Why Vietnam?  A potential AI hub in ASEAN

AI story 

When the Soviet Union launched the first human-made satellite Sputnik 1 into orbit in October 1957, it had an instant and profound effect on the American psyche and government policy. The event sparked widespread U.S. public anxiety about perceived Soviet technological superiority, with Americans following the satellite across the night sky and tuning in to Sputnik’s radio transmissions. It triggered the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), fueled major government subsidies for math and science education, and effectively launched the space race. That nationwide American mobilization bore fruit twelve years later when Neil Armstrong became the first person ever to set foot on the moon

AlphaGo scored its first high-profile victory in March 2016 during a five-game series against the legendary Korean player Lee Sedol, winning four to one. In May 2017, it continued to beat the Go champion – Ke Jie.

Machine learning—the umbrella term for the field that includes deep learning. Back in the mid-1950s, the pioneers of artificial intelligence set themselves an impossibly lofty but well-defined mission: to recreate human intelligence in a machine. That striking combination of the clarity of the goal and the complexity of the task would draw in some of the greatest minds in the emerging field of computer science: Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, and Herbert Simon

Two camps: the “rule-based” approach and the “neural networks” approach. 

Researchers in the rule-based camp (also sometimes called “symbolic systems” or “expert systems”) attempted to teach computers to think by encoding a series of logical rules: If X, then Y. This approach worked well for simple and well-defined games (“toy problems”) but fell apart when the universe of possible choices or moves expanded.

The “neural networks” camp, however, took a different approach. Instead of trying to teach the computer the rules that had been mastered by a human brain, these practitioners tried to reconstruct the human brain itself.

During the 1950s and 1960s, early versions of artificial neural networks yielded promising results and plenty of hype. But then in 1969, researchers from the rule-based camp pushed back, convincing many in the field that neural networks were unreliable and limited in their use. The neural networks approach quickly went out of fashion, and AI plunged into one of its first “winters” during the 1970s. 

Current situation of AI in Vietnam:

Since 2014, AI has been included in the list of high-tech priorities for development investment in Vietnam. The Government has assigned the Ministry of Planning and Investment to develop a “National Strategy for the 4.0 Industrial Revolution”, identifying AI as one of the breakthrough and spearhead technologies that should be prioritized to focus on key groups. books to promote development. As a result, many national-level projects have been approved with the aim of bringing innovative and breakthrough technology ideas.

(Vietnam Law & Legal Forum 2021)

Major domestic technology corporations and innovative start-ups are accelerating their investments and making solid progress in AI research and application in many new business models. FPT, a well-known information technology services company in Vietnam, recently announced it will spend VND 300 billion ($13.16 million) on AI research and development over the next five years. This enterprise has invested in related research since 2013. Up to now, it has formed a diverse ecosystem of products, solutions and platforms to help other businesses optimize their operations and improve performance improvement, serving more than 14 million terminal users.

In an effort to realize the goal of becoming a national digital transformation leader, VNPT, a state-owned telecommunications enterprise, is promoting the development of AI technologies related to smart cities and e-government. Joining hands with localities, VNPT has deployed more than 30 intelligent operation and monitoring centers (IOCs) in provinces/cities nationwide, many of which have been put into operation.

Other technology corporations like Viettel, Vingroup are also spending heavily on AI research and development. To improve research capacity, Viettel and Vingroup have pioneered investments in supercomputer technology with the ability to perform over 20 million billion calculations per second to solve complex computational problems. While Vingroup focuses on technologies that apply AI in healthcare, smart cars and self-driving cars, Viettel focuses on investing in natural language processing technologies, converting Vietnamese voice and writing with high accuracy.

But not only large corporations are racing to AI, many Vietnamese startups or Vietnamese founders are also pursuing this field. Some have made their mark in the international market like ELSA Speak or Harrison-AI. Despite a sharp decrease from the previous year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the investment capital in Vietnamese technology startups last year still reached more than 451 million USD, according to the Innovation and Public Investment Report. Technology Vietnam 2020. Many Vietnamese startups say that they have implemented or are considering implementing AI in their products in the future (Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam 2021).

However, Vietnam’s AI has not really been developed to its full potential. Although AI is becoming an inevitable trend with great potential, the development of this field in Vietnam is facing significant challenges, such as limited human resources, data accuracy and firms’ access to capital.

Application of AI in Vietnam:

In recent years, a number of corporations, as well as the Government, have developed and applied artificial intelligence (AI) in a variety of industries, including education, telecommunications, retail, healthcare, and others, and have not only gradually controlled the market but also profited handsomely. The increase in the rate of AI adoption on a per-organization basis indicates rising interest in AI among businesses and industries. As reported, over 53% of surveyed organizations have put forth approximately $20 million each to invest in AI technology (VinAI 2022).

Some popular applications of AI in Vietnam are:

  • Fintech industry. Not only banks, Fintech companies are also very interested in investing in AI applications. Most companies and startups launch AI products or have partial AI applications, showing that AI is no longer a trend but the future of the economy. Most recently, on June 30, 2021, MoMo, a digital payment startup announced the completion of the acquisition of all intellectual property rights of Pique, a provider of AI solutions. MoMo’s representative said that it will continue to recruit to triple the number of AI personnel related to data and data science, in order to transform MoMo into a truly AI-first company. 

Previously, on June 25, 2021, Monfin application using AI algorithms to analyze user information and help these users better participate in financial and insurance products was officially launched. In December 2020, Zion Joint Stock Company (owner of Zalo Pay e-wallet) developed an AI product called Kiki for smart speakers after modeling the technologies of Siri (Apple) and Alexa (Amazon), etc. Along with IoT, the collection of data sources specific to each customer will help form a complete, up-to-date picture of customer needs. customer demand. When combined with AI solutions, fintech companies can fully proactively approach these changes in customer needs through the support of virtual assistants (Chatbots). Thus, in just an extremely short amount of time, possibly in seconds, fintech companies can give advice and recommendations that best suit customers’ needs or preferences right away. at the time they need it. This means that each customer will have a unique experience and receive advice tailored to their needs as quickly as possible. In addition, AI is a great tool to rank customer records, or recognize unusual transactions to help improve security more effectively for fintech (Bankingplus 2021).

  • E-commerce industry. AI solutions help sellers create an optimal journey for each customer, from the moment they have a shopping need to the time they complete the order. At some major e-commerce platforms like Lazada, based on data collected and analyzed by an AI-integrated tool, sellers can record appropriate offers based on age, gender, region. From there, they can recommend the most suitable products, come up with a reasonable business strategy, and know when is the right time to launch a “flash sale” offer. “golden hour”… to stimulate the shopping needs of customers. Not only eliciting demand, AI also supports sellers to “close orders” quickly with the CEM – customer interaction management feature. This is a special feature that helps to classify customer files into target groups. Sellers can actively access each file directly to encourage customers to complete the order; reviews of purchased products; suggesting new products or advertising promotions at the booth… thereby increasing revenue and brand recognition. In addition, AI now has another effect that is promoting the “Diderot effect” – a term that describes the tendency of users to buy additional things to complement the product they have just purchased. Taking advantage of this effect, AI helps sellers suggest products that go with the main item, contributing to increasing sales. Mr. Joris Kroese, CEO and founder of Hatch (an enterprise specializing in providing technology solutions for e-commerce), affirmed that in the next decade, AI will continue to be an important factor determining determine success in enhancing the customer’s shopping experience; and at the same time effectively support in increasing sales for brands and retailers (VnExpress 2021a).
  • Edtech industry. Currently, many educational institutions have been applying artificial intelligence (AI) to their management, renovating teaching methods and achieving initial results. Hong Bang International University has applied AI in face and voice recognition of students to serve for attendance purposes. FPT University even implements a deeper AI application when in addition to recognizing students’ faces, taking attendance, and managing students in the dormitory, the unit is also deploying AI in grading multiple-choice exams. Even more special is the research project “virtual teacher” applying ML (Machine learning) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) in Geography that teacher Le Van Anh and student Le Viet Dung (FPT High School) just announced, surprising many people by the efficiency and integration that AI brings. The “virtual teacher” will be used through two different, but linked areas: a chatbot and a video channel. Using chatbot will help users easily find information as well as ask questions related to the lesson for chatbot, users will get accurate information, in the shortest time (ETEP Vietnam 2020). 

By applying AI in education, we expect that the future education will be tailored to each student’s needs and own capacity rather than a general model that teachers are trying to target a whole group like now (Baodautu 2021). 

  • Medical industry: Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out nearly three years ago, the application of AI in healthcare in Vietnam has become a bright spot in the AI development plan. During the pandemic, large telecommunications corporations such as Viettel and FPT developed AI-applied chatbots to automatically statisticize the epidemic situation in Vietnam in the form of a real-time map. The number of people hospitalized in isolation, the number of people being treated and recovered are also continuously updated. In addition, AI is also used in other applications such as Bluezone, NCOVI to help detect cases of infection or early contact and send it to the authorities, helping the health sector to monitor the disease and have a timely response plan (Suc khoe & Doi song 2021).

Besides the significant support of AI in dealing with the pandemic, AI is currently being applied in 4 areas: disease diagnosis, treatment, health monitoring, information management and training, according to Dr. Tran Thi Mai Oanh, Director of the Institute of Strategy, Ministry of Health (VnExpress 2021). Specifically in disease diagnosis, the VinDr system, developed by the Big Data Research Institute (VinBigData), applies AI in image diagnosis of lung diseases on chest X-ray images and breast cancer diagnosis on images, which has been tested at 3 major hospitals in Vietnam (108, Medical University; Vinmec). 115 People’s Hospital, 115 Gia An Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City and Phu Tho Provincial General Hospital are also the first 3 hospitals to apply AI in stroke diagnosis and treatment, allowing the emergency treatment to open from the previous 6 hours up to 24 hours which greatly improves the patient’s chances of survival. In short, AI applications help improve the quality and efficiency of medical examination and treatment, overcome medical risks and incidents, and reduce the load on hospitals. 

  • Tourism Industry: With the help of AI, the tourism industry also creates many attractive new products. Technology application helps tourism units reduce time, human resources and production costs, thereby reducing service costs. For example, Da Nang – a tourism hub in the central region has coordinated with the Hekate Technology JSC to develop and pilot the first automatic tourism information searching and support channel via text message conversation in Vietnam called Chatbot Danang Fantasticity. The app helps holidaymakers easily check information: famous destinations, events, weather, ATM locations, and hotlines, etc and helps turn Da Nang into the second city in Southeast Asia to apply chatbot to tourism (VietnamPlus 2022). Another interesting AI application in the tourism industry is the facial recognition technology developed by VinAI Research Institute of Artificial Intelligence. It is implemented in Vinpearl to help minimize waiting time for procedures and moving processes between internal areas (Times 2019).
  • Traffic: AI-supported traffic management projects were also initially applied in some metropolitan cities of Vietnam including Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong, etc. One of the most noticeable AI applications in traffic is the Intelligent Transport System (ITS Solution) – a technology used to solve road traffic problems, including public security monitoring, traffic jam warning, current traffic violations, vehicle traffic counting system, etc. The system was first implemented in HCMC in 2019 with 5 main functions including Controlling the traffic signal system; Monitoring traffic situation; Providing online traffic information; Coordinating in handling violations of traffic order and safety, and Simulating traffic forecasting. In addition to the ITS Solution, Ho Chi Minh City also gradually builds a BMS solution, applying AI to improve efficiency in monitoring and managing the bus/route/passenger system. This solution package uses AI technology built on the foundation of technological solutions and devices such as information display LED panels at bus stations (bSmartLED), automatically analyze data and calculate the exact time the vehicle arrives at the pick-up/drop-off point (bSmartETA), digital map (bMap), navigation device (bGPS), AI Box device to help monitor passengers and drivers vehicle (bHub) and bus mapping software for passengers (ictvietnam.vn 2021).
  • Infrastructure: The most salient infrastructure project focusing on enhancing AI research and application is the Hoa Lac hi-tech park. With the scale of 1.586 ha and a total capital of 450 million USD, this park is expected to become a science city, a place that attracts investors in the research & development field; training and incubation; manufacturing hi-tech products in the fields: Biotechnology, Information – communication technology, New material technology and Automation technology (Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park 2021).   

