DNES and Swiss EP: A Long Story At Surf 2018

03 July 2018 | The Swiss Entrepreneurship Program (Swiss EP) visited DNES as early as the establishment of the business incubator in early 2016. Following an indirect approach, Swiss EP focuses on supporting and building capacity for supply side of the startup ecosystem, including mentors, incubators, accelerators, and investors. When bringing international expertise to help these ‘service providers,’ Swiss EP expects that growth-oriented entrepreneurs will benefit from their improved quality and capability. Swiss EP works hard for not only better performance of incubation and acceleration programs but also sustainable business models of these programs. To this end, Swiss EP has been offering holistic and systematic supports to DNES.

dnes_swissEP_surfIn March 2016, Swiss EP brought the first expert to DNES to introduce long-term mentorship concept to the just-emerged ecosystem of Da Nang. Technical assistance in mentoring training and getting a mentoring program up and running were continued in the year. Renowned international ecosystem builder was also invited to Da Nang at the very beginning of the first incubation batch to validate curriculum and offer startups opportunity to expose to regional and international networks. In October, Swiss EP sponsored a visit of Startup Weekend co-founder Franck Nouyrigat to the first-ever national-scale Startup Fair hosted by DNES. The high-energy and pro-action entrepreneur urged DNES to surf the startup wave by developing corporate partnerships and building an international working environment.

Franck’s inspiration created two results. First, DNES defined a strategy to make Da Nang an inspiring innovation hub by the sea. Second, SURF Da Nang 2017 was planned to be an International Startup Conference and Exhibition.

Four international experts were invited to DNES in the first half of 2017 to work closely with DNES management on defining business model and strengthening competitive advantages of the incubator. In July, DNES introduced 17 startups in the first two batches to more than 2,000 attendants from 27 countries – including, government leaders, international and national partners, investment funds, angel investors, businessmen, entrepreneurs, incubators, accelerators, and universities – at SURF 2017.

Swiss EP proudly invited world-class serial entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman to deliver a keynote speech at the opening of this memorable occasion. Jeff’s message was: “Ideas of Vietnamese entrepreneurs are just good as those of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. What makes the difference is the Vietnamese are lack of tools to execute their ideas.” As Jeff said, “Ideas are welcome but Execution is worshiped,” it was crystal clear to DNES as well as the other ecosystem service providers that their mission is to offer such tools to the entrepreneurs. The offerings include and are not limited to mentorship, training and coaching, incubating, accelerating, and angel investing. Jeff’s confirmation that “entrepreneurship is not just about making money but solving the problem” strengthened DNES’s confidence in keeping going on the challenging startup journey.

As of June 2018, Swiss EP has supported DNES with 11 international expert visits, in addition to constant technical assistance by the Program’s country team. Effective collaboration has resulted in the fact that 4 startups in DNES’s portfolio are in the list of Top20 Most-Employees Companies among those of Swiss EP’s 17 partner organizations. The four currently offer 128 employments. DNES has become reliable source of supports and services for startups and entrepreneurs beyond Da Nang and central region. In light of this, startup investors start asking DNES for investment pipeline. To support the investors in getting accustomed with unconventional investing in innovation and high-growth-oriented businesses, DNES and Swiss EP keep supplying them with international best practice and connection. The first group of angel investors in Da Nang is gradually formed as an effort of DNES’s investment arm – the Flying Fish Investment.

At this Surf 2018, Swiss EP sponsors the visit of Jan Lederman – chairwoman of Canadian Valhalla Private Capital – to Da Nang. As a guest speaker and panelist, Jan will share her experience in managing group of angel investors and making the first syndicate deal happens. Valhalla Angels are also looking for opportunity to co-invest with Vietnamese investors.

We wish Surf 2018 a great success of opportunity and cooperation. We wish DNES a champion in developing the startup ecosystem of Da Nang and Vietnam./.


* Hub Langstaff & Tran Tri Dung. 2018. DNES and Swiss EP: A Long Story At Surf 2018. Flying Fish Magazine. 3rd SURF Da Nang – Innovation Hub by the Sea, June.

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