Once upon a time...
..... in the late 1980s a man named Dr. Federico "Poch" Macaranas, who was Assistant Secretary of Foreign Affairs during the Aquino Administration, came up with the brilliant idea to harness the intellectual capital that resided in science and technology focused professionals of Filipino descent through a global network. He and others had what our generation would call a "mind meld" and decided that the global network would be comprised of local hubs known as Science & Technology Advisory Councils. These councils would provide practical advice on activities in the academic and research arena in the Philippines and provide input to the Philippine government regarding the viability to convert the ideas into meaningful global science & technology related industries. Unfortunately, after several government administration changes, the two way communication between Filipino expats and the government slowly stopped and the hubs eventually disconnected. Only a few STAC hubs remained in tact with government cooperation supporting their efforts.
Fast forward to 2007, acknowledging how the Internet changed the competitive landscape and infrastructure investments strengthened the foundation of the Philippines, the circa 1999 board of the Silicon Valley chapter regrouped. They agreed and observed that the Philippines was uniquely positioned to become an influential and an emerging player in the technosphere. In addition they observed neighboring ASEAN countries were emerging and surpassing the country in areas where the Philippines could also be a player. They knew something must be done to not only share the talents with the world but to see if the effort could be accelerated. Therefore the board moved forward to revisit a potential public private partnership that would leverage their knowledge and experience. The board made a phone call to the Department of Trade & Industry Trade Commissioner in Santa Clara. She got excited and made a call to the incoming Consul General. He met with STAC SV board members and shortly thereafter made a direct call to the Philippine President. The next is history.
In 2008, STAC Silicon Valley drafted a Memo of Agreement that would institutionalize a public private partnership between members and supporters of STAC SV and the Philippine government to position the country in the digital age.
In August 2009, The MOA was signed by three cabinet secretaries that the President deemed instrumental for the success of the collaboration. They included the Departments of Foreign Affairs (Secretary Romulo), Trade & Industry (Secretary Favila), and Science & Technology (Secretary Alabastro). In December 2009, a strategic planning session took place in San Francisco with STAC SV President and working group members of DOST, DFA and DTI. The public sector working group submitted a formal request for assistance with regards to an entrepreneurial ecocystem. Program design and content were discussed and shortly thereafer, the blueprint of a plan was drafted.
In 2010, a new STAC SV Working Group was born. The strategic plan was submitted by STAC SV to the Philippine President and the Cabinet Secretaries (DOST, DFA and DTI) in February 2010. The same day, board member Jojo Flores, invited by Trade Commisioner Josephine Romero, led the launch of a business pitch competition during the eServices conference with main sponsorship from Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale and GlobeTelecom Labs. The event was SRO - Standing Room Only.
One key finding: The Island Oasis which we hear is a mobile gem was breeding a new entrepreneur focused on a technology enhanced business model -- not the mom and pop accountant shop or doctor practice. It was clear that the internet provided a gateway to information and the web served as a platform to test ideas in specific sectors. Moreover, successful industries such as the $10 Billion BPO sector served as an example of what focus by many could achieve. However, a strong support system was not in place for this new breed of entrepreneurs. In other words, something was brewing and before taking next steps, the board knew it was time to roll up our sleeves and take a look "under the hood."
The road to discovery: Our timing was perfect. The three departments collaborated and facilitated a trip that was crucial to the process. In July 2010, Denny and I took a trip to the Philippines under the Balik Scientist (return Scientist) program and kicked off the 18 month project (which was highlighted in our strategic plan) performing due diligence of the existing "entrepreneurial" ecosystem. We learned that there were elements of an ecosystem in place but not a fully developed ecosystem that would properly serve the new companies or the country. One could say that we discovered pieces of a V8 engine that separate would not reveal its power but together could surprise in performance. The typical challenges existed: Lack of direction, no clear strategy and implementation and execution difficult to do given a lack of expertise and/or experience. Essentially we revealed that at one level the country was still in "transition" mode. However, while obvious challenges existed, excitement to turn things around did too. Almost every one of the attendees of our 48 meetings agreed that an ecosystem as described would be ideal. Moreover, they completely agreed that there were significant opportunities ahead if everyone worked together.
We discussed the findings with the board and after much deliberation, the STAC SV working group emerged both excited and overwhelmed by the task that lay before us. Importantly, we knew that If we helped build it, they will come. I learned early in my career that sometimes demand is created. In this case, demand exists. And thus began the initial steps to construct eXceLr8 -- a virtual platform that would have initial elements of an ecoystem designed to serve the community to accelerate the movement from ideas of entrepreneurs to potential viable tech driven businesses; and in parallel our main activity -- ON3 -- to bring the community together.
In 2011, we officially launched the ON3 events -- a business pitch competition/networking and industry event designed to bring the community together that will uncover, discover and support the growth of potential viable global businesses. Jojo Flores, our ON3 Leader helped kick off activities in the Visayas and Mindanao by visiting hot locations such as Cebu and Davao in March. He and others will be back in Luzon in May for the next round.
The Optimal Results: Discovering, supporting and doing what we can -- expose entrepreneurs to global practices, give them access to a support network through virtual and physical menas so that each one can begin to pave its path from idea to potential commercialization. It is our hope and for many, dream, that we will see dozens of technology and science driven businesses sprout which will in turn create jobs, opportunities and more importantly, help increase the quality of life of others in a country that has always been in our minds and hearts as a land rich with ideas, love, laughter and promise.
We invite you to join us in our journey. We understand and acknowledge that despite the rumors, success is not achieved alone. Everyone plays a role and for us this is just the beginning.
Christina, President and Circa 1999 Board Member - STAC SV