    Support for AI Development in Vietnam: 

In June 2021, the Prime Minister issued a national strategy on AI research, development and application until 2030. The strategy aims to “promote research, development and application of AI, making AI an important technology sector of Vietnam in the 4.0 Industrial Revolution”. Minister of Science and Technology Bui The Duy said the strategy targets that Vietnam will be among four leading countries in ASEAN and 50 nations globally in terms of AI research, development and application by 2030; build 10 prestigious AI trademarks in the region; and develop three national big data and high-performance computing centers (VietnamPlus 2021).

To promote research, development and application of AI, the Government of Vietnam has identified specific tasks and solutions to be implemented in the coming period as follows:

  • Develop and complete additional legal documents on intellectual property rights related to artificial intelligence.
  • Expanding projects to build community data in the form of the project of the Digital Vietnamese Knowledge System; connecting artificial intelligence and open science communities in Vietnam; supporting research mastery tasks, building domestic platforms for high-performance computing, cloud computing, fog computing; regularly organize activities to connect academic and research communities; professional community developing and applying artificial intelligence and data science at home and abroad.
  • Strongly deploying public-private partnership, co-financing training centers, research and development centers and artificial intelligence application centers; invest in forming a number of key research groups on artificial intelligence and data science in a number of universities and public research institutes; invest in facilities for a number of key data science and data science laboratories in universities and public research institutes; promoting the construction of a number of data science innovation centers, forming a number of Vietnamese brands in data science in the world.
  • Organizing basic research in data science, decoding technology, mastering technology, catching up with advances in data science, and initially contributing to data science method development new in a number of research institutions in mathematics and information technology; focus on investing in research and development of a number of artificial intelligence products based on data sources and specific knowledge of Vietnam; implementing a national key research program on artificial intelligence associated with graduate student training; deploying research and development of a number of important artificial intelligence product and service delivery platforms such as natural language processing, computer vision, automated processes, artificial intelligence technologies based on on data, robotics and practice vehicles, in some data-ready fields,
  • Promote the formation of open professional groups in the fields, allowing to shorten the time to complete research results; promote the sharing, sharing, openness of data, technology and application of artificial intelligence in a multi-disciplinary, interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral direction to accelerate the formation of results and improve output efficiency of research and development activities in other fields; extensive training of open platforms on data and artificial intelligence applications; promoting open source communities and forums on artificial intelligence; encourage enterprises to order research institutes and universities to research and develop specific artificial intelligence products of Vietnam.
  • Organizing events on artificial intelligence; support domestic individuals and organizations to participate in international seminars, exhibitions and competitions on artificial intelligence; participate in organizing and implementing bilateral and multilateral scientific research cooperation programs and projects on artificial intelligence; Promote the development of artificial intelligence research cooperation facilities and centers; cooperation projects on technology transfer, exploitation of inventions and industrial property rights between Vietnamese enterprises and foreign enterprises in artificial intelligence; high-quality artificial intelligence training centers and programs serving domestic and global markets; exchange of experts, researchers, students of Vietnamese organizations and enterprises with foreign research and training organizations and artificial intelligence enterprises. 

As a result of the State’s specific strategy for investing in AI, for the first time, Vietnam’s AI readiness score (51.82 out of 100) exceeds the global average (47.72). Vietnam rose 14 places last year in a global ranking for AI readiness to 62nd out of 160 countries and territories and rose one spot to sixth among ASEAN member nations (VnExpress 2022). 

Challenges:

(rubikAI & Nexus Frontier Tech 2018)

According to a research conducted by Nexus FrontierTech, rubikAI and G&H Ventures in 2018, the three biggest challenges with the development of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in Vietnam are talent shortage (59%), followed by limited data access (47%) and fundraising (35%) (rubikAI & Nexus Frontier Tech 2018).

Talent shortage. It is quite understandable because In the AI ​​race, human resources are the decisive factor. Not only Vietnamese companies compete for the best Vietnamese AI engineers and researchers, but also international corporations and the world’s leading AI companies want to take advantage of this elite force. The participation of these companies is a good sign. It has created a momentum, attracting Vietnamese AI experts and engineers from all over the world. Regular seminars with the participation of foreign experts are helping to gradually form AI communities in the country (Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam 2021).

Despite the thirst for talent in AI, the training of professional AI human resources in Vietnam is still weak and lacking. The main source of educating and providing high-quality AI human resources – Universities have claimed to encounter enormous difficulties in designing good enough Artificial Intelligence training programs. The first difficulty is the lack of lecturers – who have the experience and ability to design lectures that meet international standards with up-to-date and methodical content in both theory and practice. The second difficulty is that research groups in universities are lacking the minimal computational tools that allow them to develop and practice AI algorithms. According to Dr. Nguyen Phi Le – Executive Director of BK.AI Center under the University of Information and Communication Technology, “The AI ​​industry requires a dedicated computer and server system with GPU graphics cards worth hundreds of millions of dong, usually only large enterprises can afford to invest.” (DNHN 2021)

Although universities are accelerating, they have even signed cooperation agreements with major technology partners from Korea, Japan, the US, Australia, etc in order to open international AI research centers in Vietnam, the speed and quality of training is also considered “difficult to keep up with demand” because the number of universities that actually train well in this field is only counted. on fingertips as well as the aforementioned entry barriers to access AI in Vietnamese universities.

The lack of human resources in the AI industry is so severe that even training IT human resources, which is considered an “outside” for the development and application of new digital technologies, is still short of 100,000-200,000 people per year. According to the report of Nexus FrontierTech in 2019, Vietnam’s AI human resources currently only meet 1/10 of the market demand. In an AI talk at the end of 2020, Prof. Ho Tu Bao, an expert in research and consulting on AI implementation in Vietnam, said that in fact, the number of human resources to understand algorithms and create AI tools only accounts for 2-3%, while the majority of 70-80% are those who use that tool to apply in professional fields (finance, insurance, healthcare, information, manufacturing, manufacturing, retail, services…).

Limited data access. An important obstacle that Vietnam needs to overcome is building data and computing infrastructure. AI is a data-driven field, therefore, without good and regularly updated data, we will be at a dead end. Meanwhile, the computing infrastructure that is the “machine” for AI to run is also very important, because as the speed of AI development and application increases, the amount of computation and resources for computation must also increase accordingly.

Vietnam’s data and computing infrastructure is still in its infancy. Vietnam does not have many good quality datasets; The data is often fragmented, less connected and limited in terms of access. Talking about the AI ​​Strategy, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Bui The Duy affirmed that in order to well implement the set goals, Vietnam needs to quickly form a culture of data sharing and open access.

The Government of Vietnam’s efforts to promote data sharing and centralization have been demonstrated through the launch of the National Data Portal (data.gov.vn) to share data from ministries, sectors and localities; as well as establishing a digitized Vietnamese Knowledge System to collect data from the community, label and preprocess that data to apply for artificial intelligence.

However, for AI to be researched and applied more widely, the culture of sharing, connecting and opening needs to spread to the whole business sector. Vingroup is pioneering when opening a dataset of 18,000 X-ray images collected and labeled by reputable radiologists. Soon, they open-sourced the labeling software so that research groups or startups can quickly develop their own math problems on medical AI. According to the technology development communities, such willingness to share data is valuable and should strengthen across more areas.

Fundraising. According to the AI landscape report of rubikAI (2018), AI businesses also face many difficulties when starting a business, with 59% of companies established under 2 years and only 34% raising more than $ 200,000 in capital from outside.

Most AI companies are still in the early stages, so the scale is relatively small, accounting for 68% of companies with less than 50 employees and 70% of companies with less than 10 AI engineers. Therefore, corporations and venture capital investors are important partners that can support in terms of capital, access to big data as well as market access.

AI popular startups/companies in Vietnam:

According to Mr. Nguyen Chi Dung – Head of Ministry of Planning and Investment Vietnam, AI has strongly developed. In 2018, the AI industry increased more than 70% compared to 2017 equalling to approximately USD 200 billion. AI has the potential to become the most disruptive and breakthrough technology within the next 10 years and we need to further promote its potential (VietnamCredit 2021).  

Some of the most AI popular startups/companies in Vietnam are (Tracxn 2022; TPS 2022):

VNLIFE

VNLIFE is an omnichannel banking and distribution software solution. It provides banks with technologies that allow them to deliver digital banking services to their consumers. It implements digital banking channels, payments, and solutions for travel and retail organizations using a variety of technologies such as AI, blockchain, IoT, and big data.

FPT AI

FPT AI is a subsidiary of FPT Software, a renowned worldwide technology, outsourcing, and IT services company based in Vietnam. The FPT.AI Artificial Intelligence Platform, developed by a team of top AI developers and specialists at FPT, offers tools to assist organizations to automate repetitive and sophisticated processes, improve operations, and deliver better customer service.

Zalo AI

Zalo AI is a subsidiary of Zalo, one of Vietnam’s largest tech firms. With an emphasis on Computer Vision, Speech Processing, Natural Language Processing, and Data Mining, the company has competence in virtual assistants and data analysis. Zalo AI has a huge database of 60 million active users in Vietnam thanks to social network Zalo. This gives them a huge advantage in developing and improving AI products and services.

VinAI

VinAI Research is a renowned research institute in Vietnam, with offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Its objective is to undertake high-impact research that pushes the knowledge frontier in AI and to expedite AI applications in Vietnam, the Asia Pacific region, and beyond. It is funded by VinGroup, Vietnam’s largest corporation by capitalization.

GRDAI – VNG

GRDAI R&D Department is funded by VNG Joint Stock Company. Founded in 2018 with the purpose of creating high-applicability artificial intelligence solutions. GRDAI’s products have received numerous honors in artificial intelligence competitions such as the Vietnam AI Grand Challenge and the National Grand Finale 2019.

Casting Asia

CastingAsia Platform, CastingAsia Marketplace, and CastingAsia Engagement are the 3 primary services offered by this firm, which was founded with the goal of offering data-driven insights to influencers. It’s all about ensuring that brands and influencers can market in a smart and secure manner.

DropDeck

Drop Deck ranks and evaluates all startups using AI algorithms. It earned recognition and support from world-class AI professionals as part of the IBM Watson AI Xprize competition.

Sero.ai

Sero.ai is a crop intelligence firm that uses full-cycle data analytics to optimize rice production. Sero.ai uses mobile internet to link farmers and agricultural specialists. Using photographs, the company monitors crop health and finds pests nearly quickly.

TINYpulse

Tinypulse was built to assist firms enhance employment retention by using NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and sentiment analysis. Puget Sound magazine named the company one of the greatest places to work in 2017.

Sentifi

Sentifi, a Swiss fintech business, is a global leader in Crowd-Intelligence for financial markets. Sentifi’s big data and AI-based technology provides insightful research, allowing millions of investors to make smarter investment decisions by being better informed. Sentifi has won the Swiss FinTech Award for 2016.

Reference list

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Capture Vietnam’s investment landscape in 2021

Vietnam is expected to become the third largest startup and innovation hub in Southeast Asia, only after Singapore and Indonesia in 2022, according to the Southeast Asia Startup Ecosystem 2.0 report by Golden Gate Ventures. This projection is relevant to the current investment landscape of Vietnam when 2021 witnessed a lion’s share of capital (over $1.3 billion) poured into the startup ecosystem which is fourfold compared to the 2020’s figure. The 5 sectors that attract the most amount of funds are Fintech, E-commerce, Edtech, Medtech and SaaS. This article aims to give an overview of the Investment landscape in Vietnam, current attractive sectors, as well as what investors should expect in 2022 and the drivers of that.

I. OVERVIEW OF VIETNAM’S INVESTMENT LANDSCAPE

According to the National Agency for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Development, Vietnamese startups attracted investments of over $1.3 billion in 2021, four times the previous year’s figure.

