The champion, “Cỏ cây hoa lá” impressively won over the reputable panel of judges to secure the top prize with a total award of up to 400 million VND at the Startup Wheel – a prestigious startup competition in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. This startup, with its “green innovation” driving sustainable development, has successfully captured the international market. In 2023, the competition attracted 2,116 startups from 34 countries.
A standout aspect of this year’s Startup Wheel is its integration into the InnoEx platform – an annual international event to promote innovation and development for the business community in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. This premier startup competition in Southeast Asia has emerged as a potent force, collaborating alongside the Vietnam CEO Forum, Green Summit, and Investment Zone within InnoEx to establish one of the most significant innovation events in Vietnam, fostering innovation for businesses.
Truong Ly Hoang Phi, Vice President of the Ho Chi Minh City Young Business People Association (YBA) and Chairwoman of InnoEx Organizing Committee said, that with a mission to spark innovation to create a sustainable growth engine for businesses and the Vietnamese economy, InnoEx 2023 will foster cooperation and investment, as well as creating sustainable competitive advantages for enterprises.
InnoEx welcomes the participation of nearly 2,000 business leaders, experts, and 70 national and international investment funds, banks, financial institutions, 200 companies and enterprises from 52 countries and regions.
Throughout its 11-year journey, Startup Wheel, with its international scale, attracted the participation of more than 13,000 startups, both domestic and international. This accomplishment is accompanied by the support of over 300 partners, encompassing both local and global accelerators, incubators, investment funds, and business support entities.
With a competition of such global magnitude, Startup Wheel has gathered a remarkable panel of judges, featuring over 130 experts who have been involved from the preliminary rounds to the grand finale. Among them are prominent Vietnamese entrepreneurs, internationally recognized experts, and representatives from investment funds and startup support organizations.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Dieu Hang, CEO of BSSC and Vice President of the Young Business People Association of Ho Chi Minh City (YBA), shared insights: “Analyzing the startup statistics, we can discern the distinctions between the Vietnam Track and International Track. Notably, technology-based initiatives constitute a substantial portion, comprising 30% of the total startups in Startup Wheel from Vietnam. Conversely, in the International Track, technology startups represent a smaller proportion, around 20%. Instead, a significant number of international startups revolve around services. This dynamic underscores Vietnam’s potential as a burgeoning service-oriented market, as recognized by our global peers.”
In the context of a globally fragile economy due to political tensions and financial market volatilities, along with the ascendancy of AI reshaping human life and industry dynamics, Startup Wheel 2023 stands as a steadfast gateway. This gateway promises to serve as a conduit for Corporations and Enterprises to strategically navigate and delve into the realm of Innovation. Facilitated by an extensive network of connections and an array of diverse ecosystem engagement activities, it presents an avenue for these entities to grasp and tap into the prospects of the innovation landscape.
Numerous standouts have the opportunity to innovate alongside prominent businesses and large corporations.
The Startup Wheel 2023 competition is uniquely designed as a 6-month startup acceleration program spanning across Vietnam, welcoming a diverse range of participants from various fields.
In the Vietnamese Track, the overall champion of Startup Wheel 2023 is “Cỏ cây hoa lá”- A pioneering and the only company to date utilizing certified organic ingredients, founded by young female entrepreneur Nguyen Lan Phuong. “Cỏ cây hoa lá” integrates traditional ingredients familiar to Vietnamese people and is certified by EcoCert – one of the world’s prominent organic certification organizations. Over its 5 years of entrepreneurship, “Cỏ cây hoa lá” has established a presence in over 5,000 retail points nationwide and expanded into markets such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan. The brand aspires to bring the natural ingredients of Vietnam closer to the international market.
The products offered by “Cỏ cây hoa lá” serve as a resounding affirmation of the strong trend towards sustainable agriculture in Vietnam, echoing the sentiments shared by Mr. Nguyen Thanh My, Chairman of Rynan Technologies Vietnam: “We need to think differently, act differently, and foster sustainable development. We can anticipate that the agriculture of the future will eschew pesticides and inorganic fertilizers.”
