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The Rise of a Communal Innovation Space

An interview with Vance Ching, Community Hacker at Launchgarage

by Jenny Paglinawan

In recent years, the term “innovation” has become a buzzword that many hear but few really understand. Vance Ching, Community Hacker of Launchgarage, believes that innovation, whether it's sustaining or disruptive, has one key goal – to create something new that is beneficial to society. Ideas and ventures that would vastly improve a system or would solve a major problem. A way to foster and push innovation further is to build an innovation hub.

A communal workspace for startups

World changing ideas and true innovation does not thrive in a vacuum. This is why the perfect place to catalyse and nurture innovation is a communal space filled with brilliant minds and a philosophy of open collaboration. It comes from where one is surrounded by smart people from different disciplines. When working in a communal working space, you get different ideas and perspectives that you would have otherwise not been exposed to, working alone or privately. You need to surround yourself with driven and passionate people from whom you can draw inspiration, insight, and energy from.

World changing ideas and true innovation doesn't thrive in a vacuum. This is why the perfect place to catalyse and nurture innovation is a communal space filled with brilliant minds and a philosophy of open collaboration.

According to Vance, "an innovation hub expands from technopoles, incubators, and accelerators because aside from creating programs for startups to succeed or to create their ideas into fruition, an innovation hub facilitates the gathering of like-minded people in a common space. Gather "people who have the same dreams, passion, and aspirations to work together and to share their knowledge with one another.

Pushing for a strong and collaborative startup community

Vance’s main role as a Community Hacker is to make sure that a community of founders, hackers, makers, designers, investors, and change makers fill the hub.

He is responsible for seeking out promising and interesting startups, bringing them into the space, and connecting them with the resources they need to succeed. Such resources,  includes talent, strategic partners, investments, mentors, and market connections.

Since its beta launch last March 28, Launchgarage has brought into the space, startup teams from travel startup Tralulu, healthtech startup Medifi, gaming startup Zeenoh, crowdfunding startup GiftIt, foodtech startup Good Meal Hunting, SAAS startup Blumr, personal logistics startup Mober, and action sports e-commerce startup BlackMarket.

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A common misconception that still pervades locally is that startups should operate in secrecy and isolation. In contrast, Vance emphasises the importance of an open and collaborative dynamic. A silo mentality isolates you from valuable immediate feedback, effective product validation, and fast paced market trends. It also robs you of the opportunity to receive support, insights, and inputs from fellow founders.

You do not necessarily have to face the unknown all by yourself.​

As Vance puts it, “You do not necessarily have to face the unknown all by yourself. There are a lot of people who are also doing startups facing the same problems as you do. So creating a strong community with fellow founders and individuals will give you a feeling that you're not alone.”

The Philippine startup landscape

The startup landscape in the country is still very small compared to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. A huge majority of the population does not understand what a tech startup is. However, there is growing interest in startups, particularly with university students and new graduates who are willing to explore setting up their own startup as a viable alternative to the traditional career path of working for someone else. 

The main challenges of Philippine startups are: limited access to value networks, lack of exposure to the global market, and human resources as well. There are a lot of startups who are having a hard time looking for startup talent, whether it's engineering, marketing, or management.

Launch Garage wants to address such challenges by connecting startups to talented people and strategic partners.

“As a hub we'd like to have a diverse group of people inside Launchgarage where one can find someone that can help your startup grow. We also create events supporting the community such as deal sessions where founders get to pitch to investors. From time to time as well, investors will be asking us for startups they can take a look at. Those that are part of the Launchgarage community will have a unique opportunity to connect with them. For global exposure, we have partners abroad that can help startups penetrate foreign markets including Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States.”

Launchgarage has close partnerships with various accelerators, incubators, and innovation hubs around the globe including Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley, The Co-foundry in Singapore, and various members of the Global Innovation Gathering.

Innovation hubs impact society by creating a culture fostering innovation and collaboration. Hopefully, that culture will also spread beyond these hubs.

Creating solutions and products that can benefit society would have a positive impact as well on our economy. More foreign investors would also see the Philippines as a rich investment destination as an increasing number of innovative businesses emerge.

About the writer

Jenny Paglinawan @imjennibeth

Jenny is a closeted food geek. Prior to venturing into the startup scene, she was a food science researcher where she did research on rice products that won their team a national R&D award for basic research. Aside from writing, Jenny holds positions in two tech startups and runs a food laboratory. On her free time you can see her either playing with cats, swimming, doing hash-runs, and of course, enjoying good food.