Figure 1: Investment in Vietnam startups 2021 (Reproduced from VNExpress 2021)

Currently, there are over 3,800 startups in Vietnam’s startup ecosystem, including 4 unicorns (VNG, VNLife, MoMo, Sky Mavis), 11 valued at more than $100 million startups (Tiki, Topica Edtech…) (Nextrans 2021).

Deal by Type:

According to the Vietnam Industry Report by Nextrans 2021, the most popular deal types are Seed (42.3%), Series A (19.6%) and Pre-seed (13.4%) with capital value ranging from $500,000 to $3 million. Although higher value deals like series C, D, E only account for 4.1% of the total deal amount in 2021, they are expected to increase in 2022 showing the potential of Vietnamese startups to boom in the upcoming years.

Figure 2: Investment Deals by Type (Reproduced from Nextrans 2021)

Deals by Investor Country:

Vietnam’s start-up market is also the preferred destination for 208 active venture capital funds, of which there are nearly 40 domestic investment funds. Active funds from both local and foreign ventures in the market include VSV Capital – Nextrans, Vietnam Silicon Valley, Mekong Capital, 500 Start-up Vietnam, Vietnam Investment Group, IDG Ventures Vietnam, Do Ventures and Genesia Ventures. 

Looking at all deals recorded in 2021, it can be clearly seen that foreign venture capitals are more active than local ones with 5 most notable deals of the year 2021 (Tiki, VNLife, Momo, SkyMavis, EQuest) belong to foreign investors. The deal records also show the transition in the 3 top active countries investing in Vietnam. In 2020, Korea was ranked with the highest investment in Vietnam, followed by Singapore and Japan respectively (Do Venture 2020). However, in 2021, Singapore took the lead in investment; Korea lowered itself at 2nd position, and 3rd position belonged to Japan.

Local ventures and enterprises do have some good deals, just not as valuable as the ones made by foreign investors. 3 most notable investment deals made by local ventures or enterprises are: VNG with 22.5 mil USD of investment into Telio, Mekong Enterprise Fund IV with 10 mil USD into Rever and the third place belongs to the shared deal led by Genesia Ventures with the participation of JAFCO Asia, Trihill Capital and former Affirm (Xffirmers) senior manager Pham Le Nhat Quang, as well as from current investors including 1982 Ventures, Zone Startups Ventures and other angel investors that invested $1.8 million into Fundiin (CafeBiz 2021). 

Figure 3: Startups with biggest funding in 2021 (Reproduced from VnExpress 2021)

According to Pham Hong Quat – Head of the National Agency for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialisation Development, Vietnamese startups currently depend too much on foreign capital (VNA 2022). Data shows that investment in Vietnamese startups hit a record high of over 1.3 billion USD in 2021 and a majority of the funding came from foreign ventures. On an annual basis, only about 100 out of 3800 startups were able to raise funds. Domestic resources, though abundant, have not been unleashed, Quat said, urging that Vietnamese high-performing corporations will better engage in innovation and tech startup projects in the country. 

Deals by Industry/Sector:

In 2021, five most funded sectors are Fintech (26.6%), E-commerce (20.3%), Edtech (17.2%), Medtech (7.8%) and SaaS (6.3%). By number of deals, Fintech is the leading industry with 26,6% of total deal count belonging to Fintech sectors like digital payment, personal finance, POS, SMEs financing,… as well as having 2 out of 4 current unicorns in the Fintech field.

Figure 4: Investment Deals by Industries 2021 (Reproduced from Nextrans 2021)

II. OVERVIEW OF LEADING SECTORS IN 2021 

According to a report by Nextrans (2021), with the investment landscape of 2021, it can be observed that the 5 most dominant and leading sectors of the whole economy are Fintech, E-commerce, Edtech. Healthcare and Software as a service (Saas). If you want to know more about each segment including the Market overview, Current players in the segment, Opportunities and Challenges faced by each segment, etc, you can read the series of Why Vietnam articles published on InnoLab Asia

Fintech

Growth drivers for the Fintech sector are: a large percentage of potential tech savvy users, a positive start-up investment and community, an increasingly supportive legal framework, and a strong enabling environment. Besides, Fintech also benefits from the growth of retail or E-commerce when consumers begin to favor digital payments (Google, Temasek & Bain 2021).

Market overview

  • Compared to other SEA nations, in 2021, Vietnam ranked 3rd (11%) in total deal value and ranked 4th in deal count. From only 39 startups in 2015, the number increased substantially to up to more than 150 companies in 2021, which shows the potential of the field. 
  • Digital payment segment still accounts for the largest share in the Fintech sector. However, P2P lending and Crypto/Blockchain are the two rising stars with the strongest growth. 
  • 3 most notable startup deals in the Fintech segment are Momo, VNPAY, Infina.

E-commerce

Growth drivers for the Fintech sector are the fast-growing internet economy, increased online purchases, and favorable government legislation. COVID-19 pandemic is the accelerator for this expansion of E-commerce. 

Market overview

  • In ASEAN, Vietnam is amongst the top three countries for highest retail growth, behind only Indonesia. The e-commerce sales of Vietnam is predicted to expand by 80% year over year and fivefold in the next 5 years. Vietnam also has the largest expected growth in online retail GMV among Southeast Asian countries, at 4.5x between 2021 and 2026, while total SEA GMV is expected to quadruple in the following 5 years.
  • B2C is a concentrated segment with 86% belonging to 3 top E-commerce platforms: Shopee, Lazada and Tiki. Hence, the B2B market emerges as a more potential market to enter for most startups (including 2 of the 3 most notable deals – Telio and Kilo)
  • 3 most notable startup deals in the E-commerce industry are Tiki, Telio and Kilo.

Edtech

Growth drivers for Edtech are: a rapidly growing young middle class, a high priority for education, and the proactiveness of the Government in attracting foreign investment. COVID-19 pandemic is the accelerator for this expansion of Edtech. 

Market Overview

  • Young middle class: There are 24 million pupils and students in Vietnam, more than 90% of these use mobile phones, computers, or laptops to study and quickly catch up with new technology trends. Besides, the young labor force always actively reskill and upskill themselves in order to meet the requirements of the job market. 
  • High priority for education: According to Bain & Company, the average Vietnamese family spends about 20% of their  disposable income on education for their children, compared with 6-15% in other Southeast Asian countries. 
  • Proactiveness of the Government: The Vietnamese government also supports Edtech with a long-term orientation for education: In July 2021, the Vietnamese government set a target of bringing online training to 90% of universities and 80% of high schools and vocational institutions by 2030.
  • 4 segments in Edtech are: content (pre-recorded lessons in the form of videos or exam banks); live-class (online class with a teacher, can be one-on-one or in groups); OMO (model online combined offline); B2B (process management solution for schools or educational institutions). In the first stage, Vietnam’s edtech market started from content and is starting to move into the live-class segment (Bao Dau Tu 2021). According to statistics of Tracxn 2019 organization, there are currently 109 startup organizations operating in the Edtech market with different segmented objects in Vietnam.
  • 3 most notable startup deals in the EdTech sector are EQuest, ELSA, and Coderschool. (Dan Tri 2021)

Medtech

Although currently being at the early stage of development, we could certainly expect a leapfrogging pace of growth for Medtech in the near future. Growth drivers for Medtech are: rapid change in  demand for healthcare services, positive support from the Government and the outstanding impacts technology could bring in to alleviate current problems in conventional healthcare markets.

Market Overview:

  • Health expenditure in Vietnam amounted to $15.4 billion in 2020, equivalent to 5.7% of total GDP in which the public sector plays a prominent role regarding both overall healthcare expenditure (accounting for 56.7% in 2020) and the scale of infrastructure.
  • Healthcare startups are gradually becoming a topic of interest and priority, especially for the Digital Health market. 4 main segments within the Medtech industry are: Health Information Technology, Telemedicine, Consumer Health Electronics, and Healthcare Big Data & AI-based products and services. Currently, these areas are in the early stages of development.
  • 3 most notable startup deals in the Medtech sector are BuyMed, eDoctor, and Med247.

SaaS

Growth drivers for SaaS are the long-term strategic direction of the Government, a favorable legal corridor, positive indicators for the digital economy, and most importantly a change in the perception of businesses about the urgency of digital transformation, making it definitely become one of the most attractive areas for investors in 2022.

Market Overview

  • From little awareness of Saas (Software as a service) in 2019, from 2020 until now, the COVID-19 has triggered a significant increase in the attention of investors for the SaaS sector in Vietnam as the demand for digital transformation rises.
  • Factors contributing to SaaS growth are the needs for Work-from-home/safety measures, the needs for digital application in business operations. Additionally, favorable conditions to promote the digital transformation are created by the Vietnam Government, notably the National Digital Transformation Program by 2025 with an orientation towards 2030. 
  • There are 474 SaaS startups in Vietnam, and 2 most notable startup deals in the SaaS sector are Bizzi, and EI Industrial. Other “highlight” SaaS platforms are Base.vn – acquired by FPT and SlimCRM – the top finalists of software solutions in the category of Best SaaS Product for Small Business/SMEs.

In 2022, it is expected that the five above industries will continue to catch investors’ attention in Vietnam, including Fintech, E-commerce, Edtech, Medtech and SaaS. For investors looking for a bigger investment picture in SEA’s economy in 2021, 5 leading sectors are E-commerce, Online media, Online travel, Transport & Food and Financial service in addition to 2 nascent sectors that have accelerated rapidly due to COVID-19 including Edtech and Medtech (Google, Temasek and Bain & Co. 2021)

III. DRIVERS FOR VIETNAM’S STARTUP ECOSYSTEM

The drivers of Vietnam’s emergence as a startup hub in Southeast Asia come from the consumers of Vietnam – a developing country and from the startups and investors themselves. These include:

FROM THE CONSUMERS:

  • Rising consumer spending on essential goods like food, health, etc. and online-buying: Consumer Price Index 2020 – 168.6 (2010=100) (The World Bank Data n.d.). In Vietnam, according to the 2021 E-Commerce White Paper, the percentage of Internet users participating in online shopping has increased from 77% in 2019 to 88% in 2020.
  • A young intellectual population: Vietnam is in the period of a golden population with a large workforce, rapidly absorbing the world’s development progress, however, the population aging rate increases and the population (State Management Review 2020). Specifically, the labor force aged 15 and over is 50.5 million people –  Employees aged 15 and over are 49 million people (General Statistics Office of Vietnam 2021). In terms of age group, the youth group in the age group of 25-30 years old always accounted for the highest proportion and increased fastest (41.4% in 2015 to 45.0% in 2018). While the group of young people aged 20-24 years old tended to decrease slightly in the period 2015 – 2018 (35.6% in 2015 to 32.7% in 2018), the group of young people aged 16-19 tended to decrease. a strong downward trend (23.0% in 2015 to 22.3% in 2018). 
  • High internet coverage: There are 68.72 million internet users in Vietnam, and 154.4 million mobile connections in Vietnam in January 2021 (Datareportal 2021). Internet penetration in Vietnam reached 70.3%. Remarkably, the 4G network has covered 99.8% of the country. Meanwhile, the 5G network has been commercially tested by Viettel, VNPT and MobiFone operators in 16 provinces and cities, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Bac Ninh, Bac Giang, Binh Phuoc, Da Nang, Thua Thien Hue, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Vinh Phuc, Dong Nai, Thai Nguyen, Can Tho, Binh Duong, Ben Tre, Ba Ria – Vung Tau. Vietnam aims to commercialize 5G by 2022, promote smartphone use and reduce the number of 2G phones to less than 5% (VNExpress 2021).

FROM THE STARTUP ECOSYSTEM:

  • Revenue growth in digital sectors such as Fintech and E-commerce
  • Increasing interest from foreign investment funds – particularly Japanese, Singaporean, and South Korean VC funds – and targeted government support.

