A little known fact even in the region – Vietnam’s startup ecosystem is coming of an age. Be it the launch of new companies, incubators, accelerators, tech-related events or the increasing numbers of angel investors – the vibrancy in this field is for real. The addictive Flappy Bird may be the region’s most celebrated story, but dig a little deeper and other success stories are just waiting to happen.
HATCH! PROGRAM is among the dozen such incubators, trying to ride the start-up wave. Even the Vietnamese government has jumped the start-up bandwagon with state-funded initiatives such as the Silicone Valley Vietnam and First-Most. The glamour, though, continues to be with the tech start-ups. Meanwhile those in other sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, education and environment are not getting enough attention and this is the space that the HATCH! PROGRAM aims to tap, said HATCH! co-founder Ngoc Vu. In a recent interaction with Dealstreeasia.com, Vu talked about the not-for-profit incubator’s three-pronged approach, which includes incubation program (mentorship and providing a network of resources), developing an angel investor network and early stage funding of a start up (seedfunding).
After a very successful startup event last year (HATCH! FAIR 2013), the incubator is aiming to repeat the same next month with HATCH! Fair 2014, she added. Edited Excerpts from an interview.
What is HATCH! about?
HATCH! PROGRAM is a social franchise focusing on start-up incubation. We concentrate on finding and supporting potential Vietnamese start-ups that have direct and positive impact in communities. HATCH! PROGRAM consists of three pillars: community building, startup incubating and seed funding. A not-for-profit incubator, it supports the entrepreneurs by providing mentorship and by connecting them to right resources through different social activities like HATCH! OPEN, HATCH! COACH and HATCH! FAIR. Among these, HATCH! FAIR is the biggest annually startup conference and exhibition that has attracts over 200 applicants and about a 1000 visitors.Our íncubation programme, currently, supports three start ups– two in Hanoi and one in Saigon. Another six are under consideration. Meanwhile, as part of our seedfunding initiative, about 10 start ups will have a chance at a private pitching session in front of 20 angel investors from our network on November 15, 2014 during HATCH! FAIR 2014.
How many investors are backing HATCH! PROGRAM at the moment?
We do not have external direct investors at the moment; this could change in the future. We are hoping to attract both domestic and foreign investors to widen our angel investor network, will provide mentorship and seedfunding to the startups here. We are planning to conduct a short survey, about investment interest, to have a better understanding about investment trend in the region.
What is your take on the startup ecosystem in Vietnam?
It is still forming, but looks promising. We have been approached by more startups this year, as compared to the past two years. Entrepreneurs as young as 19 years of age are have their companies up and running. Apart from the private key players like the VCs supporting the startups, the government is also supporting these bright young talents with projects like the Silicone Valley and First-most, although these are mainly focused on IT and technology companies.
In your opinion, why do technology/IT startups get more attention than others?
IT and technology startups get more support from investors and the government because it is easier to evaluate their business model. The results, too, are quicker compared to the start ups those in agriculture, environment or education. However, I feel that these two particular industries will soon become saturated with start-ups, making the market more competitive. HATCH! is more focused on education and environmental companies because we want to build a balance ecosystem in the country, and we have met many wonderful ideas which will exhibit at HATCH! FAIR 2014.