Of Vietnam, Iced Coffee and the New Future

Ca Phe Sua Nong.JPG

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I talked about Vietnam “Pho” in one of my older post (click HERE if you want to feel hungry). So I am going to do it again and this time and talk about Vietnamese Iced Coffee. I was never a great fan of coffee or any form of coffee products, I am still not a fan of coffee and I don’t think I will ever be. But there is something different about Vietnamese coffee that I don’t mind having more than any sane person should whenever I am in Vietnam.

Vietnamese iced coffee, also known as Cà phê đá or cafe da, is made using medium to coarse ground dark roast Vietnamese-grown coffee with a small metal Vietnamese drip filter. After the hot water is added, the drip filter releases drops of hot coffee slowly into a cup. This finished cup of hot coffee is then quickly poured into a glass full of ice making the finished Vietnamese iced coffee (Thanks Wikipedia!). The very first coffee tree was brought into Vietnam, according to online sources, in 1857 by the French. The beverage quickly became a major contributor to the economy when Vietnam rose to be a strong exporter of coffee.

This is not a post about coffee but the history of coffee in Vietnam shows how the beautiful country is benefiting from the government and the people’s openness to collaborate with external parties. A very valid example – Vietnam’s third largest lender, BIDV together with FPT Corporation, one of the country’s leading conglomerates and Dragon Capital are working with South Korean conglomerate, Hanwha Group in running the country’s accelerator program known as Vietnam Innovation Startup Accelerator (“VIISA”) (For more coverage: Dealstreet Asia). This was officiated during the a recent conference held in Hanoi which was hosted by the Vietnamese government and other foreign and local partners.


With the DPM of Vietnam and Chairman of FPT

My interpretation: Vietnam is progressively opening up the local ecosystem by welcoming more foreign participation and more importantly this is done in a collaborative manner i.e. foreign friends work with local friends on big big things. What I expect to happen is that there will be more and more of such foreign-local collaboration as the government has set the precedence which in turn will encourage similar arrangements to happen at different or all levels within the country. An official welcome from the government is like a VIP or a rock zone ticket to a Celine Dion (this doesn’t reflect my age) concert and you get to sing with her on stage. Not only you get to watch the show, but you get to be a part of the show with a key role. How did I come to this conclusion? The Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam stayed from the start til the end of the event as well as a closed door VIP lunch, and even moderated a session during the event. (I know this is rocket sciene!)

Main takeaways from the session:

  1. The government – To continue working on gaining recognition and acknowledgement of Vietnam as a great hub for startups. As the environment continues to improve, there are now about 12,000 new SMEs being registered per month; this is much more than the previous number of 5,000-7000 per month.
  2. Technology as catalyst – To develop innovative startup ecosystem through IT and technology. This is not just about the technicality, but also about how to be innovative and creative in business and commerce. Especially for SMEs/startups that are going through commercialisation.
  3. Awareness and startup culture – The government recognises the need to encourage more Vietnamese to get onto entrepreneurship bandwagon and that startup culture is no longer just a jargon. Startups as a community is no longer just a tool for pushing the unemployment figure down, but also as means to push the boundary for the progression of the country. The country needs to learn to accept failure and risks. What is more exciting is that the government is starting to learn that social objectives and economic benefits can be reaped indirectly from an active and vibrant startup ecosystem.
  4. Role of central government and local authority – To build an information hub and supporting centres as well as to allow access to finance and credits. Regulators and authorities are to build frameworks, policies and mechanism for angel investors, venture capitalists to play a structured role in supporting startups. Banks and credit lenders should also have a clear role on how to get into the game. However, the most important element of all these is to allow the market to adjust itself and follow the market principles. This is a very important point because it is a sign that the government realizes that interfering the economy might not be a good thing after all.
  5. Risky community – Ministries hope for startups to take more risks, cooperate and form a community on its own. The ministries acknowledge that sharing and cooperation is key to overcome and address risks. Investors and startups  are also encouraged to proactively propose ideas to government as the government now has an “open-ear” policy for the industry and willing to take in good input from market players.

So, now tell me – why aren’t you looking at Vietnam yet? Not only because of the food (and coffee), but also the overwhelming energy level when you talk to any Vietnamese friends.

If you are looking for more “evidence” for the vibrance in Vietnam, check out the latest co-working space that has been setup by a group of high energy level young entrepreneurs – CirCO.

Now, that was a long. Til next time.