Vietnam has great potential for start-ups and creativity

Update: 16:45 | 14/07/2018
Impressed with the start-up eco-system in Vietnam, Deputy Israeli Ambassador to Vietnam, Doron Lebovich, said that, during his two-year term of office, the phrases he heard most were “start-up” and “creative innovation”.
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Similar origins

Vietnam and Israel have spent 25 years working together through their friendly partnership. What do you think about the relationship between Vietnam and Israel and the prospects for this relationship in the future?

Vietnam and Israel officially established diplomatic relations on July 12, 1993, but the relationship between the two sides seems to me to have started when President Ho Chi Minh met Israel’s first Prime Minister Ben-Gurion in Paris in 1946. The two leaders had a special affection for each other and recognised the similarities between their two countries in the history of development as well as the struggle for national independence. Both peoples are hard-working, hard-hearted and strongly patriotic.

In December 1993, Israel officially opened its embassy in Vietnam and 16 years later, Vietnam officially opened an embassy in Israel. Since then, the relationship between the two sides has been continually promoted. In the last decade, the Israel-Vietnam relationship has experienced dramatic changes, with accelerations in many areas of cooperation.

vietnam has great potential for start ups and creativity
Deputy Israeli Ambassador to Vietnam Doron Lebovich. (Photo: Israeli Embassy to Vietnam)

Although Israel and Vietnam are geographically distant, they share many similarities. In terms of people-to-people exchange, it can be seen that the two countries are interested in exploring each other’s culture, people and country. Many Israelis visit Vietnam for sightseeing and travel. Many people in Vietnam are also particularly interested in areas considered Israeli strengths, such as high technology, start-ups and agriculture.

Economic and trade relations between the two sides have also experienced significant development. While two-way trade turnover reached about $68 million in 2005, it reached more than $1 billion by 2017.

Reliable political and cooperative relations between the two countries have also been strengthened. The two sides maintain high-level visits and contact, most recently the historic visit of Israeli President Shimon Peres to Vietnam in 2011 and the visit of Israeli President Reuven Ruvi Rivlin in 2017. Israel hopes to welcome a high-level leader from Vietnam this year on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

The two countries are negotiating and hoping to soon sign the Israeli-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (FTA). How do you think the agreement will help in promoting economic and commercial ties between the two countries?

Economic and trade cooperation between Vietnam and Israel is a mutual and supportive relationship. Although Israel is a small country, it is a leader in high technology and science. Vietnam has a great market and in order to develop, your country will need the support of science and technology from Israel. I believe that, through learning, exchange of experience and trade cooperation, Israel can better understand the needs and requirements of the Vietnamese market and vice versa, Vietnam can also learn, while importing technology and experience from Israel.

I hope that the signed agreement will contribute significantly to eliminating trade barriers, opening up a favourable corridor for investors and enterprises to exchange cooperation, and soon bring bilateral trade turnover to new heights.

Vietnam is the first country in ASEAN to negotiate an FTA with Israel. Why did Israel choose Vietnam?

In the past, Israel has signed FTAs with countries in North America such as the United States and Mexico. However, with its recent ‘Look East’ Policy, Israel is beginning to pay more attention to Asia and the ASEAN region, which is also a market for Israel. Israel has chosen Vietnam since it is emerging as a dynamic, developing country as well as a growing economy in the ASEAN region.

Learning from failure

The story of Israeli’s economic development, with a model of "start-up country", is spreading widely and inspiring the start-up community in Vietnam. The Israeli side also has been directly consulting on many start-up campaigns here. How has this cooperation come about?

What particularly impressed me was that during my two-year term of office in Vietnam, the words I heard most were "start-ups" and "creative innovations". I think that this is a right direction for Vietnam, because only start-ups and creativity can bring innovation and help the economy really take off.

You have a lot of potential for start-ups and creative innovation with a young, knowledgeable, eager-to-learn and well-supported population by the government. Vietnam also has an active start-up ecosystem. This is where Israel can share with Vietnam.

vietnam has great potential for start ups and creativity
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Israeli President Reuven R.Rivlin. (Photo: VGP News)

Israel has been working closely with the Vietnamese Government, with the start-ups’ supporting departments and directly with Vietnamese start-ups in a number of forms, and this has yielded positive results.

Accordingly, Israel has sent leading start-up experts to Vietnam to exchange and share consultancy experience for related units. Most recently, the Israeli Embassy and experts have been actively involved in the SURF event - the biggest start-up event of Central Vietnam held in Da Nang. In addition, Israel has joined and co-organised intergovernmental and international conferences on start-up policies, including the annual creative start-up contests, where winners will be invited to Israel to meet and interact with young start-ups from around the world, as well as visit and contact representatives of Israeli start-ups.

What can Vietnam learn from Israel's startup experiences?

Building a start-up eco-system is not a simple thing to do, since it requires time and patience from the government as well as enterprises. As for Israel, in order to build a vibrant start-up eco-system and become a high-tech power today, we started in the 1990’s.

From my perspective, another element of success lies in the character of the Israelis. Israelis are not afraid of failure, they are willing to accept failure because they think it is an opportunity to learn and learn by experience. The story of the well-known map application Waze (acquired by Google three years ago for more than $1 billion) is a symbol of Israel's start-up spirit. This is an application developed by an Israeli company which had failed three times.

I want this to be a lesson for young Vietnamese entrepreneurs, because many of you today long for success without daring to accept failure. Please consider failures as precious gifts, failure is not giving up, but learning from it.

Thank you very much!

By Trinh Quang Chinh

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