First worldwide startup competition sparks up entrepreneurship spirit

Initiated in 2015, the global startup competition for Vietnamese enterpreneurs, VietChallenge, has successfully provided participants with financial initiatives of up to $32,000 as a hands-on action-based scholarship platform.

Recently, the scholarship platform partook in Venture Development Centre, an organisation providing assistance and guidelines for entrepreneurs and startups based in University of Massachusetts in Boston, the US.

After the successful 2017 entrepreneurial competition, VietChallenge will partner up with the Association of Vietnamese Students and Professionals in the US, with the sole intention of jumpstarting the next annual startup contest.

In early 2018, six finalists who were hand-picked from the heavily competitive semi-finals held in Vietnam and the US will enter the final round of the scholarship hunt, with support from the Vietnamese Students Association at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Jean Pham, chief operating officer (COO) of VietChallenge, said the next Alibaba could be on the pending list for the next season of the competition.

Jean Pham (left) said the next Alibaba could be one of the contestants

Addressing potential future candidates, Mai Phan Zymaris, founder of VietChallenge, noted, “There were nearly 180 contestants in 2016, and we expect more enrolments in the following years as the competence of entrepreneurs increases exponentially over time.”

This December, the regional rounds of VietChallenge 2018 will take place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, followed by the finals for Vietnamese teams in the capital and the semi-finals for international teams in early January 2018. The final results of VietChallenge 2018 would be organised in the venue of MIT, Boston in April 2018.

Prior to the semi-finals and finals, the participating teams of VietChallenge, 66 per cent of which come from Vietnam, were paired with a pool of mentors to work on skill enhancement, product development, and pitching presentations as parts of the four-month mentorship programme.

Thanks to the startup competition, winners and finalists succeeded in finding well-matched investors engrossed in their business ideas.

For instance, Backbone Labs, the winner of VietChallenge 2016, scored $467,000 in pre-orders for their smart back brace as well as $500,000 worth of seed funding.

Likewise, the winner of VietChallenge 2017, Scholarjet, won the first place in MassChallenge and already embarked on the seed funding process thanks to the action-oriented scholarship programme.

Scholarjet, the 2017 winner and a finalist in MassChallenge, has begun raising seed funding for its action-based scholarship platform

With the purpose of linking Vietnamese startups from all over the world with competent US-based investors, the annual competition has drawn over 250 applications from startups based in 23 nations in the past two years.

The international entrepreneurship contest welcomes renowned judges who are experts in the fields of technology, healthcare, clean and sustainable energy, and agriculture, such as Anupendra Sharma, global vice president of growth and business development of Siemens Healthineers, Phuc Than, managing director of DFJ VinaCapital, Danny Cowger, chief administrative officer of OrthoLite, and Joshua Slayton, founder of CoinList and founding CTO of AngelList.

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By Sam Luong