Investors Boost Vietnam Start-ups

A investor looks at stock market screens at a securities company in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 20, 2016.

Some high-tech start-up companies in Vietnam are attracting investment from several venture capital firms that are betting that the nation's fast-growing economy, improving investment climate and relatively inexpensive workforce will mean a profitable future.

Vietnam's technology sector attracted favorable notice by creating a popular game program called "Flappy Birds," and the country has been home to branches of major foreign technology companies for some time. Vietnam's workforce is cheaper than China's and includes many people with computer and math skills.

One of these investors is "500 Startups," which plans to spread about $10 million across 100 or more fledgling firms. Partner Eddie Thai told VOA that increased use of the Internet and mobile phones and a rising generation of technology-oriented entrepreneurs have made good progress.

WATCH: Eddie Thai talks start-ups

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He said some "products or business models that have succeeded elsewhere just need to be localized for Vietnam." It's a process aided by local entrepreneurs who "have a familiarity with a uniquely Vietnamese problem or an emerging-market problem that is not yet being addressed by the technology entrepreneurs in, say, San Francisco or London or Tel Aviv."

Thai is a Vietnamese-American who combines foreign education and experience with an understanding of the Vietnamese market and is one of a small number of overseas Vietnamese who are investing in the ancestral home. Thai said foreign expertise may be useful at this time because Vietnam is at a "critical point." He said the nation has already taken the easiest and most obvious steps toward growth and will have to do more complex and difficult things to keep expanding at a strong pace.

New approach

An expert on Vietnam's development said Vietnam is an emerging economy and not a particularly good place for start-ups to flourish. In a Skype interview, Indiana University Professor Anh Tran said start-ups get a lot of attention from government officials, investors and scholars but are hampered by the nation's weak infrastructure, corruption and inadequate training for some workers.

Tran said start-ups usually have to come up with a new approach to "technology or management or marketing in order to be successful." He said Vietnam is "not at the frontier" of these areas. He said success is more likely for established firms with "capital and technical ability" that adapt "existing technology from a more advanced country."

But Tran also said Vietnam benefits from a stable political environment and a "very entrepreneurial," hard-working labor force.

That labor force would benefit from the success of small and medium-sized companies, according to Kim Eng Tan, a senior director of S&P Global Ratings in Singapore. Tan told VOA that smaller firms tend to be less capital-intensive than huge multinationals, making them a particularly good source of jobs.

Source: Voice Of America

US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) visits the village of Kien Vang along the Mekong River Delta, Vietnam, Dec. 15, 2013.

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Three high-profile current and former U.S. public servants who fought in the Vietnam War are reflecting on the conflict, while casting an eye on the present and the future.

In a joint op-ed Tuesday in the New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey, wrote as the U.S. strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember the lessons learned from the war that claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American and nearly one million Vietnamese.

Although there are "few easy answers" to questions about the lessons, they said "we must never again confuse a war with the warriors." American veterans "deserve our deepest respect, gratitude and support whenever and wherever they served," they added, an apparent reference to the derision Vietnam veterans faced when they returned home from the controversial war in the 1960's and 1970's.

They also cited the need for leaders "to be honest" with Congress and the American public about military plans, a declaration that comes decades after the first U.S. combat troops deployed to Vietnam were described as "flood relief."

Exercising "humility in assuming knowledge about foreign cultures" and overcoming "seemingly unbridgeable differences," which are evident this week in Vietnam, are among the other lessons the United States has learned from the war, which raged in Southeast Asia from 1955 to 1975.

FILE - U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, is seen during a tour of Hoa Lo Prison site, Hanoi, April 8, 2009. The photo behind McCain is that the Hanoi army and people pull out McCain out of Truc Back Lake on Oct. 26, 1967 after his plane was shot down.

FILE - U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, is seen during a tour of Hoa Lo Prison site, Hanoi, April 8, 2009. The photo behind McCain is that the Hanoi army and people pull out McCain out of Truc Back Lake on Oct. 26, 1967 after his plane was shot down.

Kerry, McCain and Kerrey are proud of the contributions they made toward the resumption of normal diplomatic relations 20 years ago between the U.S. and Vietnam. For example, fewer than 60,000 Americans visited Vietnam annually 20 years ago, compared to nearly one half million today, and bilateral trade with Vietnam is nearly 100 times the $450 million dollar figure of 20 years ago.

As President Barak Obama visits Vietnam this week, the three veterans describe his relationship building efforts as "wide-ranging," covering issues from security, trade, investment, the environment and "freedom of religion and human rights."

Looking ahead, they wrote, "mutual interests" and "natural affinities" such as family ties and a "fierce desire for freedom" will help strengthen ties between the two countries.

John Kerry was a naval officer in Vietnam. McCain was a naval officers and a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and 1/2 years. Bob Kerrey was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam.

Source: Voice Of America