Innovation Roadshow: Senior Advisor Thorne Travel To Colombia And Mexico

For comparison, the per capita GDP of Vietnam is approximately US$2,000. But with the support of both the public and private sectors, as well as local community support from the diaspora and other friendly parties, a creative solution will surely emerge to enable more Vietnamese entrepreneurs to venture into the heart of Silicon Valley.

“Startup March Madness”

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The young crowd at the Google I/O conference in Hanoi last year

The young crowd at the Google I/O conference in Hanoi last year

This month, there will be an assortment of events across Vietnam to celebrate startups, entrepreneurship, and innovation. On March 7, Hanoi will be the first stop on an American Innovation Roadshow in Vietnam organised by the US Department of State in co-ordination with the US Embassy in Hanoi and the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.

The US Delegation, led by Ambassador David Thorne, Senior Advisor to the US Secretary of State, will continue on to Ho Chi Minh City for events on March 8 and 9 before heading to the Philippines. The Innovation Roadshow is an opportunity for US business leaders to witness innovation firsthand in Vietnam, as well as to create and build relationships between the US and Vietnam across the entrepreneur and technology communities.

According to US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, “As we continue to work with the Vietnamese government to foster sustainable economic growth, we are proud to be bringing a delegation of entrepreneurs, executives, and investors to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in March. In Hanoi, we will sponsor the 2016 Conference on Innovation in Hanoi, which will bring together ‘global game changers’ in the Vietnam startup community with US corporate leaders in IT, finance, and manufacturing, in order to develop a ‘Silicon Valley state of mind’ in Vietnam.”

Among the representatives in the delegation, there will be personnel from IBM, GE, and Qualcomm. The course of multi-day events will feature a presentation on US innovation and advances in technology, as well as a demo fair and presentation showcasing the best tech talents in Vietnam.

Also Read: The Dreamplex vision: Connecting Vietnam’s startup community

“The 2016 Conference on Innovation will focus entrepreneurs on the technologies and global best practices needed to drive growth and take advantage of market opportunities. The delegation will then travel to Ho Chi Minh City where they will engage in a series of events that will connect them with investors, entrepreneurs and community builders. I am proud to support the innovation ecosystem in Vietnam through these events, and I look forward to seeing a wide range of participants from the growing start-up community in Vietnam,” stated Ambassador Osius via the US Embassy in Hanoi.

Recently, at the US-ASEAN Summit Press Conference at the Sunnylands Center in Rancho Mirage, California, on February 16, President Obama announced a new initiative called US-ASEAN Connect — a network of hubs across the region to better co-ordinate our economic engagement and connect more of our entrepreneurs, investors and businesses with each other.

President Obama, who will visit Vietnam this May and Lao PDR in September, also reaffirmed, according to The White House, that “the US will continue to be a partner in ASEAN’s efforts to integrate economies and reduce barriers to trade and investment.”

In fact, one of the major opening points during the press conference was about cooperation between the US and ASEAN members: “First, we agreed to do more together to encourage the entrepreneurship and innovation that are at the heart of modern, competitive economies,” stated President Obama as he began to dive into the heart of his address. During President Obama’s visits to the region later this year, we may learn more about concrete plans to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in ASEAN, which in Vietnam’s case might include Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV), the nation’s first non-profit and private university.

Growing International Support

Now, more than ever before there is support for startups and entrepreneurship in Vietnam from a variety of sources, including foreign governments. Besides the Finland-Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program (IPP), there is also the Business Incubator Policy Project (BIPP) co-funded by the Governments of Vietnam and Belgium which launched last summer with a budget of €4.4 million (US$4.84 million).

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Startup teams working in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi

Startup teams working in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi

Another programme, the SECO EP (Entrepreneurial Programme), will focus on increasing entrepreneurial activities, enabling innovative entrepreneurs to commence and scale their businesses, and supporting the enterprise ecosystem. The programme is financed by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and implemented by Swisscontact from 2015-2019 in Vietnam, among other countries. A special focus is given to both connecting the diaspora back into Vietnam as well as promoting the participation of women in entrepreneurial activities.

