Technology and innovation – the latest buzzwords in 21st century trade – are increasing competition in the market, be it local, regional, or international markets.
Start-ups, particularly digital start-ups, have emerged by exploring new technologies and exploiting old technologies in new ways. Their innovative business models have created new markets where their products or services can be offered.
Think of Uber, which directly links riders and commuters through an online application, changing the way of commuting in cities; or Airbnb, an online platform that allows home or property owners to rent out their space to travellers, enabling the latter to experience the culture of a particular place and offering them more options; or the Philippines’ own Kalibrr, which has transformed how jobseekers find jobs and how companies hire talents by directly connecting candidates and firms, doing away with recruitment agencies. These are all digital start-ups that affect the market through technology and innovation.
The 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) have recognized the potential of digital start-ups in achieving sustainable economic growth in the region.
Here are the APEC initiatives to harness the potentials of start-ups:
1. Slingshot MNL
The APEC and the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry have partnered to hold the first Slingshot MNL in July, in an effort to boost start-ups in the region.
Slingshot MNL gathered leading figures in the international start-up community, including Start-up Chile founder Nicolas Shea, Hugh Mason from leading Asian investment firm JFDI Asia, and Professor Richard Dasher from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
A key take-away during the conference is the need to strengthen collaboration among the government, the business sector, and the academe to boost start-up communities to address such challenges as policy reforms for start-ups, improving access to finance, and continuous development of skills and talents.
2. APEC Accelerator Network (AAN)
An initiative of Chinese Taipei, the AAN pushes more micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to utilize new technology and innovation and benefit from the opportunities of digital economy. This could be achieved by giving start-ups access to accelerator programs and resources.
Like business incubators, which help start-ups survive in the vulnerable early stages of development, accelerators focus on start-ups with the potential to grow both in the domestic and global markets.
Currently, the AAN has 50 accelerator partners from 15 APEC member economies.
3. AAN Summit and Global Challenge
The annual AAN Summit and Global Challenge is a platform for start-ups to pitch their businesses to multinational companies in the region.
Since its launch in 2013, the AAN Summit and Global Challenge attracted more than 800 participants, among them 60 start-up teams from APEC member economies, as well as representatives of high-profile international venture capitalists, angel investors, and corporate executives.
After participating in the Challenge, a number of start-ups successfully gained access to funding and launched their businesses in the global market.
4. Diversified financing
During the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Finance Forum in Iloilo City in September, APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Chair Doris Magsaysay-Ho urged member economies to provide diversified financial instruments for the changing needs of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which include start-ups, in the region.
“We need financing instruments that will provide financing for start-ups as well as financial innovation that responds to the changing business models,” Ho said.
With this year’s APEC theme of “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World”, start-ups — as part of MSMEs – have begun gaining support from member economies.
Like any MSME, start-ups are urged to tap and participate in the global market. PNA (kc)