Also, with the clear economy strategy from the Government, it is expected to see a prospected increase in the amount of money invested in Vietnam in 2022

In the last months of 2021, the socio-economic situation continues to have many positive changes, the economy prospers clearly, strengthening the confidence of people, businesses, friends and international partners. According to the resolution of the National Assembly, the Government has set tasks for 2022, in which the GDP growth rate should reach 6-6.5%; GDP per capita reached 3,900 USD; disbursing 100% of the public investment capital plan… National and international economic experts assessed that this task is completely feasible. Vietnam is among the countries with the highest vaccine coverage in the world. In addition, there is a policy of safe, flexible adaptation and effective disease control. These are considered important foundations for a quick economic recovery.

Forecasting Vietnam’s economic growth in 2022, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecasts at 6.5%. ADB believes that exports will continue to be a growth engine with effective use of free trade agreements. Meanwhile, London-based HSBC said that Vietnam’s economy could regain its GDP growth rate of 6.8% in 2022, mainly thanks to strong foreign investment again, focusing much into the field of green production and development.

Thanks to the resilience towards disturbance, sustained growth even in difficult times, promising economic recovery prospects, and the favorable consumption patterns, the amount of money invested is expected to grow in 2022 from both local and foreign investors.

REFERENCE LIST

Bao Dau Tu 2021, Lĩnh vực công nghệ giáo dục (edtech): Chờ ngày ‘cất cánh’, baodautu, viewed 8 March 2022, <https://baodautu.vn/linh-vuc-cong-nghe-giao-duc-edtech-cho-ngay-cat-canh-d152289.html>

CafeBiz 2021, Startup ‘mua ngay, trả sau’ Fundiin huy động thành công 1,8 triệu USD ở vòng hạt giống được dẫn dắt bởi Genesia Ventures, cafebiz.vn, viewed 21 March 2022, <https://cafebiz.vn/startup-mua-ngay-tra-sau-fundiin-huy-dong-thanh-cong-18-trieu-usd-o-vong-hat-giong-duoc-dan-dat-boi-genesia-ventures-20210913223843168.chn>. 

Dantri 2021, Nhiều startup công nghệ giáo dục Việt ‘hút’ mạnh vốn đầu tư, Báo điện tử Dân Trí, viewed 13 February 2022, <https://dantri.com.vn/kinh-doanh/nhieu-startup-cong-nghe-giao-duc-viet-hut-manh-von-dau-tu-20211004080809726.htm>.

Datareportal 2021, Digital in Vietnam: All the Statistics You Need in 2021, DataReportal – Global Digital Insights, viewed 13 February 2022, <https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-vietnam#:~:text=There%20were%2068.72%20million%20internet>.

Do Ventures 2021, Vietnam Innovation & Tech Investment Report 2020, viewed 2 October 2022, <https://doventures.vc/assets/uploads/reports/download/vietnam-innovation-and-tech-investment-report-fy2020-1624893687.pdf>.

General Statistics Office of Vietnam 2021, Press conference to announce socio-economic statistics in the fourth quarter and 2021, General Statistics Office of Vietnam, viewed 14 February 2022, <https://www.gso.gov.vn/en/data-and-statistics/2022/01/press-conference-to-announce-socio-economic-statistics-in-the-fourth-quarter-and-2021/>.

Golden Gate Ventures 2021, SEA Startup Ecosystem 2.0, Golden Gate Ventures.

Google, Temasek and Bain & Company 2021, e-Conomy SEA 2021 report: Roaring 20s: the SEA Digital Decade, services.google.com, viewed 14 March 2022, <https://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/e_conomy_sea_2021_report.pdf>. 

Government Electronic Newspaper 2021, ‘Chuyển Đổi Số Quốc Gia Năm 2022: Quyết Tâm Thực Hiện Các Nhiệm Vụ Để Tạo Bước Đột Phá’, baochinhphu.vn, 10 December, viewed 10 February 2022, <https://baochinhphu.vn/chuyen-doi-so-quoc-gia-nam-2022-quyet-tam-thuc-hien-cac-nhiem-vu-de-tao-buoc-dot-pha-102305326.htm>.

MPI 2021, ‘Ministry of Planning and Investment Portal’, www.mpi.gov.vn, viewed 9 February 2022, <https://www.mpi.gov.vn/en/Pages/tinbai.aspx?idTin=52018>.

Nextrans Vietnam 2021, Vietnam Industry Report 2021, Nextrans Vietnam.

State Management Review 2020, ‘Dân số trong độ tuổi thanh niên ở Việt Nam – Những vấn đề đặt ra’, Quanlynhanuoc.vn, viewed 10 February 2022, <https://www.quanlynhanuoc.vn/2020/12/22/dan-so-trong-do-tuoi-thanh-nien-o-viet-nam-nhung-van-de-dat-ra>.

TopDev 2020, Thị trường cung cấp dịch vụ SaaS 2020 |Báo cáo Landscape 2020, TopDev, viewed 13 February 2022, <https://topdev.vn/blog/thi-truong-cung-cap-dich-vu-saas-landscape-2020/>.

TechFest Vietnam 2021, SlimCRM lọt top các giải pháp tại chung kết SaaS Awards 2021, techfest.vn, viewed 13 February 2022, <https://techfest.vn/tin-tuc/slimcrm-lot-top-cac-giai-phap-tai-chung-ket-saas-awards-2021>.

The World Bank Data n.d., Consumer price index (2010 = 100) – Vietnam | Data, data.worldbank.org, viewed 14 February 2022, <https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/FP.CPI.TOTL?end=2020&locations=VN&start=2018&view=chart>.

VNExpress 2021, ‘Vietnamese startups draw $1.3 bln worth of investments in 2021 – VnExpress International’, VnExpress International, 31 December, viewed 10 February 2022, <https://e.vnexpress.net/news/business/data-speaks/vietnamese-startups-draw-1-3-bln-worth-of-investments-in-2021-4410036.html>.

VNA 2022, ‘Domestic Firms Urged to Engage More in Vietnamese Startups | Business | Vietnam+ (VietnamPlus)’, VietnamPlus, 11 January, viewed 10 February 2022, <https://en.vietnamplus.vn/domestic-firms-urged-to-engage-more-in-vietnamese-startups/220513.vnp>.

The Discipline of Innovation

 

“How much of innovation is inspiration, and how much is hard work?” – simple yet deep wondering raised by Peter Drucker questions innovation mechanism. Given the extraordinary importance of innovation in both business and society, it is worth knowing factors that CREATE and SUSTAIN innovation. How to make your innovation progress and develop to its full potential? Can innovation be managed like other corporate functions? Is there any magic formula for innovation’s success? This article will help you better apprehend the concept of innovation, its characteristics, where to find it, and how to make innovation become INNOVATION.

Innovation and its fundamental definition:

Changes are imperative, and thus innovation inevitably becomes a hype among enterprises globally. However, without genuine comprehension of innovation and initiatives behind it, most companies fail to complete their innovation journey. Therefore, it is compulsory to know WHAT innovation really is, and Why innovation? 

Basically, innovation derives from original solutions that are developed to meet new requirements or unanticipated needs. Innovation is not invention, instead, it is the combination between invention and commercialization. Products or services are only considered as innovation when they show practical application in reality, and are welcomed by the market. Most people think of innovation as something massive, novel and spontaneous. Biologist Francesco Redi once said every living thing came from a living thing which applies quite well in the innovation context. “How can you think of this? It’s so simple!” – no glamor or fancy, innovation gives people the “WOW” moments in its normality. It can be new ways of business models and money streams, new systems of products and services, or even new customer engagement. Besides, the innovation must demonstrate high sustainability and ability to return its weighted cost of capital (Keeley et al. 2013).

Not only does innovation help companies maintain their growth in economic downturns, it also keeps companies relevant in the dynamic market. In other words, innovation is the key to survival and resilience of one company to attract better suppliers, ideal investors, and loyal customers as well as employees. The three most common metrics for innovation evaluation are:

  1. The number of patents and patent citations owned by a company.
  2. The number of distinct products offered by a company.
  3. The frequency of new product releases.

Sources of Innovation:

“In business,innovation rarely springs from a flash of inspiration. It arises from a cold-eyed analysis of seven kinds of opportunities”. – Peter F.Drucker (1985)

Genius and Luck are two designated labels for innovation. However, innovation, especially the successful ones, are the results of an empirical, intentional, and conscious search for innovation opportunities. In his article, Peter Drucker mentioned the seven sources of innovation worth noticing:

Within a company or Industry (Internal source):

  • Unexpected Occurrence is the  easiest, simplest, and productive source of innovation opportunities. It can arise from a surprising success of failure, but is commonly dismissed, disregarded and resentful. Particularly, it is the art of seeing potentially in the unexpected. Originally created by a pharmacist as a headache and anxiety treatment, Coca Cola has now positioned itself as the world’s most popular soda.
  • Incongruities is another source of innovations resulting from resolving inconsistencies within a system or situation. They happen within the logic or process’s rhythm, between economic realities, between expectations and results. The Scott Spreader, which allows homeowners to apply fertilizer evenly is an example of exploiting this incongruity. Or Edward Jones Company – a financial services business takes advantage of larger Wall Street corporations’ misperceptions about consumer values. Jones recognized a market sector, farmers and individuals about to retire, as having a desire for solid investment before retirement, as opposed to the frequent stock trader that Wall Street corporations concentrated on. 
  • Process needs is the type of process perfection or a procedure reworking via supply of a missing link which also creates innovationInnovations. It identifies the company/industry process’s weak spots to improvise and enhance productivity. The creation of the ATM (automated teller machine) and, more recently, web-based and Internet banking solutions allows customers to independently do their banking without reliance on tellers’ presence.
  • Industry and market changes can fuel innovation as well. The overnight changes offer tremendous opportunities for innovation, and require agility from businesses. Due to the extended lockdowns in COVID-19 pandemic, companies now move towards hybrid or fully-online working, which results in the rising users in Employee Management Software or online working tools. 

Social and Intellectual Environment (External source):

  • Demographic changes allow innovation stemming from trends in population’s composition. It is considered as the most reliable source among 3 external sources with known lead times. For instance, prepared meals and takeout food are developed  to meet the demands of busy two-income families and single-parent families.
  • Changes in perception opens another opportunity for innovation which results from change in customers’ perspective and opinion. The facts are not altered, but their meanings change very quickly. Concerning minimization of social interactions amidst COVID-19 pandemic, customers opt for online shopping and cashless payments thanks to their safety and convenience. E-wallets and digital banking together with booming e-commerce, unsurprisingly, have seen exponential jumps in popularity. The majority of online and physical retailers now accept digital payments using smartphone applications. VNPay, Momo, and ShopeePay are among the most prominent participants in this fast developing market of Vietnam.
  • New knowledge is among history-making innovations which are based on new knowledge whether scientific, technical, or social–rank high. As commented by Peter Drucker: “Knowledge-based innovation can be temperamental, capricious, and hard to direct”. Therefore, this kind of innovation requires combinations of different knowledge, not one only 

Disciplines of Innovation: 

“Innovation requires knowledge, ingenuity, and, above all else, focus.” – Peter Drucker

The winner is not the one with the brightest mind or exquisite skills; instead, people who know the rules are the game’s winner. Innovative, disruptive and gigantic as the ideas may be, they can only be truly successful with clear strategies and, most importantly, disciplines. These are the disciplines of innovation that should be borne in mind:

  • Purposeful and systematic innovation starts from considerate analysis of the new opportunities sources. Knowing WHERE to innovate is as important as knowing HOW to innovate. Being agile and responsive to changes, especially loopholes, can help innovators capture the right moment to develop their innovation.
  • Innovation requires activation of all senses due to its conceptuality and perceptuality. Hence, look, observe, ask and listen should be done by would-be innovators, along with using both the brain’s right and left sides. Innovators must conduct analytical research to figure out the needs  of innovation to satisfy an opportunity, then navigate potential users to study their expectations, their values, and their needs.
  • Simplicity is an essential element that contributes to innovation. Only with transparency and confusion-free will people be ready to receive your products/services. Inevitably, the greatest praise an innovation can receive is for people to say, “This is obvious! Why didn’t I think of it? It’s so simple!” Even innovation accounting for disruptions should be guided toward a definite, unambiguous, and well-planned application for the consumers and market.
  • Focus is the prerequisite of innovation success. Talent, Ingenuity and Knowledge can accelerate initial stages like ideation. However, in execution stages, hard, focused and goal-oriented work allows innovation to be alive and become reality. Therefore, without diligence, persistence and commitment, the genius factors would be in vain.

