QBO Innovation Hub, a public-private partnership looking to empower Filipino startups, has concluded its inaugural Startup Pinay BOOTQAMP, a program that aims to help new women-led startups by cultivating and validating their business ideas.
“The Startup Pinay BOOTQAMP was created with the mission to empower ventures created by women entrepreneurs and businesses directly impacting women beneficiaries and consumers,” said Katrina Rausa Chan, Executive Director of IdeaSpace Foundation and QBO Innovation Hub. “This is to make sure that we have more women entrepreneurs and professionals, and that businesses positively impacting women–regardless of whether these are launched by men or women–receive adequate support and attention.”
The Startup Pinay BOOTQAMP helped early-stage startups through workshops, mentoring, and consultations, covering topics such as startup 101, lean canvas, validation through manual testing and social media activities, validation through landing page and no-code prototypes, identifying a customer persona, and pitching.
Aside from the QBO team, startup founders and enablers such as Limitless Lab CEO Joie Cruz, No-Code Philippines lead Crystal Camarao, PinoyTravel Co-founder and CEO Au Soriano, Circula Recoon Co-founder and CEO Marie Sapuay, Connected Women Co-Founder and CEO Gina Romero, FHMoms Founder MK Bertulfo, Villgro Philippines co-founder and CEO Priya Thachadi, #IamRemarkable facilitator Miami Cabansay, and makesense Co-Executive Director for Operations and Programs Angeli Recella participated in mentoring sessions and consultation calls.
The SHOWQASE is the culminating event for the startups that made it to the final phase of BOOTQAMP. From the 52 initial teams that answered QBO’s nationwide call for applications, the roster was narrowed down to ten startups, with four of these startups making it to the pitch: self-service automated solution for home essentials Ecovendi; mental wellness and empowerment platform Happy Wellness; go-to selling platform for communities Murch; and educational entertainment platform StreamCamp.
“For this BOOTQAMP, we’ve seen students, freelancers, SME owners, UX designers come together to bring these solutions to life, and we’re excited to see more women build new products and services and start businesses together,” shared QBO Community and Ecosystem Head. “This is the kind of change that we need to see in the ecosystem, and we hope that more people would create spaces for women to meet, collaborate, experiment, and learn together.”
The pitches were judged by QBO Innovation Hub Executive Director Katrina Rausa Chan, Villgro Philippines Head of Venture Support and Partnerships Katherine Koo, Nas Academy Philippines Country Head Jacqueline Maye Lim, and Investing in Women Senior Manager for Impact Investing Marie Torres.
Murch, a selling platform that aids their community along their merchandise journey and connecting with their customers, was awarded the grand prize—the title of “Most Outstanding Startup” along with a Php30,000 grant to further grow their venture.
“We are immensely thankful to QBO for empowering women founders and allies, and for giving us the opportunity to learn and grow through programs like these,” said Murch co-founder Frances Ong. “It has been a challenging journey with many pivots along the way but with the help of our mentors and system, we are able to learn more about our company and customers. We’re looking forward to reaching out to and collaborating with more communities and helping them tell their stories.”
The event also featured guest speakers Tina Di Cicco and Priya Thachadi, both industry leaders and key partners in supporting QBO’s community of women founders, as well as champions in gender development within the innovation space. Throughout the session, Di Cicco and Thachadi shared their own experiences as women leaders, as well as their insights on finding the right space for solutions by women and for women.
“There is no time better in history than now to be a woman entrepreneur,” said Di Cicco, an entrepreneur, travel tech leader and innovator, and board member and chair of the Gender-Lens Investing Committee of Manila Angel Investor’s Network. “While there is still a lot of work to be done, there is also an increase in awareness on the importance and value of women in the investment and startup communities. We are seeing more opportunities open up and more technologies being developed, all because we are getting more women in the room and they are actively participating.”
This is especially true for the Philippines, where there is a higher percentage of women in leadership roles across multiple fields such as politics and business. However, for relatively newer industries like the local startup scene, women founders still find the need for greater visibility, access to more growth opportunities, and role models who are on a path parallel to their own journey.
“As one begins their startup journey, it is important—especially for female founders—to have someone walking along with you,” said Di Cicco. “I’ve been a part of multiple mentoring programs, and I see how valuable it is to have someone that you can confide in, someone that you can resonate with. It is critical for women founders to see someone who has gone through a similar path as them, so that they may speak with and learn from them, and then move on to apply their learnings into their own business plans.”
At the same time, the journey doesn’t end with just female role models and mentors. There is also a need to enroll male allies into the process of bringing more women into the startup ecosystem and supporting them as their businesses grow and scale.
“While it is important for organizations to give women the tools to combat biases within the industry, it is equally as important for men to have these tools as well,” said Thachadi, co-founder and CEO of Villgro Philippines, an investor, entrepreneur and gender advocate who has designed award-winning programs for women entrepreneurs. “There must be intentional efforts to create safe spaces where these conversations can take place without judgment. For organizations, it is our responsibility to embrace a gender, diversity and inclusion lens – that means embedding processes, training, and programs to address unconscious biases and build a more inclusive system—and for us to succeed with this, we must include our male allies.”
This program is just the tip of the iceberg for QBO Innovation Hub and Startup Pinay. Moving forward, they aim to further their mission in empowering their community—from women entrepreneurs and allies to investors and collaborators—through their community and ecosystem and startup development programs that are open to Filipinos and Filipinas across the country.
“Startup Pinay is very close to my heart. It’s so important for us to be supporting female entrepreneurs and helping our fellow women founders take the necessary steps to rise above challenges and help their businesses grow,” shared Chan, who was also on the panel of judges for BOOTQAMP. “As women, there are many struggles that we face across all industries and aspects of life, but we should never forget to use our strengths as we build our businesses, and to support each other.”