Three startup teams from Laos and Vietnam have jointly won total grants to the tune of $20,000 at the Mekong Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Summit that was held over the weekend by Tigers@Mekong, an accelerator program funded by the US Department of State.
The firms chosen include the ‘Mekong Next Top Mentors’ project, initiated by Souphaphone Souannavong, co-founder and managing director of Toh-Lao co-working space. This initiative was aimed at developing Mekong region’s tech startups.
Toh-Lao was launched in March 2014 and is the only one co-working space in Laos so far. Souannavong said it was a starting point for the local community. She hopes the project will tackle the lack of trainers for startups in Lao burgeon community.
The selected ventures also include two ventures from Vietnam. The first is CrowdPitch, an offline crowdfunding event developed by Do Tran Anh Minh, co-founder of Startup.vn, that helps startups practice their pitching skill via multiple events yearly. Here, the audience will pay for the event ticket and 75 per cent of the ticket money will go to their favourite startups.The winners of the pitching competition will be entitled to CrowdCoach, where the startups interact directly with four mentors, who will give them in-depth feedback. This proposed initiative includes a quarterly one month pre-accelerator program that goes over the basic fundamentals Vietnamese startups need to develop, like financials, how to run a team, product development, customer acquisition and market research.
The other winner is Mekong Agri-Tigers, initiated by the Centre of Business Studies and Assistance (BSA), a non-profit organisation based in Ho Chi Minh City, whose objective is to connect young people living in rural areas, providing them training and supporting their endeavor to apply technology in developing business ideas. The developers look to encourage the youth in those areas to build their own career in their homeland rather than migrating to big cities, as they believe agriculture is Vietnam’s prevailing strength, and startups that orient towards helping accelerating this sector could ride this opportunity.
Mekong Agri-Tigers plans to extend this concept to other countries in the Mekong region, and plans to leverage the straighten of Tigers@Mekong to connect with mentors and angel investors. Earlier this year, the BSA has called for collaboration from business networks to establish an Angel Investor Club that will assist startups with financing and mentoring.
Mekong Next Top Mentors and CrowdPitch secured $7,500 each, while ‘Mekong Agri-Tigers’ team won the remaining $5,000 from the grants.
“This region is ripe with market opportunities for tech startups, but there is a need for stronger startup programming and activities that guides and connects young founders with the knowledge, networks, market, talent and financing that can accelerate their business growth,” said Mike Ducker, project director of Tigers@Mekong.