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Building the Future: A Closer Look at the Philippine Startup Ecosystem

By Rene Cuartero, CEO, AHG Lab

(I was interviewed by Esquire Magazine during the BUILD Startup Festival in between the many sessions. They asked some truly interesting questions, and I feel it would be good to delve deeper into these points.)

As the CEO of AHG Lab, one of the largest independent venture builders in the Philippines, I can say that I have been fortunate to have a front-row seat to the exciting transformations occurring within the country’s startup ecosystem. Reflecting on the past few years, I can only feel optimism and enthusiasm. The Philippine startup landscape has weathered a challenging period, marked by two years of funding winter and numerous obstacles. These trials posed an uphill journey, however; they have forged a community of startups that are more resilient, resourceful, and better poised for sustainable growth.

The resilience of these startups is truly remarkable. The difficult conditions have necessitated a sharper focus on unit economics and sustainability. As a result, the startups that have endured are those with strong foundations and robust business models. They are not merely surviving but are ready to thrive in a revitalized ecosystem. The general sentiment is now shifting towards a more positive outlook, and I am excited to witness these stronger startups build out and grow.

Success in the startup world is often perceived through various lenses, but for me, it is fundamentally about impact. Impact transcends traditional metrics such as revenue generation or market share. It encompasses the ability to effect meaningful change, whether that be altering how people interact, solving complex problems, or contributing to the ecosystem's growth. Each day that the startup ecosystem evolves and becomes more active and successful, I consider it a victory. The true measure of success is the positive impact we create within the ecosystem, fostering an environment where innovation and growth can flourish.

Building the future of startups begins with a simple yet profound step: showing up. Presence is crucial. It means being ready to develop your product, assemble a talented team, and actively engage with the startup community. By showing up, we not only work on our individual ventures but also contribute to the broader narrative of the startup ecosystem. This collective effort draws attention to the dynamic and growing landscape of Philippine startups, attracting more interest, resources, and opportunities.

The journey of building a startup is not solitary; it is a communal endeavor. As stakeholders, we must embrace change and the challenges it brings. Change is a double-edged sword in the startup industry. On one side, it drives innovation, propelling startups to explore new frontiers and disrupt traditional markets. On the other side, it introduces uncertainty and requires constant adaptation. Embracing change is essential for fostering resilience and agility, qualities that are indispensable for long-term success.

The Philippine startup ecosystem stands at a promising juncture. The hardships of the past have distilled a core group of resilient and capable startups, ready to lead the charge into a brighter future. As we move forward, our collective focus should be on creating an environment that nurtures innovation, supports growth, and celebrates impactful success. By showing up, contributing, and embracing the dynamic nature of the startup world, we can build a thriving ecosystem that not only endures but excels.

I would dare say this: The future of the Philippine startup ecosystem is bright. The trials of the past have strengthened our resolve and refined our focus. With a renewed sense of optimism and a commitment to impactful growth, we are well-positioned to achieve remarkable success. Let us continue to show up, support one another, and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead. Together, we can build a future where Philippine startups are synonymous with resilience, innovation, and lasting impact.

You can watch the video where I was briefly interviewed during the BUILD Festival here.


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