu has not been fast enough in adapting to digital changes, with little to no digitalization in government processes.
Therefore, he said, he welcomes efforts such as Slingshot which intends to speed up digital innovation.
For Wilfredo Sa-a Jr., managing director at the Cebu IT-BPM Organization (CIB.O), events like Slingshot are necessary for transformation.
Brian Mueller, vice president for membership of the Cebu Innovation Council (CIC), meanwhile, said there has been a lot of interest in Philippine startups lately, owing to government-backed initiatives.
startups lately, owing to government-backed initiatives.
“As someone from America, I find it very encouraging that these activities are happening,” Mueller said.