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Vietnamese startups should breathe Silicon Valley air for real: US academic

Vietnamese startups should breathe Silicon Valley air for real: US academic

Monday, October 26, 2015, 11:55 GMT+7

If Vietnamese tech startups want to be successful at home, they should spend some time in Silicon Valley, an American university professor said at a workshop at the American Center in Ho Chi Minh City last week.

For those who want to start a tech career, like the people wishing to be part of the world’s information or strategic ecology in the future, working in Silicon Valley offers them the real-life lessons they can never be taught at home, said Dr. Hilton Root, a professor of the School of Public Policy under George Mason University in Virginia.

“If you ask people who have already been there, they will agree,” he told Tuoi Tre News on October 20.

“I was in Sri Lanka a few years ago, and met some local people who were very nationalistic, and wanted to create a tech startup based on their own traditions,” Dr. Root said.

But they had to start from scratch and figure out their development model without any current foundation, and eventually failed, he said.

“For operations out of Silicon Valley, there are a lot of things to be concerned about, like financing mechanisms and creative styles,” he added.

The young, especially tech people, will become an indispensable part of the development of Vietnam in the near future, the academic said.

Vietnam, like South Korea and Taiwan, has an intelligent and well-educated young generation in many technical fields, so they are willing to take risks to create startups, and also have the chance to receive overseas venture capital.

However, the American professor, who has worked for many prestigious organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, said ideas and money are not enough, as the creation of businesses which can produce and sell commercially viable products and services requires many financial intermediaries, which Vietnam lacks.

As a result, Vietnam should build a market where ideas and products in tech fields can be bought and sold.

In the U.S., the lack of intermediaries to promote startups is offset by venture investors, and venture capital plays a very important role in financing those ideas and products in the field of technology.

Ideas often stem from dreams, which the world has in abundance, but turning the dreams into real commercialized services or products is another problem, he said.

So what the dreamers and inventors need is the bridge between them and investment funds to realize their dreams, he added.

The American expert also provided an overview of the establishment and operation of Silicon Valley for young Vietnamese so they could draw their own lessons.

Silicon Valley and its operational models work to realize dreams that can be sold globally, and young people must actively persuade investors to fulfill their dreams, Dr. Root said.

Meanwhile, investors are always in search of valuable ideas.

“Also, if you are seeking venture capital, and have failed after trying to convince one investor, there are still opportunities with others,” he said.

“Because your plan may not fit the current portfolio of one investor, they may introduce you to others who have similar targets to what you are pursuing,” he added.

“The search for venture capital and other investment funds overseas is the same as in Hollywood, where you should prove that your film is attractive to producers," Dr. Root said. "But it doesn’t mean that the door is shut when one says no, as the opportunity is still there with other producers."

The reason for Silicon Valley’s success is largely due to individual investors betting on the future based on their own vision, imagination and faith, he said.

Vietnam needs a well-tailored stock market for technology stocks, like the NASDAQ in the U.S., a place where venture capitalists can exit after successfully investing in startups for a certain period, Dr. Root advised.

The final step for any venture capitalist or investment fund is the listing of tech firms they have invested in, signaled by their initial public offering, enabling them to collect the fruit of their investment and begin to look for new opportunities.

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Thoai Tran/Tuoi Tre News

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