On 1 December 2018, SALT organized in cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) a workshop targeting the topic ‘Innovation Diffusion for Entrepreneurship Acceleration’. This workshop consisted of a series of speeches and presentations from successful entrepreneurs in the ASEAN region. The workshop was operated bilingually. During the workshop, participants enjoyed the real-time translation from English to Vietnamese and vice versa.
Saigon Innovation Hub (SIHUB) is an initiative of the department of science and technology of Ho Chi Minh City which provides IT infrastructure and facilities for start-ups and innovators in order to build Ho Chi Minh City into a start-up city.
The first speaker Prof. Andreas Reber, dean of Business Information Technology at FHNW, presented the educational landscape in Switzerland and current trends in Business Information Technologies from a Swiss perspective. New trends arise such as the digitalization of processes in the health and finance industry, chat bots for support Organizations, virtual reality for manufacturers of consumer goods, recommendation engines for e-commerce and big data analysis in marketing. There is a shift from IT as a cost factor to IT as a business enabler. IT becomes a more significant role in organizations.
Then Mr. Hub Langstaff, Director for Swiss Entrepreneurship Program (EP), presented the activities of his organization and an overview on the Vietnamese startup ecosystem. The organization working through local partners aims to provide entrepreneurs with the needed skills and support them in launching and growing companies in order to create jobs. The Program is being implemented in six countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Peru, Serbia and Vietnam. Swiss EP works with the ecosystem and through 16 partners across Vietnam (HCMC, Hanoi and Danang) to provide indirect and sustainable support to startups with different programs: Mentoring Programs, Incubation/Acceleration Programs, Angel Investors/Angel Investor Network and Women Dedicated Programs. Mr. Langstaff continues his presentation by outlining the three key factors of a startup ecosystem which is not yet implemented in Vietnam. Firstly, culture is a critical asset to build a dynamic startup ecosystem. It highlights entrepreneurs as role models, teaches entrepreneurial skills and fosters public-private communication. Secondly, policy makers can take proactive measures to make it easier for startups to access capital and create tax incentive for investors. Thirdly, the government shall create stable, predictable and supportive regulatory environment for entrepreneurs and investors. Vietnam as a country needs to focus on the base of its ecosystem. The low English proficiency among startups is weakening access to best practices and external investors.
As a next speaker Mr. Manfred P. Rist, Southeast Asia Correspondent at Neue Zuercher Zeitung, talks about radical transparency and the meaning of real time interaction with customers. Mr. Rist showed how company values get destroyed within seconds by using Korean Air and Fresh Bread as an example. Image is good but be prepared to defend it at any time. Consumers, employees, and investors are beginning to demand socially and environmentally-savvy products without compromise, while radical transparency is putting every company under a microscope. Consumers demand radical transparency because information is going global at the speed of light at almost zero cost. It radically shifts from paper to virtual, crosses traditional language barriers, making information available to a broader informed audience multiplied by a hungry, fast moving media that feeds different channels in taylor-made way.
Mr. Clarence Phua, Managing Director at AQUUS Asia, presented the technopreneurship trends in SEA Region. The main trends amongst others are advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, high performance computing, internet of things and machine learning. Although investors invest more money than ever in Asian companies, Mr. Phua also outlines the disparities of development within the region. For example, the infrastructure and geographic gaps pose a challenge for the widespread of technology advancements or the gap between matured economies and emerging markets.
Then, Dr. Nguyen Thanh My, founder and CEO Rynan AgriFoods, presented his company and how one application allows farmers to spend more time on their motorcycles. Rynan AgriFoods is a producer for smart fertilizers. The company wants to empower farmers with smart input materials and devices for realizing climate smart agriculture. The idea behind this startup was to improve good things to become better, to innovate new things and to help the world to become a better place. According to Dr. Nguyen, the main issue in Vietnam is the food production. Everywhere people use fertilizers in order to extend the shelf life of food. This leaves preservative but dirty food. Vietnam is improving the rice production to become more sustainable. With the clean production method developed by Rynan AgriFoods, farmers use smart fertilizers which result in clean farming in all stages of production. Farmers not only benefit from a clean production cycle but the company also provides an application which manages the production, monitors the external factors of production and acts as a platform to sell their products. This allows farmers to spend less time farming and leaving more time to pursue other jobs and earn a higher income.
Prof. Dr. Mathias Binswanger, economist at FHNW School of Business, presents ‘the fourth industrial revolution: some economic implications’. According to Dr. Binswanger, labor will largely disappear from the production process. Humans are not directly involved in production any more. Jobs are at high risk to be replaced by machines. The speaker presented the case of UK showed where the biggest share to be automatized is the whole sale and retail trade. At the same time the economy becomes more complex, professional and bureaucratic, which creates new job opportunities. Additional need for IT specialists, lawyers, specialists for data protection, machine ethicists, traffic planners as well as human machine interaction managers. Consumption decisions are increasingly made by algorithms and not by humans any more. Marketing will change tremendously. Nowadays we still address the human, however, in the future we need to consider the machine as well.
The last speaker Dr. Le Hoang Anh, Managing Director at Dragon Capital and member of the management board at VIISA, presented the Vietnam Innovative Startup Accelerator (VIISA) and their approach to creative sources of financing and funding. In brief, VIISA is an accelerator program that will invest six million USD to build global-ready startups in Vietnam in partnership with leading corporations. Startups applying for their program will be granted to have access to funding, resources, mentoring programs, corporate networks and expansion overseas. In general, international companies come to Vietnam in order to compete in their domestic market. VIISA in contrary wants to return a value to the Vietnamese society. The organization believes that entrepreneurs can take advantage of this booming economy and change the world from Vietnam by using the human capital in Vietnam such as the fast growing middle class, increasing digital penetration, high literacy rate and technical talents.
The IDEA workshop closed with a Q&A session where participants were granted the opportunity to address their questions directly to each of the presenters. Most of the questions addressed the enhancement of entrepreneurial mind-set in Vietnam and the benefits of a Swiss-ASEAN collaboration for start-ups.
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