Vietnam has a huge young population that is very active on internet, mobile and with highly national enthusiasm for technology, startups and entrepreneurship, and as a result, vietnamese startup ecosystem is rapidly growing in cities like Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Da Nang, aiming to become a modern industrialized state by 2020.
In order to achieve that, the national government has planned to develop a functioning national innovation system, fostering its startup ecosystem and supporting the growth of innovation via Startups and SME's. The project has set the following targets for 2020:
Complete the main legal framework for a startup ecosystem; run an online portal for the National Innovative Startup Ecosystem; support about 800 startup projects and 200 startup enterprises, of which 50 will raise follow-on investment from private venture investors or will undergo mergers and acquisitions worth about 1 trillion VND (about 50 million USD). By 2025, the project is expected to have supported 2,000 startup projects and 600 startup enterprises, of which 100 will have raised follow-on investment from private venture investors, or will have undergone mergers and acquisitions worth about 2 trillion VND.
One key actor to support these goals is the Innovation Partnership Program (IPP), that is an Official Development Assistance (ODA) program financed jointly by the Governments of Vietnam and Finland. IPP has been supporting the project draft “National Program to Support Innovative Startup Ecosystem in Vietnam by the year 2025” by working with policymakers.
One of the identified top priorities along with the national government is to get in place a solution to enhance partnering, online information sharing, matchmaking, communication and benchmarking to mention. All of this should be done in a global context reaching out international innovation and startup networks.
Problem to solve
One of the key challenges in this work is to maintain a holistic picture of the constantly developing and evolving ecosystem and measure the results of different actions and sub projects and to share these openly for the benefit of everyone in the ecosystem.
Digital online services and solutions play a key role in scaling knowledge sharing and training functions, as well as to increase reach, accessibility and transparency of many of these service functions. Several actors within the ecosystem have identified online solutions as important element to bring reach, efficiency and scale to their services and for most basic online tools, like newsletters, event management, community management, application management, CRM etc. are crucial part of their basic operations. At the same time new talent, potential innovative startups, business angels, mentors, etc. are expecting to get all relevant information online and on time.
Due there is usually no single enabling or coordinating party taking holistic responsibility of the complex digital and online aspect of the ecosystem connectivity and development, the digital aspect of the ecosystem thinking and development leds this key dimension to be overlooked, and as a result, online presence and functions remain disconnected and siloed within the ecosystem. It’s also common that this problem is usually identified only at much later stage of the ecosystem maturity. After the ecosystem thinking have already spread in other cooperative levels and cooperative activities have really started to work, as that is the natural time when the sharing of the information related to mutual coordination, connecting service processes etc. are happening. At that point the problem with disconnected services and processes starts to be identified, along with realization to start harmonizing terminology and KPI’s of similar service functions across startup development phases.
Also typically at later ecosystem maturity level, it becomes more difficult to start replacing and connecting various existing digital tools, due software limitations, software license agreements in place, wanting to use familiar tools already in use etc., than it would be to have been able to start this connectivity thinking at the earlier ecosystem maturity level.
When the online and digital tools are considered and designed with more holistic ecosystem thinking and implemented and coordinated alongside with other ecosystem enabling and development actions, it is possible to avoid facing many of the problems later on and instead use the digital side to speed up the ecosystem development - and best scenario, to help a new or early maturity ecosystem to “skip ahead” several years of development.
Startup Commons team, due to our proven international track record on startup ecosystem development, supporting tools and holistic digital ecosystem solution used by ecosystems, was selected to carry out this national pilot project.
The collaborative work for Vietnam digital ecosystem is being conducted step by step in very transparent manner to achieve consensus and solid progress within the key stakeholders of innovation ecosystems and it has been splitted into three different phases:
- Feasibility of the solution, June 2016
- Implementing and piloting the solution, July 2016
- Testing, iterating and scaling
From phase 1 in June, two weeks full of meetings, workshops and one-to-one discussions with local/national public and private players in the vietnamese ecosystem, some outcomes deserve to be highlighted:
- Overall very positive acceptance to move forward to implement piloting quickly to start seeing in real use in Vietnam context and at the same time highlighting the importance to build up long term and stable project continuing from the pilot, with strong signal for additional support was given by several key stakeholder organizations and request to move forward immediately was stated by several parties, in some cases even repeated several times.
- Many participants like the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Department Of Science And Technology (DOST) of Ho Chi Minh among others, have indicated willingness to join, support and contribute additional resources for the pilot as well as indicated their interest in implementing/connecting the digital ecosystem solution beyond the initial pilot targets
- Developing startup ecosystems is very multidimensional and involve seemingly independent but connected activities and processes as well as multiple organizations and stakeholders with varying focuses and agendas. Also as ecosystem acts as a great concept for communicating complex connections, via “ecosystem thinking” it’s easy to understand that activities like policy, services model or funding instrument aimed for specific area of the ecosystem, it may also have unintentional side effects to some other part of measure of the ecosystem elsewhere. So it’s important to have a holistic framework to help develop the ecosystem is balanced manner, to start understanding the connections, relations and impacts of various actions and policies, as well as to have a framework to communicate on what area a specific action is targeted to be able to also measure the impact of specific actions for further planning and prioritization activities.
- It is also very important to make sure national agenda is in sync with regional agendas as well as grassroots drivers with the private and public sector, in a way that all parties take care of their natural roles, there is common understanding of these roles and that each focuses on taking care of those responsibilities that naturally fit for them and that they can actually handle ie. have resources and budgets to do things, can sustain the positions needed to be sustained, can make unbiased decisions as needed, can actually make decisions required, but with enough understanding of the target impact and potential side effects. Therefore, key part alongside pilot is finding the logical ownerships at different levels so the target to move the ownership to local hands was also positively received.
As we are moving to actual pilot phase to implement digital ecosystem solution in Vietnam context, by setting up the base version with geographical scoping in Da Nang, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh ecosystems, along with Vietnam national ecosystem to showcase these local startup ecosystems and Vietnam as a whole also for further deployments, implement related communication framework and roles to support the platform at core level, define needed key operative roles needed to support the development and management of the different ecosystem functions at different levels, train and empower local teams and people to key roles to take “ownership” of the key functions, showcase how platform implementation and different development tracks can be managed to further accelerate the progress, and support in finding a good balance for PPP (Public Private Partnership) regarding the digital platform in different cities going forward. And eventually, to pass on the ownership and core responsibility of the platform the logical entity, entities or consortium to conclude the pilot phase.
The progress of the Vietnam Digital Ecosystem pilot will be followed closely on our blog.
If your city or your country has a current action plan in place to support entrepreneurship, startups, innovation and you want to enhance the use of data and evidence to improve startup supporting services, inform local decision-making and engage all key players that are part of the startup ecosystem concept, contact us and let's get started.