What kind of impact do you think TECHFEST 2015 can have on the startup ecosystem in Vietnam? How will it affect your own work?
Pham Quoc Dat: TECHFEST 2015 is a festival for technologists, entrepreneurs, startup supporting organisations based in Vietnam as well as organisations and investors from the USA, EU, Israel, Australia, Singapore and other Southeast (SE) Asian nations. Not only does this event provide an opportunity for the startup ecosystem to look back and celebrate all tech achievements, but also creates a platform for open discussions and sharing experiences to address challenges and enforce future innovative technology solutions. It will contribute significantly to the startup ecosystem with valuable insights, strategic directions as well as a national and international network. Then we can witness more successful stories of Vietnamese tech startups.
As one of the most active community builders, HATCH! PROGRAM is glad to be a co-organiser of TECHFEST 2015. The spirit and objectives of the event are aligned with our mission and strategic activities: community building, startup incubation and seed funding. We are looking forward to opportunities which this 3-day event can brings us: to work with the most promising startups and widen our network of local and international experts and other regional startup supporting organisations. This will help HATCH! to get some new insights into the market, select the most competitive startups for our incubation and funding, and also tighten our network with national and international partners.
In what ways do you support the National Agency for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Development (NATEC), the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam, in organisational matters? Are you going to be in charge of any activity during the event?
Le Viet Dat: HATCH! PROGRAM is fully in charge of developing the TECHFEST brand identity and values as well as consulting and managing the communication campaign and event logistics. We also contribute to the programme with 2 activities: a workshop on Translation of Science and Technology into a Good Business with Dr David Hardman, CEO of Birmingham Science Park, and a fireside The Missing Dots.
Could you tell a bit more about these 2 events?
Le Viet Dat: In the workshop Translation of Science and Technology into a Good Business, Dr Hardman will share his knowledge and experience in transforming science and technology into a working business model. He will present biotech as a potential direction.
During the fireside The Missing Dot, HATCH! wants to initiate an open discussion on product development. This fireside aims to raise interests and concerns from different perspectives on how to develop more competitive and innovative products in Vietnam and international markets. It will also fire up some initial practical solutions.
How would you encourage participating in TECHFEST Vietnam 2015?
Le Viet Dat: TECHFEST 2015 has been very attractive to many technology enthusiasts, therefore, there is no doubt that we will attract a thousand participants. What we are working on is to encourage a ‘real discussion’ and ‘real interaction’ in every event activity. We invited national and international renowned technologists, experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts to provide market insights and initiate a talk about the next trends and initial solutions. We will try to create a real startup atmosphere so they will be more willing to share their thoughts.
HATCH! PROGRAM has launched 3 initiatives: (1) HATCH! COACH, product development training, (2) HATCH! NEST, co-working space, and (3) HATCH! ANGEL, an angel investor network. Each project is tailored to specific needs of Vietnamese startups. What results have you already achieved?
Pham Quoc Dat: It seems that these 3 projects are separated, however, they closely support each other. Community building activities such as Coffee Talks, networking events and co-host events, HATCH! COACH, a hands-on education course, and HATCH! NEST, our co-working space, help us to build up a portfolio of startups and data for resources in Vietnam. HATCH! ANGEL will select the most promising startups to put into short term incubation and provide seed funding. Last year we successfully made one deal: after 3 months of incubation, we matched a startup working in the educational field with some angel investors. At the launch of HATCH! ANGEL last month [on 23 April – ed. note], we had one pitch in front of 25 angels.
HATCH! COACH focuses on a product development training programme which has received more than 40 applications. It has addressed directly the need for short and effective training for startups, especially when they are in the product development stage. The new course will be officially launched in early June.
HATCH! NEST is now under re-construction and expected to open for leasing and event organising in late May. Many programmes and activities of HATCH! such as HATCH! COACH will be organised at HATCH! NEST, where we can collect all resources and enforce strategic connections between startups and their supporters. It received 10 applications in just one day after an early-bird registration was announced.
HATCH! ANGEL is more ambitious. It provides what startups need exactly: seed funding. We will select the most promising startups to facilitate investment relationships with angels within our network. Once a month we will organise a pitching event to provide market insights and updates to our angels and also opportunities for 2 startups to sell their businesses.
In June there will be the 3rd edition of HATCH! COACH, product development training. Could you describe the training programme in more detail?
Le Viet Dat: HATCH! COACH aims to guide young entrepreneurs through the process of startup development with hands-on coaching. This time the training will focus more on product development: the process, techniques and the product methodology behind. During 6 weeks, teams will be guided through the main stages that a product manager should be aware of: from designing reliable experiments for market validation and iterating UX / UI design to growth hacking. They will be instructed by coaches who are well-known in the community for their expertise and successful products. They will share their know-how, guide and help teams to accelerate the development of their products. At the end of the course, they will be presented in a show case, and the most promising and committed team will receive USD 500 as initial support for the next development stage of their product.
What kind of startups usually enrol in the training?
Le Viet Dat: Each training has a specific theme based on careful market research. The participants of HATCH! COACH 3 are startup product managers, technology developers, designers and wannabe entrepreneurs who want to refine their products.
At the moment, there are 25 investors in HATCH! ANGEL. How are you going to attract more investors to your network?
Pham Quoc Dat: We have built up the angel network based on our current network and activities, especially the 2nd annual HATCH! FAIR. We have worked with a few high ‘net-worth’ individuals and invited them to join our network. Additionally, they present themselves as our representatives and supporters to refer more contacts to HATCH! and invite their friends or partners to become our angels. Besides, we also approach other potential connections by actively joining networking events and organising or co-hosting events on an international scale such as HATCH! FAIR and TECHFEST or thanks to our international partners such as the World Bank, Tigers@Mekong or Seedstars World.
There are 3 investment areas of HATCH! ANGEL’s interest: technology, education and agriculture. Special attention is given to innovations in technology. What results do you aim to achieve?
Pham Quoc Dat: This year HATCH! ANGEL aims to attract 100 applications from early-stage startups which are seeking seed funding. Each month 2 startups will be chosen to participate in a workshop and pitching event, where they will be able to sell their businesses to a board of angel investors. We expect to close 2 deals this year. HATCH! ANGEL is in a pilot year, therefore, we surely face a number of challenges and we will make the best use of all opportunities we have and our failures to prepare for the official launch of HATCH! ANGEL FUND in 2016.
What are your plans for the future?
Pham Quoc Dat: In the near future, we want to continue our work in supporting startups, not only in terms of mentorship or consultancy, but also with funding. This year HATCH! launched the pilot for HATCH! ANGEL in Hanoi, and next year we aim to come back to HCMC [Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – ed. note] with our mentoring activities and especially the investing initiative [HATCH! ANGEL FUND – ed. note].
Thank you for the interview.