Accelerating Startup Innovations to Achieve the SDGs in Viet Nam
As Viet Nam’s thriving startup scene continues to grow, so too does interest and investment from around the world in the country. The estimated number of startups in Viet Nam fluctuates between 1,400 and 3,000, making the country the third largest startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia. Despite this growth, Viet Nam continues to face significant challenges which threaten the country’s continued development, such as environmental pollution, disasters and growing disparities among different groups.
Developing Social Impact Startups
In 2017, UNDP Viet Nam recognized the potential in the emerging startup eco-system in Viet Nam to help find market based solutions for these challenges. UNDP sought to connect the vision, ambition and innovation of young Vietnamese entrepreneurs with some of the biggest development challenges facing the country, using the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Work in growing the social impact startup eco-system in Viet Nam was based around 3 pillars:
- Develop Social Impact Startups, through introduction and training workshops;
- Support Entrepreneurs, through seed funding and mentoring, and;
- Build a thriving environment for social impact startups, through research and advocacy.
Together with partners HATCH! VENTURES, a business incubator in Viet Nam, and the World Federation of United Nations Associations, Korea, UNDP delivered training to 150 young entrepreneurs and innovators in Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Participants were supported by organizers in identifying challenges faced by communities in Viet Nam, developing a business model that solves the challenge while producing a financial return, and finally using the targets and indicators of the SDGs to measure progress toward achieving the Goals.
Social Entrepreneurs were further encouraged to develop their ideas and submit them to the SDG Challenge 2017, Viet Nam’s first SDG business innovations competition, in partnership with HATCH!. From over 120 applications, 4 SDG innovations were chosen to receive a share of $90,000 equity-free seed-funding, and a 12-month business incubation and social impact acceleration programme to grow their business and scale up their social impact.
The four winning innovations include:
- NCF sticker technology to reduce plastic bottled water consumption and protect life below water. See the team's presentation
- Mobile app technology to connect the 2 millon strong deaf and hard of hearing community in Viet Nam with non-signing persons. See the team's presentation
- Decent work and vocational training for persons with disabilities in the IT sector. See the team's presentation
- Providing clean and affordable energy for lower income households. See the team's presentation
These 4 initiatives frame their impact through the SDGs, in particular SDGs 7, 8, 10, 12, and 13.
Since the final in October, the winning teams have begun a business incubation programme which looks at strengthening management, human resources, finance, marketing, and pitching to investors. Two teams have already secured additional investment since being awarded SDG Challenge winners, and further mentoring and training for our winners are planned throughout 2018.
Together with the National Economics University, UNDP are conducting a mapping of social impact businesses, to identify the challenges and opportunities faced by social entrepreneurs in Viet Nam. The research will look to strengthen the regulatory framework by outlining essential policy recommendations to ensure we build an environment in Viet Nam where social impact businesses can survive and thrive.
There has been an increase in attention and engagement with international impact investors, eco-system builders and most recently the Government of Viet Nam on social impact startup eco-system. In 2018, UNDP aims to build on this momentum. By sewing the seeds for the next generation of social innovators and impact entrepreneurs, UNDP will look to ensure that social impact is deeply embedded in the business culture and mindset of Vietnamese young people and entrepreneurs, to unlock the potential of the startup scene in contributing to Viet Nam’s sustainable development and the achievement of the SDGs.