During his three day trip to Vietnam from May 23 to May 25, US President Obama met with young entrepreneurs and businessmen of the local business community in HCMC.
Obama is the third consecutive US president to visit Việt Nam, following Bill Clinton in 2000 and George W.Bush in 2006.The current two-way trade between the United States and Vietnam has grown up to US$45 billion, a 20-fold increase since 1995, the year President Bill Clinton announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam. Vietnam is now Southeast Asia's biggest exporter to the United States. The visit together with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal which will soon be enacted will help boost the trade between the two countries. President Obama said that the visit will be a driving force for science, technology and education cooperation.
The Reuters news agency notes that "Vietnam's manufacturing-led economy is growing at one of Asia's fastest rates, prompting US firms such as Intel, Microsoft, Ford Motors and General Electric to expand operations here… There has been much excitement about Obama's visit in a country with a young population firmly behind closer U.S. ties and resentful of their economic dependence on China.”
On May 24, President Obama met with young entrepreneurs and businessmen at Dreamplex, a co-working space for startups in Ho Chi Minh City formerly known as Saigon.Dreamplex was founded by a young Vietnamese entrepreneur, who was inspired by the model of WeWork, a popular coworking office space in the United States.
The startups and software outsourcing communities in Vietnam are hoping the visit of Obama will create opportunity for Vietnam to catch up with the world in the digital revolution. The visit and TPP will inspire and attract more tech startups following the Silicon Valley model in Vietnam.
In the recent years, US remains the world largest IT market, accounting for 1,286 Billions USD in IT services. While India is the top IT service exporter to US, Vietnam is gaining more traction in providing software outsourcing services. The Vietnam software outsourcing flagship FPT is expecting to have $100M revenue only from the US market this year. FPT has been able to achieve 45% annual growths in the recent years.
“I want to say to all the young people listening: Your talent, your drive, your dreams—in those things, Vietnam has everything it needs to thrive. Your destiny is in your hands. This is your moment. And as you pursue the future that you want, I want you to know that the United States of America will be right there with you as your partner and as your friend.” —President Obama.
Obama mentioned several positive indicators such as the two-fold increase in funding for Vietnamese startups, some major acquisitions like Fossil Group’s acquisition of Misfit Wearables (a fitness device maker founded by a Vietnamese American entrepreneur) – adding that there was a strong bond between the US and Vietnam startup ecosystems as more Vietnamese Americans come back to Vietnam to start new ventures. “Incubators like this (Dreamplex) allow Vietnam – alongside its emphasis on entrepreneurship – to see more startups happening than ever before” remarked the president. Obama reiterated the announcement of a $10 million fund for Vietnam by Silicon Valley venture capital fund 500 Startups.
After the remarks, president Obama hosted a talk show with “three outstanding young businesspeople who are leading the way here in Vietnam.” The guests were Le Hoang Uyen Vy, director of Adayroi, an Amazon of Vietnam; Do Thi Thuy Hang, vice president of Seedcom, investment funds focusing on technology startups; and Khoa Pham, director of legal and corporate affairs at Microsoft Vietnam. During the talks, the three businesspeople shared their thoughts as to what would make it easier for them to start their businesses and to continue nurturing their startups. In Vietnam, given the high mobile penetration with young people, the opportunities are huge. Vietnam has about 500,000 SME and this is going to be the driving force for the economic growth of Vietnam.
The US government and president Obama have been supporting young Vietnamese entrepreneurs get more international exposure via the programmes like the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSALI) and the US-ASEAN Connect.