TechFest in Vietnam urges start-ups to reach full potential

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Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam (sitting) visits an innovative start-up booth at Techfest. Photo courtesy of Ministry of Science and Technology via Viet Nam News/Asia News Network

Vietnam needs to creatively promote innovative start-ups in order to ensure the global start-up wave is more than a short-term movement in Vietnam, said Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam at the opening ceremony of Techfest 2017.

Techfest 2017, one of the biggest start-up events in Vietnam, began on Tuesday at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Hanoi and continues on Wednesday.

Themed “Eco-system connect”, the event has attracted Vietnamese start-ups and local and foreign investors looking to co-operate and connect to the start-up eco-system to develop innovation in Vietnam.

The participating start-ups work in various fields such as agriculture, education, tourism, food service, healthcare and start-up support. Investors assess these sectors to have significant potential and they have been prioritised by the Vietnamese government.

Chu Ngoc Anh, Minister of Science and Technology, said that the start-up scene in Vietnam had been vibrant over the past few years, especially since the project 844 on Supporting National Innovative Start-up Eco-system towards 2025 was launched last year.

More than 900 incubated start-up projects with 300 start-up products have been connected with communities and investment funds. In 2016 and 2017, Vietnamese innovative start-ups’ activities have been vibrant. The five most successful commercial deals attracted more than US$50million in investment.

There are more than 40 venture capital funds in Vietnam including IDG Ventures, CyberAgent Ventures, Captii Ventures, Gobi Partners and 500 Startups. Many large corporations, companies and banks have set up funds for startups, including FPT Ventures, Viettel Venture, CMC Creative Fund and the Vietnam Accelerator Fund.

Vietnam’s Global Innovative Index in 2017 made a significant step: it now ranks 47th out of 127, its highest ranking ever and leading middle-income countries.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam urged start-up founders to be bold and confident.

“Don’t worry that your ideas will not win any award, or be like a fish out of water,” he said. “Don’t worry that your locality is still poor, which constrains innovative start-ups. Don’t worry that your innovation is like others’ and raise the question of whether it will be successful or not.”

He highlighted the importance of scientific capital and support to build co-working spaces and incubators. Such support should carefully include universities so that each university has at least one space.

“Vietnam welcomes all investors, scientists and educators as well as all international stakeholders to join hands to help Vietnam’s innovators grow strongly and sustainably,” he said.

Potentials

Kari Kahiluoto, Ambassador of Finland to Vietnam said that the potential of Vietnamese start-ups was positive. Finland had been supporting Vietnam’s innovation with the Vietnam-Finland Innovation Partnership Programme.

“The special key is the private sector. Support from legislation and the budget is very important. In Finland, the same thing is that Government support for start-up activities is very strong, but still I think the key issue is private initiative between companies and private entrepreneurs who are the driving force,” he told Viet Nam News.

Kelly Strzepek, Innovation Champion at Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said, “The eco-system in Vietnam is very young. Over the last three or maybe five years, the community has really got going. I think if you look around today at Techfest, we can see how vibrant the community is now. People are gaining experience. Not only we are developing more start-ups but those start-ups are maturing.”

South Korean investor Yu Benjamin, the director of LINE Ventures, came to Techfest to seek start-ups in financial technology (fintech).

“If GDP grows people will spend more money. There will be a lot of transactions. That’s why I am very into fintech. I interviewed two start-ups in the field this morning,” he said.

Nguyen Trung Kien, founder and CEO of Kicoworking Space, said that while many young start-up entrepreneurs are very talented, they lack mentorship in terms of market orientation.

“Vietnamese start-ups have a very big market. I hope that Vietnamese start-ups focus more on the sophistication of their products and there will be more matching events like Techfest to help boost connections between investors and start-ups,” he said.

At the event, the Ministry of Science and Technology debuted a national innovative start-up portal (startup.gov.vn) which provides information on innovative start-up activities, serves as a platform for young people to seek start-up opportunities and allows people to share stories about start-up models nationwide.

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