Culture first, then innovate

“In order to get sustainable innovations and make the organization better, you do need to focus on mindset and culture. Organizational culture is not something to be dealt with when everything else is done, but it is a foundation of everything. It is about how organization’s people interact and work,” says Emilia Saarelainen, Innovation Fellowship Program Manager (UNHCR 2016).

To set the foundation for innovation, an innovation space must be invented via:

  1. Create a culture of innovation.
  2. Create novel solutions in partnership with the company.
  3. Acquire, collaborate with, cross-partnership or invest in innovative technology.

All three actions are required, but they must be completed in order to be successful, where culture is the base of that success. Notwithstanding its desirability and leaders’ affirmation to full understanding, innovation culture is undeniably difficult to develop and sustain. How can practices that appear to be universally loved—even enjoyable—be so difficult to implement? (Pisano 2019). As stated by Jesse Nieminen (2020), a strong innovation culture is the engine that propels the organization to continually improve, progress, and innovate.

Since innovation culture is a “by-product of broader business decisions” (Quirk & Reinmuller n.d.), leadership plays an imperative role in igniting cultural change and encouraging long-term flourishment. Statistics show that leadership decisions, guidance, and modeled behaviors account for 70% of the effect on culture, with the other 30% driven by aspects such as training and engagement initiatives.  Moreover, reasons behind malfunctioned innovation culture mainly results from the lack of effort and support, especially top leadership as demonstrated by the graph below (Nieminen 2020).

What is the business now  – and what must the business be in the future in order to remain relevant? By explicitly answering these two questions, will the companies/organizations be able to align its actions with goal achievements, and thus the cultural changes move forward in sync. Changes are frightening, if not annoying at least. Revolutionary as it may sound, cultural changes start with individual rather than large-scale behavioral patterns. Small changes make a big difference where the employees’ hearts and minds are connected with the business transformation movement. To integrate innovation into the company’s DNA, leaders must:

Figure 1: Challenges to Innovation (Nieminen 2020)

  • Clear communication plans for goals and expectations: Make it clear that change is an opportunity, not a hindrance. Innovation provides chances for growth, alleviates pain points, and allows people to focus on the most essential aspects of their jobs.
  • Build capacity: employees must be sufficiently provided with tools and space for creativity both mentally and physically. Allocation of time and expense for training programs and creation of judgment-free space welcoming new ideas are essential for nurturing innovation capabilities. Based on companies’ conditions, innovation methods can exist in diverse forms, from innovation labs, special cross-functional teams working on innovation projects to internal competitions like hackathons, incubators, etc.
  • Allow failures and encouragement: Resistance to changes mostly comes from fear of failures. Remind employees that mistakes make improvements, which then leads to success. Therefore, it is compulsory to notice the direct message is directly from the CEO or top leaders, so that employees are eligible to be innovative. Pushes for innovation must also be included such as Innovation KPIs, rewarding processes, and the impacts of innovative thinking via empirical outcomes and accomplishments.
  • Build Credibility: Credibility and trust are the starting point for everything. Instead of tasks with deadlines, changes are a progress, and progress takes time. Slow or fast depends on the level of credibility earned from employees. People only believe what they see. Hence, all-level of company leadership must present themselves as the role models that visibly pioneer for changes and keep up with what they have communicated – “walk the talk”.

Innovation is commonly interchanged with riskiness, failure embracement, and collaboration, which are only one side of the story. These characteristics are often misunderstood in innovation culture according to Pisano, which must be “counterbalanced with some tougher and frankly less fun behaviors”:

  • A tolerance for failure, not an intolerance for incompetence: Failures can offer valuable lessons to move forward, and contributes significantly to final success. However, failures can be the consequences of ill-built designs, errorious analysis, suficit of transparency and bad management. The harsh truth is that useful failures demand extremely competent people as exemplified by Google’s encouragement towards riskiness given its highly qualified employees. Clear distinguishment between productive and unproductive failures are essential for leaders to articulate. Productive failures result in learning in relation to their expenses, while unproductive failures degrade time, efforts and money. Celebrate learnings extracted from failures, not failures.
  • A willingness to experiment accompanies rigorous discipline: Creativity is messy, thus it needs disciplines. Experiments only bring value if they are conducted consciously, not recklessly. Discipline-oriented cultures set clear standards for each decision involving continuing, modifying, or abolishing an idea, not to mention the dare to face with real facts and admittance. Thanks to those, companies improve their decision-making power, and move fast yet carefully in every step.
  • Psychological safety with comfort in brutal candor: Openness to ideas requires openness to feedback and harsh criticisms. Good and highly competent employees have the dare to point out loopholes in perfectness. Ideas need to be “beautified”, and the most optimal ways are to receive comments from others devoid of subjectiveness and biases. Organizations with candid debate is not considered as a comfortable working place, but it proves to be more effective than the nice ones. To develop constructive feedback and growth-mindset in employees, leaders must set their own behaviors via the willingness to constructively criticize others’ ideas without being abrasive or offensive. One method to promote this sort of culture is to require criticism of their own ideas and plans.
  • Collaboration along with individual accountability: Harmonious collaboration between teams accounts for a healthy working environment, where everyone grows together. Nevertheless, collaboration should not be confused with consensus since it harms rapid decision-making process and navigation of perplexing problems related to transformational innovation. Individuals must be accountable and responsible for their suggestions/opinions, instead of following the crowd. 
  • Flatness yet strong leadership: Flatten structure nurtures the ideas flow and respect among employees and top levels. Regardless of these open features, flat organizations means stronger leadership than hierarchical ones. For its autonomy, flat organizations can lead to chaos without clear strategic priorities and directions. Senior leaders must be able to convey appealing big-picture concerns while still being knowledgeable and competent with technical and operational challenges. Meanwhile, employees must have their leadership capabilities developed, being proactive to actions and accountable for them.

Besides capital, resources and strategies, spirit is the element keeping innovation alive. Only with readiness to changes from employees – the core assets without depreciation of companies, will larger changes like business model innovation, new markets and customer segments, or new customers propositions.are embraced and progressed. Most importantly, it is crucial to remember that innovative cultures are paradoxical, and attempts to truly establish an innovative culture are based considerably on the art of managing those paradoxes.

Reference List:

  1. Drucker, PF 2015, ‘The Discipline of Innovation’, Harvard Business Review, 16 July, viewed 1 March 2022, <https://hbr.org/2002/08/the-discipline-of-innovation>.
  2. Nieminen, J 2020, Innovation Culture – The Ultimate Guide, Viima, viewed 1 March 2022, <https://www.viima.com/blog/innovation-culture#why>.
  3. Pisano, G 2019, The Hard Truth about Innovative Cultures, Harvard Business Review, viewed 10 February 2022, <https://hbr.org/2019/01/the-hard-truth-about-innovative-cultures>.
  4. Quirk, S & Reinmuller, J 2018, Building an innovation culture – KPMG Global, KPMG, viewed 1 March 2022, <https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2018/06/building-an-innovation-culture-fs.html>.
  5. UNHCR 2017, Why innovation starts with the right mindset, UNHCR Innovation, viewed 6 March 2022, <https://www.unhcr.org/innovation/beyond-the-fellowship-why-innovation-starts-with-the-right-mindset/>.

How to build a successful corporate accelerator & why we should do it during pandemic

Before 2010, the “corporate accelerator” term did not exist; however, eight years later, over 120 corporate accelerators had been run by my corporations. Some corporate accelerators have been very successful such as the Disney Accelerator, whose 2014 batch of startups were all able to either raise additional funding (up to a total of 104 million USD) or were acquired post-program. 

Therefore, many entrepreneurs are curious about what a corporate accelerator is and how to run it successfully. As a mentor/entrepreneur, I do my best to explain based on my experience and research.

 

Why do we need to run a corporate accelerator?

 

Before diving deeper into the corporate accelerator’s concept, let’s ask yourself why you should incorporate it into your company, especially amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. Apparently, the COVID-19 outbreak stands as a test of business’s resilience towards shocks as well as uncertainty. Despite the negative impacts resulting from the outbreak, it does give us an opportunity to slow down for genuine reflection, and reevaluation of our system in the most objective ways. Hardly do we have enough time to recognize our drawbacks and be willing to improvise or learn novel things in the pre-pandemic period. Thus, this is an ideal time for us to focus on ourselves, our businesses and our lifelong pursuit of knowledge. “Fire proves gold, adversity proves men” – only in difficulty do our creativity fully unleash its potential. Rather than merely plan A, lockdown situations require businesses to come up with diverse alternatives, thinking differently then acting flexibly. No more hesitation, the COVID-19 ignites within us the reasons to adopt corporate accelerators for corporates’ better sustainability and innovation process. 

 

Concerning broader terms, corporate accelerators assist startups/corporates A.C.E speed and technology leverage in the long run:

  • A stands for  Accelerating key strategic projects innovatively
  • C  stands for Constructing internal capabilities for innovation in new situations
  • E stands for Experimental playground within organization’s framework and Entrepreneurial mindset

Given future benefits and promising capacities, the corporate accelerator program proves to be an answer to address the COVID-19 related dilemmas along with an open door to prolific development not only in the future but also in the present.

 

What is Accelerator?

For clarification, the term “Accelerator” is divided into two categories: Startups Accelerator and Corporate Accelerator. As defined by Hathaway (2016), Startups Accelerator is regarded as a cohort-based program with the primary purpose of supporting startups in accelerating their development and growth. Once engaged in the program, startups are offered with a package of benefits including mentorship, education, office space, networking , and access to full resources facilitating their growth. 

Figure 1: The Y-Combinator ( Deloitte Digital 2015)

 

On the other hand, the corporate accelerator focuses on acceleration programs sponsored by established firms, which initiates outside-in open innovation. Those initiatives seek to facilitate firms’ access to startups’ innovative ideas and mindsets (Chesbrough 2003; Weiblen and Chesbrough 2015). There also exists a difference between the objectives of two accelerator’s type. While the startup accelerator aims towards learning and experiences for potential startups leaders, corporate accelerators speed up commercialization of startup’s innovation. Therefore, the common traits of these accelerator programs differ in several aspects as shown in the comparison table:

 

Startups Accelerator  Corporate Accelerator
Application Competitive application process An open competitive application process 
Selection Focus on founding TEAMS Select a group of startups
Period Time-bound support
Operation Cohort or classes of Startups (not rolling acceptance) Significant investment ($25,000 on average) and small equity stake and end with demo day

 

Case study of Corporate Accelerator:

 

Orange ((Mahmoud-Jouini, Duvert & Esquirol 2018):

 

Considered as one of the world’s leading telecommunication operators, Orange holds a large stake in the Africa-Middle East region. Its R&D center is mainly located in France, along with eight others around the globe. In just three years, Orange has operated 12 corporate accelerators in 12 countries and worked with 227 startups, with an average of 5 or 6 startups per cohort. These substantial efforts lead to 26 partnerships accompanied with prolific sources of innovation. 

 

Before activating the program, Orange has set a clear objective in its direction which creates connections with each startup for product/service development or even solutions as value generation for Orange. Nevertheless, two main hindrances in accomplishing the set goal are startups attraction and access insurance to compulsory internal resources. Overall, the key main challenge can be solidified as differentiation achievement while keeping costs under control and minimizing disruptions to the corporate routines that generate current revenues.

