1. What is MBI?

MBI: The Mekong Business Initiative is a development partnership between the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Australia to accelerate growth in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. We believe that catalysing sustainable business growth in the Mekong region will require innovation, flexibility, and a willing to take risks.

MBI is unique in its agility to partner with business and governments, identify areas of need, and then rapidly deploy new projects to meet those needs. For the past year and a half, we have carefully mined through Vietnam’s most critical startup needs.

Now, we are employing all of our resources, experts and partners to launch projects aimed at invigorating Vietnam’s startup ecosystem.

  1. MBI and Startups

MBI’s projects in Vietnam are intended to help create the necessary conditions for rapid and sustainable growth. We believe that startups and SMEs must be the engine of that growth. Therefore, MBI is partnering with central government, local governments and the private sector to develop a flourishing startup ecosystem with interventions in three areas:

  1. Innovation
  2. Policy
  3. Finance

3A. Innovation

International investors have challenged the Vietnamese startup sector to generate bigger, better ideas.

Many are talking about developing an ‘ecosystem’ in Vietnam to support startups. Few have defined what priorities the ecosystem must address to give Vietnam’s startups the best chance at success.

MBI has a definitive perspective: first and foremost, the ecosystem must deliver more innovative startups.

MBI has undertaken several activities in Vietnam to help create a platform for accelerated innovation.

Local Ecosystem Development in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang

MBI has partnered with the city government of Ho Chi Minh City to advise the first ever, five-year Framework and Action Plan on Innovation to create vibrant ecosystems that support innovation. Simultaneously, MBI has provided support to the city of Da Nang as it moves forward with an action plan to become the centre for startups in Vietnam. When those plans are completed and approved, MBI will partner with the two cities on select implementation activities all targeted to establish these cities as hubs of innovation and startups.

Forums, Pitch Events and Demo Days

Events MBI has been, or will be involved with include:

    • Saigon Startup Fest: March 2016
    • Four Innovation Partners Monthly Meetings since February 2016
    • Vietnam Private Sector Forum in June 3, 2016
    • Da Nang Start Up Fair in June 18, 2016

3B. Policy

MBI believes that Vietnam needs a policy framework that is more conducive for the establishment and growth of startups.

New SME Support Law & National Development Action Plan

The Ministry of Planning and Investment is preparing a new SME Support Law and National SME Development Action Plan 2016-2020, including a section on business start up and innovation support plans.

MBI advised on the draft law. In addition to advising on the draft law, in January 2016, MBI facilitated a consultation workshop between the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the business community and academia on the draft Strategy and Action Plan. MBI is also working with business associations such as VCCI, HAWASME, and other sector-specific associations to help the private sector improve their voice and participation in policy making. MBI is training these associations on how to make their case to policy makers as well as how to work with and leverage news and social media in policy advocacy.

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Vietnam’s Resolution 19 on Creating Better Environments for Business

Vietnam’s low Doing Business ranking has negatively affected startups by discouraging investment in Vietnamese SMEs.

MBI has partnered with the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) to prepare a study on the private sector’s perceptions of policy reforms under Resolution 19. Resolution 19 is a commitment by the Government of Viet Nam to improve Vietnam’s Doing Business ranking by taking action to simplify business processes and procedures. The launch of the study in November 2015 was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister and other senior government officials, as well as private sector leaders. The Government and VCCI have since agreed to repeat the exercise in 2016.

Women in Business

In 2013, women-owned SMEs contributed 61.8 trillion VND and created 1.63 million jobs in Vietnam. Women led businesses are vital to economic growth.

Since October 2015 MBI has partnered with women business association groups to prepare a study on the impact of policies supporting women-led businesses and female labour-intensive industries.

MBI is engaged in on-going consultations and has been conducting targeted surveys with national and provincial women business associations across the country to produce a common position paper that will be the basis for dialogue with government agencies.

3C. Finance

Alternative startup financing solutions such as crowd funding, peer-to-peer lending and angel investing are either not available or at early stages of development in Vietnam. MBI is committed to making financing more accessible through:

1) Promoting angel investment networks and facilitating relationships between angel investors and startups

2) Creating a Fintech Accelerator with 500 Startups and 1337 Ventures.

3) Facilitating DoST (Hochiminh City Department of Science & Technology) workshops and forums between Ho Chi Minh City officials and venture capitalists.

For more information regarding MBI & Startups in Vietnam, or to arrange interviews with our experts, please contact Quynh Anh Nguyen at quynhanh@mekongbiz.org

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