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Swiss EP Vietnam Summit Brings Together Diverse Ecosystem

The first Swiss EP Vietnam summit brought partner organizations together to share knowledge, network and build relationships.

From March 3-5, Swiss EP Vietnam hosted its first summit for partner organizations. The event, held in the small beach city of Tuy Hoa, gave representatives from 14 partners based in Hanoi, Hue, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City the chance to network and share ideas and innovations.

Over the course of three days, a series of talks, panel discussions and presentations covered topics such as the importance of understanding your customers, the challenges of siloed startup support organizations, and how to reach and maintain financial stability.

One notable session covered the ‘triple helix’ of academia, government and the corporate sector, which are currently separated from each other and thus not situated to provide coordinated support strategies for Vietnam’s startup ecosystem.

Quynh Vo from Zone Startups and Nhi Nguyen from DNES also discussed the pros and cons of the startup ecosystems in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Da Nang, each of which present their own unique opportunities and challenges.

Startups in HCMC, for example, are very market-oriented, but also focus more on expanding abroad instead of domestically, while Da Nang-based startups lack confidence, and those in Hanoi specialize in engineering talent.

Feedback on the summit was uniformly positive, with each partner organization saying a second summit should be held in 2022.

Nguyen Khanh Trinh from CleverGroup shared that his three most important takeaways from the event were “new friends, potential businesses to invest in, and that Swiss EP is a good organization.”

Le Thanh Nguyen of SHTP-IC, meanwhile, shared his post-summit action plan: “We will review our business model and our incubation program, and also work to sign MOUs with new partners that we met.”

A key focus of the summit was linking the public and private sectors, and Truc Phan Thi Quy of the HCMC Department of Science and Technology came away with ideas on how to strengthen this link.

“We need to promote cooperation with the private sector to support innovative startups in Ho Chi Minh City and enhance connectivity between different parts of the innovation ecosystem in the city. We also must build policies to take advantage of the development of the startup ecosystem to build the city into a smart city while using Vietnamese technology."

Truc Phan Thi Quy / HCMC Department of Science and Technology

Quy further expressed interest in learning how Switzerland has successfully developed an innovative startup ecosystem, and how large of a role the government played in this.
Several attendees noted that future summits should allow for more group discussions and activities, while some also noted a need for more venture capitalists to join - though that was difficult for this summit due to Vietnam’s ongoing pandemic flight restrictions.

In terms of concrete outcomes, at the end of the summit two partner organizations, BSSC in HCMC and BKHoldings in Hanoi, signed a memorandum of understanding.

Perhaps the most important result was simply giving organizations in different sectors spread out across Vietnam the chance to come together and explore ways they could work together in mutually beneficial ways.

The coming months will determine exactly how successful those new connections are, but the first Swiss EP Vietnam Summit has at the very least laid the groundwork for exciting developments moving forward.