 

Soon after problem identification, solutions are proposed to overcome these challenges. To stir the interests in startups, Orange has to committedly develop a specific process to serve relationship management between the corporation and the startups. In response to the shortage of resources, a differentiated value proposition is designed depended on the corporation’s specific resources and assets. Both attributes earn Orange the capabilities to leverage the firm’s resources at either local or global scale. 

 

IKEA (Stackpole 2021)): 

 

In the case of IKEA, one of the world’s most renowned retail brands, the change of digitalisation encounters the “challenge of remaining fundamentally the same company while doing almost everything differently” as stated by Barbara Martin Coppola, CDO at IKEA Retail (Stackpole 2021). Thanks to digital transformation, the ecommerce levels witnessed triple upsurge within 3 years. To turn IKEA’s stores into fulfilment centers, changes are compulsory for the goods flow, the supply mechanisms and the floorpans. IKEA takes digital transformation far beyond its technological usage, instead, Digital should be embedded in every aspect of IKEA, from making decisions to  managing the company. Equipped with digitalisation, IKEA proves better flexibility in time frame, effective data utilization and resilience towards COVID-19 pandemic’s uncertainties.

 

Relevance also stands as a need for IKEA as they try hard to evolve with the ever-changing needs of our customers. The process comprises assessing customers’ needs and adaption, adjusting business models which require considerable effort from many layers of the company. Significant increase in the strategy’s scope has been experienced due to the realization of comprehensive digital incorporation into everything. Despite the drastic modifications, IKEA’s DNA remains intact as the goal is solely “reinventing IKEA for the future”. Acknowledgement  of human-centric technology and culture appreciation allow IKEA to solve the equity and trust issues in the digital environment, especially for a company to be invited to people’s homes

How to build a successful corporate accelerator?

Every great success comes with careful preparation; thus it is a must for accelerators to be clear and well-prepared in the first place. Usually, 3-month-period presents as a sufficient amount of time for preparation with the following suggestions:

 

  •  Strategy agenda and Program Design

 

As mentioned in the case of Orange, Value proposition can be regarded as a tool attracting top Startups to participate in the program. The 4 most common compelling reasons are equity-free funding, industry-focused mentors, corporate resources, and customer base. From there, criterias or standards must be formed which take into consideration the type of industry, company maturity, valid customer profiles and class size. For instance, Johnson and Johnson’s (J&J) network of accelerators creates a global footprint to work with innovators across the industry. Their goal is “empowering innovators across a broad healthcare spectrum including pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer, and health tech sectors to create and accelerate the delivery of life-saving, life-enhancing health and wellness solutions to patients around the world.” This broad approach includes a series of venture accelerators and co-working incubation spaces designed to generate market intelligence.

 

At this stage, strategizers play an essential role in visionary and mission formation. They are the ones who help align the vision with the company’s current conditions, core values as well as objectives. Not only do they have to be well-aware of unexpected changes, but they also guard the company’s initiatives from antibodies or any arising problems. With a strong foundation and clear directions, the program will be closer to its success.

 

 

  • Clear challenges and Team formation

 

 

Application process should be well regulated with specific purposes and concrete agendas. First, the firm has to consider which type of application they desire to use: open public, internal or nomination together with constructing application questions and selection framework. Optimization of the selection process is recommended with 3Ns: Now – New – Next. Undeniably, it is exhaustively difficult to opt out the most appropriate startups among the sea. Therefore, your firm can rely on 3Ns for more concrete determination:

 

 

  • The Now – Startups that provide the service that we already provide, but in an innovative way (it’s better, cheaper, more efficient, or faster). 
  • The New – Startups that provide an additional service to what we already offer, such as additional features on a product. 
  • The Next – Companies that are leapfrogging business models and technologies, coming sometimes out of nowhere, and, in some cases, competing with or trying to replace.

 

 

Scouts would be the perfect human resource for your accelerator program. Any unknown problem or new problem discovery can be navigated by those people for future adjustments and improvement before launching officially. By human needs and behavior observation, insights together with logical evaluation are generated. Therefore, urgent dilemmas or any shortages in operation will be decisively recognized and prioritized to solve. More or less, your corporate accelerator program has its quality ensured with qualified team intakes and organizers.

Figure 3: Team selection (Bogaert 2019) 

 

  • Launching

 

 

Once you complete the 2 steps above, you are ready and fully equipped to activate your program. Depending on the different phases of the accelerator program, the curriculum and specific topics are emphasized. For better visualization, we will construct the program in accordance with timeline as figure below:

Figure 2: Curriculum Table (Founder Institute 2020)

 

This stage requires both designers and entrepreneurs in order to bring the program’s success. Designer characteristics must be found not only in the startups team but also from mentor sides. Among startups, they have to be proactive as experimenters who validate initial assumptions through prototypes and testing. Mentors are responsible for supporting the teams at this stage to avoid any misconceptions or distortions in evaluation. Another feature that must be possessed is catalysts – the ones who check on the availability of internal support and readiness of the platform. Concerning entrepreneurs, mentors earn more responsibilities in this context. Bringing people together to penetrate the concept into the market stands as primary duty at this stage. Nevertheless, the teams need to invest their energy in marketing the products/services to customers, connect and educate them to new segments, proving the commercialization of new inventions in pre-existed market environments. Without these efforts, hardly do the products/services prolong their development in the competitive market. 

 

In short, a corporate accelerator program may appear to consume lots of dedication and commitment not only from the team’s side but also the mentors’ aspects. Irrespective of the complicated process, the main and most crucial agenda is to help filter out the most applicable and optima business models to turn risks into opportunities. Consequently, the startups or corporates earn themselves growth capacities and sustainability in the future. Most importantly, restructuring and building core strengths permits corporations to stay resilient amidst headwinds. 

Inbox me for the inquiry

Reference:

 

5 CRITICAL QUESTIONS HELP STARTUP FOUNDERS CHOOSE THE MOST PROFITABLE AND SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL

To create a successful startup, the idea itself is not enough. Even the best idea will fade out by time. As reported by Bill Gross – an American investor, fund manager, and philanthropist, there are five elements which decide the success of the company: idea, team, business model, funding and timing. 

What is a business model? 

Michael Lewis – an American author and financial journalist has defined the term Business model as “All it really meant was how you planned to make money”. For example, the “business model” for Microsoft was to sell software for 120 bucks a pop that cost fifty cents to manufacture … The business model of most Internet companies was to attract huge crowds of people to a Web site, and then sell others the chance to advertise products to the crowds. It was still not clear that the model made sense.” 

The answer for these 5 crucial questions may help you get a better direction for you to turn the idea into helpful products for the customer, while creating profitable and sustainable business. 

1. Define target market

Before you kick start your business, it is necessary for you to challenge your assumption about your idea. This is the chance for you to test whether or not your idea is viable. Conducting market research is needed to examine if there are some needs of the customers that can satisfy your products or services. 

2. Make a list of your competitor 

The analysis is crucial to understand the competition extends beyond the existing rivals and will detect the risk of entering the market. In agreement with Michael E. Porter – an American academic known for his theories on economics, business strategy, and social causes, there are 5 forces that shape the industry competition: Threat of New Entrants, Bargaining Power of Buyers, Bargaining Power of Suppliers, Threat of Substitute Products or Services and Rivalry among existing Competitors. Awareness of the competition in the industry helps startups stake out a position which is more profitable and less vulnerable to attack.

3. Identify your ideal customers 

In order to build a solid foundation for your startup, it is necessary to identify your typical customer and tailor your marketing strategy accordingly. Thinking about who exactly you want to serve based on their demographic, psychological behavior, interests, their challenges and life-time goals. Once you have a clear customer profile, it is easier for you to define a suitable way to approach them. 


4. Visualize your revenue stream 

Exploring the possibility of the source of your revenue. Is there any different way for you to sell products? It is dangerous if your revenue stream only comes from one source. Creating the revenue stream helps you identify various sources from which business can earn money from in the long term.

5. Clarify the value that you bring to the market

You cannot serve what you do not have. That is the reason why you should be clear about the benefits of your product or service that add value to your customers life. You can think of how much value your products or services offer for the customers in their life. 

Customers are the lifeblood of every business, understanding their wants and needs will help you allocate effort and resources to satisfy them. 

If you are struggling with identifying the business model, here are some examples for you to have a look. 

 

  • Product/Service Model (Hook & Bait)

This model can be explained simply as creating whatever products or services and selling it through marketing channels. This model when executed correctly may give you a huge and sustainable return on your investment. 

The advantage of this business model is the flexibility because you have the freedom to design your product and then sell them as a physical or digital version.
However, the main drawback comes from the product creation process itself, it takes time, money and resources to build up this model. 

  • Ad-based model  

This business model requires you to have a large customer base or audience which means they have customer information about their habit, interest and behavior. These ad-base startups gain profit from advertising services that they offer for the company such as Facebook. 

 

  • Subscription-Based Model


    Instead of offering the products or services as one-off purchases, this business model can recurring revenue in forms of period (monthly, annual or life-time) payments. One of the prime examples for this business model is Netflix. Netflix provides customers with a high quality filming service to keep them continuously renew their subscription. 

 

  • On-demand


    This business model comes from the need for instant gratification in the world dominated by technological advancement. Customers can easily have all the information and purchase products within their fingerprints. 

Some of the great examples for this new business model are Grab and Airbnb. 

You can see that they offer customer on-demand which is very convenient by applying new technology in business operation activities. 

  • Maket Place 

The Market place business model provides a platform where buyers and sellers can engage with each other to make transactions. The market place company will handle their transaction and ensure personal security. They earn profits as commission for every transaction. 

The two most well-known examples for this type of business are eBay & Alibaba. 

  • Freemium


    This business model is a good way to approach the need of free products for the customers, while having some certain features for premium users only. Freemium startups allow customers to experience their products without any risk and then make a payment if they want to use more functions. 

Vimeo is an example of this business model. Vimeo allows you to make video freely, however they limit the amount of data which you can upload weekly. They provide 4 different payment plans to explain features usages such as: password protection, collaboration,… 

  • The Ecosystem 

Those who reach to the stage of a giant build their own ecosystem to support their customer better and create wider impact like Google, Amazon or Apple…

In conclusion, choosing which business model to adopt takes time and effort because it is the process. All you can do is to analyse and research carefully before making a decision. Hopefully this information may give you some hints for you to create a business model which helps you turn your idea into profit in a sustainable way.

Continuously improving ourselves is the only way

KEEP IT FOR MYSELF AND THOSE WHO NEED

Three stories to begin with:
1. Nokia refused Android
2. Yahoo refused Google
3. Kodak refused digital cameras

Lessons:
1. Take risks
2. Embrace change
3. If you refuse to change with time, you will be obsolete

Two more stories:
1. Facebook takes over WhatsApp and Instagram
2. Grab takes over Uber

Lessons:
1. Become so powerful that your competitors become your allies
2. Reach the top position and then eliminate the competition
3. Keep innovating

Two more stories:
1. Colonel Sanders founded KFC at the age of 65
2. Jack Ma, who couldn’t get a job at KFC, founded Alibaba, and retired at 55

Lessons:
1. Age is just a number
2. Only those who keep trying will succeed

Last but not the least:
Lamborghini was founded as a result of the revenge of a tractor owner who was insulted by Enzy Ferrari, the founder of Ferrari

Lessons:

Never underestimate anyone, ever!
✔️Just keep working hard
✔️ Invest your time wisely
✔️ Don’t be afraid to fail

… UPGRADE OURSELF CONTINUOUSLY

What should leaders keep in mind in the time of crisis to make an impact?

My keynote at RMIT Webinar: “Leadership Mindset In Difficult Times” on 20 May, 2020.

————————————————-

Hello everyone,

 

Thanks RMIT for inviting me to share with the young talents. 

I will start my sharing about mindset by telling 4 stories which reflect mindset messages.  

1. A choice is always available for you (Bế Thị Băng)

 

Born as a normal girl in the highland, she grows up like other normal kids. Then she got an accident. The container truck hit the back of her motorbike, the wheel clamped on the motorbike and her right leg and dragged her along the road. Waking up after surgery, Bang was shocked to learn that one of her legs had been cut. 