From a regional perspective, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will move forward with its Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) with funding from Australia Aid and a dedicated country team in Vietnam. Among its purposes is to incentivise business formalisation, help Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises to grow and integrate into global supply chains, and to empower women-led businesses.

Moreover, the Embassy of Canada in Vietnam is planning a new innovation initiative and the British Council annually supports social investment and social enterprise in Vietnam, most recently via the Business and Investment Readiness programme pilot 2015/16, which is ongoing through September.

New Challenges

The focus of several organisations and programmes such as HATCH! and IPP are two-fold for this year: the promotion, creation, and building of mentor networks and angel investor networks. For mentor networks, the challenge will be to find quality mentors to provide active (quality) mentoring where both parties benefit instead of accepting hourly-based consultants to deliver solutions.

Already, some international mentor networks are beginning to form, e.g., Startup Rising in San Francisco and Women of Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City. And when it comes to angel investing, the best angel investors are those entrepreneurs who have successfully exited from their previous ventures.

While Vietnam does have these kinds of entrepreneurs, many successful people as a result of Vietnam’s economy are micromanagers and some do not understand the risk involved in angel investing—there is no guaranteed return.

Another point of concern is the already high power distance between older and younger Vietnamese people; add in funding provided by older Vietnamese CEOs and company owners to young and inexperienced founders and the imbalance of power (and risk for accepting bad deals, e.g., US$20,000 in seed funding for 51 per cent of a company) is increased.

Thus, educating local angel investors on best investment practices is a necessary step toward seeing more successfully funded startups in the long-term. The other way to de-risk the investment process is to optimise the existing deal flow by implementing requirements for investors a la the accredited investor archetype. That’s where organisations like the Vietnam Angel Network come in; its stated purpose is “to help the best upcoming seed-level startups to access a broader range of investors.”

Also new to the playing field are international organisations which are looking to set up in Vietnam like Seedspace from Switzerland and NUMA from France. These are part co-working spaces and part seed funds which are looking to position themselves to be future pillars of the rapidly-growing market in Vietnam. One challenge is to spread the foreign interest across Vietnam smartly, if not evenly, so that the three distinct ecosystems of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang can develop in the healthiest ways possible by playing to their natural strengths.

In a larger sense, this year is the 30th anniversary of Đổi Mới (when Vietnam began to open up its economy) and it is surely to be exciting as Vietnam’s economy continues to modernise and is set to accelerate with an assortment of new trade deals on the horizon as a primary driver.

It will be an opportunity for Vietnamese entrepreneurs and companies to rise up to the challenge of international standards by making the capital and training investments, and education and long-term commitments necessary to create innovative company cultures and individual mindsets. Only then will Vietnamese enterprises be in a position to fully reap the benefits of a burgeoning and increasingly globally-connected economy after this Year of the Monkey and beyond.

The views expressed here are of the author’s, and

e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them.

e27  invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email at sainul [at]e27[dot]co.

Image Credit: Andrew Rowan

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Innovation Roadshow: Senior Advisor Thorne Travel To Colombia And Mexico

Source:Daily Mail

Innovation Roadshow: Senior Advisor Thorne Travel To Colombia And Mexico

Innovation Roadshow: Senior Advisor Thorne Travel To Colombia And Mexico

Source:Metro

Innovation Roadshow: Senior Advisor Thorne Travel To Colombia And Mexico

Innovation Roadshow: Senior Advisor Thorne Travel To Colombia And Mexico

Source:WWBT

Innovation Roadshow: Senior Advisor Thorne Travel To Colombia And Mexico

Innovation Roadshow: Senior Advisor Thorne Travel To Colombia And Mexico

Source:Daily Mail

Innovation Roadshow: Senior Advisor Thorne Travel To Colombia And Mexico