Philippines Startup Ecosystem’s Day At The Beach: GOAB 2017

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Temasys made the trip to the Philippines last week to participate in the now legendary annual conference geared toward promoting the Philippines startup ecosystem. In its fifth year, Geeks On A Beach 2017 was held in Puerto Princesa on lovely Palawan island.

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You might think it’s hard to get any work done when you have a view like this just feet away from you at a conference. However, the Philippines Startup Ecosystem’s annual day at the beach, otherwise known as GOAB, is no vacation.

Hot Topics In The Tropics

The conference is primarily focused on topics related to the Philippines startup ecosystem. It brings together sponsors, partners, and attendees from government, venture capital, startups, and enterprises. While the majority of the attendees come from the Philippines, we found a significant number came from a wide swath of countries both within SE Asia and as far away as the USA. Attendees hailed from an array of industries, as well: From telecom to ISVs, to outsourced software developers and consultancies, to SaaS and PaaS vendors, as well as investors.

For GOAB 2017, the list of speakers and topics centered on a variety of challenges and opportunities that startups in the Philippines face. Whether it was about improving one’s investor pitch or struggling to find a way to differentiate one’s business in the “South China Sea” of BPOs competing for offshore business, or sessions to learn more about how to hire and retain high-performance staff, there was something for everyone.

There was enormous interest in the topics related to the blockchain and Ethereum, well represented by companies like ConsenSys. With the evolution of Ethereum, in spite of some shake-ups over the last 12-18 months, it seems like the hype is in full swing.  Yobie Benjamin’s keynote on some of the things that are being funded by ICO’s was quite inspiring. If anyone knows how to build a business and retire early with phenomenal success, it’s him. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more activity in this area over the next 18 months, although skeptics are already beginning to highlight the risks of ICOs. The risks are real, and a key message to attendees at the conference was to make sure you hire a good lawyer if you’re considering trying to raise funds using an ICO.

Temasys GOAB 2017 Sessions

For its part, Temasys ran a short workshop illustrating the concept of Embedded Real-Time Communication and how to embed live chat, audio, and video calling into a website in less than 30 minutes. More people and businesses are finding ways to integrate real-time communication as a feature into their applications.

Many of the companies I talked to had not heard about the possibilities enabled by embedding live audio and video calling or live data sharing into applications. At every turn, it seemed like a new use case surfaced, and the horizon appeared full of opportunities to drive real change in the way companies to engage with their customers using embedded real-time communication.

We’re all hoping that those conversations we started can continue and that we can have a positive impact on the startups and businesses working to build new applications and compelling business opportunities in the Philippines.

Being Part of Something Bigger Than One’s Self

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There really are few other events like this, that I’m aware of, and oh how I wish there were more. For me, it came down to the overall atmosphere surrounding the event. To start with, while the event takes place in a very relaxed setting, there’s a serious undercurrent of “let’s get something done.”

Another key dynamic of the event is the feeling of community and inclusiveness that is promoted throughout the event. By bringing government agencies, large businesses, startups and investors from within and outside the Philippines, together in one place, the cross-pollination of ideas between these stakeholders is inevitable. This is a big deal since these actors do not come into direct contact with each other very often, in positive ways.

GOAB also promotes the idea that everyone can learn something from each other, and as the transformation of businesses is driven ever faster by technology, governments, large businesses, and startups will all benefit by working together to ensure no one is left behind. While GOAB’s focus may be on encouraging the support and development of the Philippines tech ecosystem, this approach is something that could benefit many other countries and industries.

Finally, as a self-professed introvert, I leave many conferences wishing I could take a week’s vacation on a desert island by myself, to recharge. GOAB 2017 is the first event I’ve attended in a very long time, where I left feeling energized by the interactions and activities of the week. That, by itself, is remarkable.

Geeks on a Beach is certainly one of the premier opportunities in SE Asia to engage with a crowd of passionate entrepreneurs, large companies, start-ups and investors in a fun and inspiring setting. I’m looking forward to next year’s GOAB, already!

GOAB 2017 Corong Corong Beach near El Nido, Philippines

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