At that time, Bang was only 24 years old. Just got a job. The skype seems to fall in front of her eyes. 

Last year, she was the winner of crescent moon contest by her impressive dance performance. (You can watch here). What else can she do? She can swim and she is a dentist and married a German professor

Talking about her disadvantage, Bang expressed: “I tell myself that whether we are disabled or healthy, we have the right to equality and to live and be confident with ourselves.”

 Similarly, it’s not your fault if you were born poor or some accidents happen to your life or prone to mental illness. But it is your responsibility to figure out how to deal with your situation.

No one else can heal your emotional wounds but you. No one else can fix your toxic relationship with money but you. No one else can make you stop addicting to social media/phone but you. 

That isn’t to say you have to do it all by yourself. You should seek out help if you need  a coach/mentor and get financial help when your luck is down. But for better or worse, at the end of the day, it’s all on you.

 

2. No one will believe in you unless you do (Ritesh Agarwal)

Ritesh Agarwal was born in Rayagada, India – a city where most people  make no more than 10 dollars a day. He grew up very poor and he struggled for 18 years. He did not go to the university and he had no career according to his neighbor. At some point, he was kicked out of his own apartment with 50 cents in his banking account 

He knows that his life is hard and well aware of it. He did not chase money but try to solve the issue that made his life and other lives better. He observed that the hotel owner did not make a lot of money so he took the biggest risk of his life to promise to bring more customers to the hotel. Then he came to the hotel to change the lightbulb, bed and put water and painting to increase the standard of the hotel and then took pictures to put one on the internet and Change the name OyO hotel. Finally,  more customers came to the hotel and OyO became the largest hotel chain in the world 

He received a Thiel Fellowship that paid him $100,000 over two years to create a startup.

He raised $25 million (Rupees 150 crore) from San Francisco-based Greenoaks Capital and existing investors Sequoia, DSG Consumer Partners and LightSpeed Ventures. 

He became the youngest billionaire in India with a hard childhood thanks to an elegant solution to the problem with the guts and fortitude to build.

There are enough people who tell us that we are not good enough, why do we want to tell ourselves that negative thought?  Your thoughts are a catalyst for self-perpetuating cycles. What you think directly influences your feelings and behaviors . So if you think you’re a failure, you’ll feel like a failure. Then, you’ll act like a failure, which reinforces your belief that you must be a failure.

Listen to what you believe and do your best to bring solutions to the issues that you discover. 

Consistently learn and improve until you get it. When you can do it once, you can do it again and again. No one will believe in you unless you believe in yourself.

3. See the world as it is, not as you wish it would be (Boyan Slat)

Boyan Slat is a Dutch inventor and the CEO of The Ocean Cleanup.

In 2011, at the age of 16, while Slat dive in Greece, he found there were more plastic than fish in the ocean. Instead of complaining and being angry, he decided to devote a high school project for deeper investigation into ocean plastic pollution and why it was considered impossible to clean up. He later came up with the idea to build a passive system which uses the circulating ocean currents to his advantage. Then he presented at a TEDx talk in Delft in 2012.

Slat discontinued his aerospace engineering studies at TU Delft to devote his time to developing his idea. He founded The Ocean Cleanup in 2013, and shortly after, his TEDx talk went viral after being shared on several news websites.

Then he received all of the awards you can think of such as the Champions of the Earth award of the United Nations Environment Programme, Forbes “30 under 30” list In 2016, a Thiel Fellowship receiver, European of the Year,  Dutchman of the Year 2017.

 In 2018, Slat was awarded the Leonardo da Vinci International Art Award and Euronews award “European Entrepreneur of the Year”.

If he just showed his judgment on everyone else with rage  for throwing trash in the ocean—well, no one would have listened to him. Then the ocean will appear with more trash and plastic and other waste and hundreds of species in the ocean will disappear.

It is easy for us to judge, criticise and comment behind the screen with the air conditioner but it takes guts, hearts and brains to act like the problem solver.  

Action speaks louder than words and when you see the real ugly world as it is, not as you wish it would be, you come up with a solution which gradually influences others with the actions. 

4. Lead by example then people will follow

 

This is the last story that I want to share today. 

As an entrepreneur, I suffer a lot from Coronavirus pandemic. However, instead staying at home and crying, I chose to be different and meaningful to my life and others.

I want to build a stronger culture, improve myself and others who go with me as this pandemic is just one of the worst events that happens to our life and we have more unexpected events in life. 

I started a plank challenge in my company to encourage people to exercise and lose weight ;and daily meditation to help our team mind stronger and focus their concentration on things that matter the most. 

The Result was great, my team works better and faster online even though we suffer a lot from the beginning. I lost 5 kg and gained more muscles. At first, it is weird that my team will meditate with me in the morning, now that is the first thing they do in the morning with me.  

Secondly, when I saw the old man crying on the street with the lottery ticket. I feel really bad, I also want to help him and many miserable lives on the street But my resources and capacity are limited.  

Therefore, I want to initiate a project or platform that helps not only the youth but also the less fortunate one with automatic mechanisms. That’s why GIVE IT BACK was born to support the youth to accomplish more via mentoring 1 on 1 models as well as give a chance for them to give it back and share the difficulties with those less fortunate with their capacity. You can see the value cycle in this project and the youth know that they are lucky and impactful at the same time. 

I ,as a founder, invest my time and money to execute the project but mentors give their free valuable time to mentees. Mentees help the poor via their real action (money).

I can do nothing to support these people and be fine but I chose to act to help my people and the youth. Thanks to that, people follow me, support me and achieve more with me.

The question for you is what are you willing to suffer to make your life and other lives better?

Whether we like it or not, life is hard to predict and happen as we wish. What we can control is our thoughts and actions we have. Therefore, Choose wisely what mindset you should have and avoid 

 

I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka/whiskey, and then we can have a party.”

 

Thank you

WHY DO WE NEED TO BE RESILIENT TO LIVE A SUCCESSFUL LIFE?

The Slight Edge was a book given to me on the very first day of my career. It was a gift from my first boss which is why I appreciate it as much as I do. 

The core message is simple but meaningful and readers must know how to reflect upon it for themselves, otherwise The Slight Edge is in danger of becoming just another book on the shelf. 

THE SLIGHT EDGE PHILOSOPHY 

According to Jeff Olson, the edge is the “door” that determines whether or not you will be successful. The secret in being successful in life, says The Slight Edge, is the “Simple productive actions, repeated consistently over time that ultimately leads to success”.

The problem is that not many people continuously choose to take these actions, which are easy to do, as they are also activities that are easy to skip. This is the main reason that leads to the difference in 5% of successful people compared to 95% of failure.

IF THEY ARE SIMPLE, WHY DO PEOPLE FAILTO IMPLEMENT THEM?

It is simply because these small actions do not have an immediate effect on your life when you decide not to do them. 

We are living in the world of “on-demand” service of a 4.0 technology revolution, in which with just a click you can get whatever you want. We do not have to wait to get what we want. We tend to be less patient, we want to get to the result without making progress or efforts. This 4.0 lifestyle makes it easier to give up or stop doing something if it is not convenient for us to do. 

As Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity states, “the observed gravitational effect between masses results from their warping of spacetime.” If your daily choices are productive, it will help you move upward, so that your lifeline will be on the upper half (only 5% of people achieve this). Unless your line is downward and your position is at the lower part (95% fall into this category). 

WHAT MAKES OTHERS SUCCESSFUL IN LIFE? 

 

  • SELF-DISCIPLINE

 

Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.

This is my favorite motivational quote by Jerzy Gregorek which clearly defines the philosophy of “The Slight Edge”. He subsequently won four World Weightlifting Championships. His journey towards his successful career was not easy, it took time and effort to overcome the “old” him from being a political refugee to the champion of World Weightlifting. 

This quote is not only true to weightlifting athletes but also applicable in every aspect of life. The only way for the weightlifting athletes to lift up the heavier weight is to constantly choose to push a little bit more weight than the last time. The progress leads you to the edge of “what you can’t do”. Taking a step far away from the “what you can do” edge by working harder and harder than what you did yesterday will benefit you in the long-run. “By making it harder for yourself today, you make it easier for yourself in the future.” This simple principle reminds you of the “heavyweight” of small decisions that we choose to do every day. 

 

  • “KEEP MOVING” SPIRIT 

 

Do you recognize that the word “extraordinary” is the combination of extra and ordinary? 

When ordinary people leave their comfort zone and continue practicing doing more and more (extra) simple things every day, at some point, they will become extraordinary. If we do not repeat the small actions such as daily workouts, we might stop ourselves and bounce back to the new comfort zone. When we feel like we have enough and no new challenges are taken, this results in procrastination.

 

  • REFLECT 

Not many people know how to truly reflect. You read, learn, listen… What’s next? 

If you do not spend time practicing and apply what you have read, learned and listened into actions, will this be your knowledge? 

If you just keep doing… What’s next? 

When you keep doing without looking back on what you have done, you don’t leave space to adjust and improve the process, you cannot increase your productivity.

You are working extremely hard just to live day by day… So what’s next? 

Without talking with your inner self, it is hard for you to realize the reason why you are doing what you are doing. Do you truly live or just simply survive? 

Daily reflection may help you explore your true self, empathise with yourself after every experience. Don’t stop moving forward by asking yourself: “what’s next?” Simply spend 1% of your 24 hours (15 minutes) to focus on reflection, you will be amazed. 

 

  • TIE YOURSELF TO THE GOALS 

 

After 10 years of working on my own business, startup and many projects, I have witnessed the change in young people. They are the next generation of leaders, but they do not have much of an environment to grow, to challenge their assumptions, to release their potential, to contribute to the development of our country. That is the reason why I want to give young people a chance to practice and to learn how amazing they are if they keep trying hard and consistently every day. 

During this time, I had a chance to hold a lecture at some universities and worked with many mentees. I have realized that IQ is not a strong measurement of one’s ability. My best mentee does not get a high score in school or achieve a high IQ score, most of them have the normal or even “not very special” in the beginning. But what makes them different? 

  • Self-discipline/ Resilience 

Most of my best mentees that I am extremely proud of, do not have a particularly special talent on the very first day. They are not confident in themselves. They do not know what they want, what their strengths are or what their weaknesses are. Whenever they are asked to give their opinion, they are shy and hesitate to give their ideas. The only thing inside them that makes me believe and become their mentor is their actions, not words. Day by day, they take actions to overcome their “not perfect” parts, they do not prevent themselves from exploring and learn more to make whatever difficulties become their strength. 

Their resilience ability ties to their passion and patience to achieve the long-run goal. Resilience is to choose to look forward, day by day, not only in weeks or months but in years, many years.  Resilient people see life as a marathon, they see what they are doing in the long run. To be resilient, they need to have the ability to deal with the problems and have the ability to stand up and start again after every failure.

 

  • GROWTH MINDSET 

 

This idea is generated by Carol Dweck – a researcher at Stanford University. People with a growth-mindset do not see themselves with a potential that can be explored and fostered. They are not afraid of failure, they keep their head high to move forward because they believe that their ability is just the starting point of their potential. That is the reason why life cannot knock them down easily. When life gives them lemons, they will sit down and make their own lemonade. They see whatever challenges that life gives as a gift to learn and to be a better version of themselves. Thus what we need to do is keep teaching our inner child to learn how to be more resilient every day.

It is important to keep in mind that your behavior comes from your attitude toward things. Every piece of advice will be meaningless with a fixed mindset, instead of a growth mindset. Because when you keep the fixed mindset, you will see that your ability cannot change and try to prove that you are right, instead of learning from mistakes.

Why do we need to hide our weaknesses instead of fixing them? 

Why do we have to maintain the relationship that we think will raise our self-esteem instead of spending time with people who challenge yourself? 

Why do we need to compare ourselves to others instead of developing their potential? 

The passion for developing yourself when you are not enough is the key to the growth mindset. That is how successful people think and spend their life.