Three outstanding made it to the top 4 of the competition. The second prize was awarded to “Drone Light Show” the first Vietnamese enterprise to pioneer the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for artistic light displays. The third prize went to “Sổ Bán Hàng”, a startup that empowers small business owners with innovative technology solutions for efficient development at a low cost. The “Innovation for Sustainable Growth” award was presented to the startup “Alterno” with their sand battery product, a thermal storage device that has garnered international attention. The Top 10 of the Vietnamese track included: Sổ Bán Hàng, Smartos, Smart Buddy, Men Stay Simplicity, Drone Light Show, DIGIME Co. LTD, Cubable JSC, Công nghệ MC Ảo – AiClip.Ai, Cỏ Cây Hoa Lá, and Alternō.
Furthermore, Startup Wheel 2023 also featured special highlights with additional awards. The “Outstanding Female Founder” award was earned by the brand “Cỏ cây hoa lá,” while the “Most Impressive Startup” award was presented to “Drone Light Show.” The “Talent Hub Champion” (Student Track) title was claimed by the startup “HATUS” – a team of third-year students from Can Tho University, creators of a mask made from lotus seeds and pennywort.
The potential of Vietnam market for international entrepreneurs
Furthermore, in the International Track of Startup Wheel 2023, Top 5 startups have outperformed startups from various continents. These companies include Hodoo Labs, Fin2B, Staple, ViAct, and Regene Bio under the brand MUU, with the remarkable victory going to ViAct. Hailing from Hong Kong, ViAct employs AI-driven video analysis to enhance safety at construction sites. These standout startups represent the epitome of international models within the International Track, meticulously chosen by Startup Wheel from a pool of over 250 global startups spanning 33 countries across all 5 continents.
Ms. Hà Thanh An, COO of Investment and Business Partners (IBP) shared her perspective: “Startup Wheel competition is not just a mere competition; it is a ‘connecting point’ that brings opportunities for international startups. Simultaneously, it serves as an platform for companies to witness the readiness of the Vietnamese market and receive positive feedback about their products.”
An esteemed presence within the Startup Wheel community, Ms. Nguyễn Phi Vân, Chairwoman of Southeast Asia Angel Investor Network, remarked: “For well-established startups aiming to enter the Vietnamese market, it’s crucial to expedite their entrepreneurial endeavors and remain attuned to shifting market dynamics and legal considerations, particularly within the fintech sector.”
However, startups must also consider their uniqueness when entering the market. Mr. Louis Nguyễn, Chairman and CEO of Saigon Asset Management (SAM), commented, “Each company has its own way of presenting, yet what’s important to us is your developmental journey, the market scale, and what makes you different.” The CEO emphasized the aspect of competition, as rivals of a startup may replicate similar approaches. Therefore, each startup needs technologies to bolster its best defensive strategies.
Carrying the theme “Innovation for Sustainable Growth,” InnoEx serves as the “Central Platform” where diverse paths of innovation. Within the InnoEx ecosystem, Startup Wheel acts as a platform for fostering connections, igniting innovative impulses, catalyzing growth, and forging resourceful networks for businesses across Vietnam and the ASEAN region. Through this platform, companies and enterprises have the opportunity to identify fitting solutions to seamlessly integrate into their own ecosystems, thereby fueling their innate “innovation genes.”
Established in 1994, YBA is the first Young Business Association in Vietnam. YBA is a member of the Vietnam Youth Union – Ho Chi Minh City. To this day, YBA is still a gathering place for hundreds of young entrepreneurs fuelled with quality, dynamism and the ambition to branch out across the region and then the rest of the world.
IBA was founded by business veterans in HCMC. With a network of more than 10,000 local and international tech companies, startups, R&D teams, and experts built over the past 12 years, IBP focuses on consulting and supporting businesses to build new growth drivers through innovation.
Business Startup Support Center was established by the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee in 2010. BSSC is one of the most prominent startup support centers in Vietnam. BSSC provides a wide range of intensive programs for startups at all stages including financial support (micro-loan), startup accelerators, competitions, and startups and tech events for Vietnamese and international startups.