I was very excited to have been invited to the APEC SME Summit held last Tuesday, November 17 at the Green Sun Hotel. Go Negosyo partnered with ABAC (APEC Business Advisory Council) and Asia Society. With the theme: “Innovation and Big Ideas: Pushing Boundaries,” the APEC SME Summit 2015 brought together the region’s micro, small and medium-sized business entrepreneurs who shared success stories of innovation in today's ever evolving marketplace.
The summit featured a number speakers, all of whom run successful businesses and whose big ideas and innovative solutions inspired positive changes in their industries. It also challenged the traditional SME framework and mindset to motivate entrepreneurs to rethink and be more creative in the way they do business, and look at their products, services operations with the lens of innovation to successfully meet the demands of the global market.
The summit began with ABAC Chair Doris Ho's opening remarks, followed by a keynote address of His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III. Pres. Aquino highlighted the potential of innovation and inclusiveness to achieve economic growth.
To kick off the summit, Josette Sheeran, the president of Asia Society, talked about the rise of connectivity and megatrends that are driving new consumer demands. She stated that Manila is predicted to be one of the next breakthrough global city centers of innovation.
Ms. Sheeran was succeeded by David Plouffe, the senior adviser of the popular "disruptive" ridesharing app Uber Technologies, Inc., who shared about the increasing demand for transportation and how current innovations responded to such need without the accrual of expenses. Services like Uber give people power to create their own income and create their own schedules. Right now, it is mostly for temporary periods but eventually it will reshape the way people think of work, transport and other things, Plouffe said.
Tony Fernandes, the witty and brilliant CEO of Air Asia, explained the importance of branding and people in a business; for him, these core concepts are a far more valuable commodity. "You only have one life. Don’t be afraid of failure, you can't press the rewind button." He left the audience with "Value complaints, they are free market research."
Sheila Marcelo, founder of Care.com, a website that helps families find care for children, the elderly and the sick spoke next. Care is often seen as a "soft issue", but it has a fundamental importance in society that will create far reaching benefits, explained Marcelo. She expressed how an innate capability of man can be an expensive commodity surpassing home and mortgage expenses.
Diosdado "Dado" Banatao, known as the father of semiconductors and Managing Partner of Tallwood Venture Capital provided the audience with concrete proof of what innovation can do if harnessed right. "Entrepreneurship is the fastest method of diffusion of wealth to the population. This group of risk takers can come from any sector of society and is the best way to create inclusion", emphasized Banatao. He promised that what Josette Sheeran said about the Philippines becoming a center for innovation - "we will make that happen!"
The next speaker was Bunker Roy, founder of Barefoot College, an innovative training and development center for marginalized women in rural areas. Barefoot College has trained women who can't read and write into solar engineers.
These were followed by other business owners and executives including Maria Ressa of Rappler, Nix Nolledo of Xurpas, Dexter Ligot-Gordon of Kalibrr, Angelo Umali of Simple Wearables and Barbara Navarro of Google In a panel discussion moderated by Karen Davila, all of them shared the stories of how they, as entrepreneurs, and their businesses came to be, with a common message: not everything that can be invented has already been invented. Innovation is always possible as long as you are passionate about it and even multi-billion-dollar businesses started small.
The other speakers and their topics include:
Jonathan Swanson, Co-Founder and President of Thumbtack - Connecting People in the Global Marketplace
Scott Anthony, Managing Partner of Innosight - Innovation and the Future
Alok Shetty, Architect and Principal, Bhumiputra Architecture - Innovative building solutions for tomorrow's homes'
Eric Rosenthal, ABRA - Financial Inclusion via the Digital Sharing Economy
Wendy Kopp, Co-Founder and CEO, Teach for All - Cultivating Future Leaders for Innovation
Karen Reddington, President Fed Ex Asia - How we work:Innovating Ways to Connect
The summit tackled "disruptive" and innovative trends that inspired the entrepreneurs.