2019 Vietnam startup investment look back

Just some of my random notes about world startup investment and Vietnam so please make sure that you double check when I use my article.

Six years ago, Aileen Lee – founder of Cowboy Venture created the term “Unicorn” to illustrate the start-up companies which have the value of over $1 billions. 

At this time there were not many companies which were worth a billion dollars. Thus “Unicorn” was the dream name for many start-up since this term was introduced. However, the industry landscape has changed dramatically. The world of venture capital has been blooming, there has been a huge amount of money invested in the start-up company. 

In recent years, the number of “Unicorn” has increased exponentially. Total investment in the unicorn companies is up to 1.1 thousand of dollars. 

 

An analysis about 326 unicorns in the world

  • Overview about “Unicorn” in 2019

According to CB Insights of Unicorn of Unicorn Tracker – the company does research about the unicorn according to their industry, valuation and country. 

ByteDance is currently the largest unicorn with the valuation of 75 billion dollars. The China-based company operates many products such as: Vigo, Toutiao, TopBuzz and more, but the most special raising platform which is currently used by many millennia’s: TikTok. ByteDance uses AI to adjust the content to fit with the customer behavior. 

Source: Pixabay

Expert estimates that in 2019, there are more than 100 unicorns will conduct IPO – (The Initial Public Offering), including Uber and AirBnb. Recently, Lyft and Pinterest have conducted IPO. Another Unicorn is Zoom Video – an online video call platform is also in the IPO process, with the stock price increasing at 120% since its impressive release in the middle of April. 

  • Unicorn start-up by industry 

Internet Software and Service and E-commerce are the most popular industries with many potential start-up. On-demand services such as Uber, Didi  Chuxing and DoorDash attract more investors to invest in this area. 

  • Unicorn start-up by geography 

Over a half of unicorns come from the USA, but China has many start-up companies which have high value. While most of the unicorns come from 6 countries: USA, China, UK, India, Germany and Korea, other countries in the world have 32 unicorns approximately 10% of total unicorn in the world.

  • Unicorn by the valuation
    Uber, Wework, AirBnB and ByteDance have the largest amount up to 30% of total unicorn worldwide.  

According to the pyramid, there are 280 unicorns at the bottom – unicorns which have value from 1-5 billion dollars. The sum of those are 461 billion dollars, as 43% of the total unicorns. 

  • Vietnam Startup Investment Overview vs world investment

In 2019, the amount of capital flowing into technology startups in Vietnam accounts for 18% of all of Southeast Asia, while that of Singapore is 17%. However, as a whole, the remaining startups only raised US $ 670M, much less than in 2018 (nearly US $ 890M). This fact shows that the start-up race has entered the stage of refinement, many emerging industries have also led to the recession of many old and expensive businesses of investors.

In January 2019, Momo successfully raised funds  in the Series C 100 USD from Warburg Pincus funding. Momo is the first payment-app with more than 12 million users in Vietnam. 

In January 2019, Lefair – an ecommerce site which sells boutiques, has called for $7 million in the Series B from GSShop and Belt Road Capital Management. This success has helped the company total investment round to 12M USD. However, they just announced to quit the Vietnam market on 2020.

In February 2019, Elsa has raised fund successfully $7M USD Series A from Gradient Ventures – the specialized fund for AI of Google. Now, the total investment for the company is $12M. 

In March 2019, Tiki raised $75M from NorthStar Group and are the top 2 players in the e-commerce Vietnam market. Tiki is on its way to focus on increasing its service quality and user experiences. 

In April 2019, Jio Health has raised $5M Series A from Monk’s Hill Venture. 

In May 2019, Uber has failed since its first stock issues, which causes the loss of $6.5B. 

In June 2019, Logivan – 4.0 logistic service, which connects the shipper and the empty returned truck nationwide, raised successfully $5.5M from Matrix Partners, David Su and Alpha JWC Ventures. 

In August 2019, Wework – the largest co-working space US-based, which has an unpredictable fate. Although Softbank has invested $10B in Wework, they have stopped working with each other. 

In August 2019, KiotViet – a start-up providing software solutions for POS managing, announced receiving $6M Series A from Jungle Venture.  

In September 2019, Compass – a real-estate buy and sell start losing its direction, although Softbank has invested $450M and later fundraising $775M.  

In October 2019, Scommerce – logistic provider with 4 business units: GHN Express, Ahamove, GHN Logistic and GIDO has received $100M from Temasek – Singapore government investment fund. 

In November 2019, Softbank poured $500M into Fair – a car leasing company which is revolutionizing the car-as-a-service concept. However, Fair has failed and cut 40% of employees in the not “Fair” way. 

Also in November, Sendo announced its raising fund successfully with total investment in Series C is $61M from EV Growth, Kasikornbank, SBI Group, BEENOS, SoftBank Ventures Asia, Daiwa PI Partners and Digital Garage. 

This month, Lozi has also raised $10M+ from Smilegate Korea. 

Vnlife – mother company of VNPAY has become the second unicorn in Vietnam after VNG with $300M investment of Softbank Vision Fund and GIC Singapore 

In December 2019, Telio – Vietnam’s first B2B platform has raised $25M Series A from Tiger Global, Sequoia India, GGV Capital, and RTP Global.

In January 2020, OYO – a hotel booking start-up received $1.5B from Softbank has lost 65000 rooms and cut off 3000 employees. 

The world 2019 economic climate has significant slowdown, however Vietnam’s economy is growing.

Vietnam economic growth is projected to decrease in 2020

Collected from many sources:  Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist, WEF, May 2019, ESP Capital

DESIGN THINKING – PERFECT TOOL TO PUT YOUR PLAN INTO ACTIONS

Is your planning technique effective? 

 

Do you find yourself always exhausted, racing to meet your deadlines at the last minute? Do you plan your life carefully and keep track of time well, but still struggle to get your job done on time? Don’t be surprised if you are, because you are not the only person in this world who fell into the planning fallacy mindset without realizing it. 

 

The Planning Fallacy was first introduced by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979. They proposed that human beings are not very good at estimating time, costs and risk to complete certain tasks, even if we have the right experience in doing such tasks. This results from only focusing on a prediction, based on specific elements of a plan, rather than the distributional data. This leads to tasks not being completed on time because the individual underestimates what is needed for the deadline to be met. Furthermore, we can be overly optimistic about ourselves, in that we believe that we have enough time to complete tasks. Consequently, this means that the individual makes excuses for poor time-keeping. 

Design thinking is one of the most effective ways in which a person can overcome this struggle in planning and executing what has been planned. Design thinking is a human-centric concept to help people design their own solution by digging into the root causes and solving them. It is time to spend your time tailoring your own plan for the new year. 

 

STAGE 1: EMPATHIZE – WHO ARE YOU?

Understanding yourself is easier said than done, but it is time to take a seat, to have a self-talk, to identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as to clarify your short-term and long-term goals. 

There are 4 questions you should ask yourself. Try to answer as honestly and clearly as possible:

  1. What strengths make you proud of yourself? 
  2. What weaknesses make you lose your opportunities? 
  3. Now, what do you want to change? 
  4. What is your dream for the future? 

 

Do not answer in general like “I want to improve my English level” instead, make it specific and measurable like “I want to achieve IELTS 6.5 in the next 6 months”. The more details you give, the deeper you will understand yourself. Such types of answers will make your plan more practical and more suitable to yourself, therefore making it easier for you to implement the plan. 

 

TIP: Consider asking your parents, your relatives, your co-workers or whoever in this world that you believe understands you, and ask for their opinions. This will help to avoid a subjective understanding about yourself or an illustration of yourself that you created. 

The goal for this stage is to dig into who you are, to learn and to explore more about yourself. 

 

STAGE 2: DEFINE – WHAT DID YOU DO? 

After learning about yourself, your next step is to reflect on what you did last year by answering the following 3 questions: 

 

  1. Which goals/tasks did you complete in the last year? 
  2. Which goals/tasks did you plan but fail? 
  3. Which goals/tasks did you reschedule ?

 

Next steps: List down all of the reasons both subjectively and objectively that you think led to the failure of task completions. This will enable you to find a method that avoids procrastination in implementing the plan in the new year. There are many methods to help solve your procrastination and to reschedule the task completion on time, which may come from internal or external factors. For example, you may feel that if  sharing your plan on social media or with close friends will motivate you to achieve your goals. Or you may challenge yourself with punishments and rewards. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure that it will boost your must-do attitude meaning that no delay or procrastination is allowed. 

STAGE 3: IDEATION – WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

In this stage, you should keep calm and relax, let your mind wander to write down your goals: what do you want to improve or what you want to change? Where do you want to travel? How many books or what kinds of books do you want to read this year? Do not forget to think about your dream. Just write them down in your journal or whatever place you feel safe. Don’t worry if it may look a little bit messy on your paper, I will help you arrange it later. 

One important note you should bear in mind is that your techniques should help you to overcome your procrastination, which you have listed in the ‘Stage Two: Define’. Ideation will be the foundation to enable you to implement the method successfully, thus try to make it as precise as possible. 

STAGE 4: PROTOTYPE – PUT YOUR GOALS INTO PLAN 

Design thinking is the solution-orientated and action-orientated step in which you must focus on finding actionable solutions. Thus this stage is the most important in the planning process. In this stage, you will put all your goals and activities into a detailed plan. 

  • Categorize your goals and actions:

The first step is to divide your goals into 3 smaller categories: 

  1. Personal Development: The goals or actions that will help you nurture your personal growth.
  2. Study/Work: The goals and actions that will lead you to your career path.
  3. Family/Friends: The goals and actions that will strengthen your relationships. 

The more correctly categorized and prioritized these goals are, the easier the next steps will be. 

 

  • Strategic plan 

 

These previous parts will be evaluated again in time length and importance in order to categorize them into short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. This step requires a lot of effort and careful thinking so as to avoid mistakes. The following is one technique that I find easy to apply. 

Firstly, start with the axis of abscissas, you put all the goals in this axis. Arrange these goals based on its level of importance and affection to yourself. 

After that, you will use the axis of ordinate to evaluate the difficulty level, time and effort in each goal. The more difficult the goal is, the more time you spend, thus you can move this goal to a higher position. 

For example, if your goal is to achieve IELTS 6.5 in 2020, to me it is a medium difficulty level and it is also important. Thus my graph will be like this:

As you see the strategic plan graph divides into 3 parts:

Part 1 – Short-term and easy goals that you can finish in 3-6 months 

Part 2 – Medium-term and average difficult goals that take longer time about 6-18 months to complete. 

Part 3 – Long-term and difficult goals but not urgent goals which you can finish in 2-3 years. 

Put your goals into these 3 sections and the goals, which are in the Part 1 area, are prioritized in your detailed plan. 

 

  • A Detailed Plan

The detailed plan includes 2 important numbers: deadline and key result.

  • Key results: A plan is nothing without clear and measurable outcomes because they help you estimate the desired results and avoid giving up in the middle. 
  • Deadline: Give yourself specific time of completion in the goals. There are many apps which can assist you as the reminder like: Evenote, Wunderlist, Calendar,… These apps will help you stick to your goals and complete them on time. 

In terms of the medium-term and long-term goals, you can break them into smaller activities and put them into your detailed plan. This action will make sure that you are following what you have planned and start doing it from now. 

STAGE 5: TEST – CONTINUOUS PLAN IMPROVEMENT

The plan is just what you write down on paper. That’s why to make this plan come true, you need to invest your time, money and effort. There is no perfect plan in the world and you should test, do, learn and test again, as to which method fits with your style. You might not be able to change your goals but you can change the way you take action in order to achieve your goals. Be flexible and be prepared because there will be uncontrollable factors coming from the external environment, as well as from yourself, that may cause failure in implementing your plan.

 

I hope that you can stay focused on what you are about to do, always believe in yourself and always try your best to be a better you. Remember that if you plan it on just paper, next year you will be in the same state as you are right now but you’ll be one year older. Be strong and brave, take action, and challenge yourself! 

I hope all your plans come true as you expected.