Mekong Startup Ecosystem Summit 2.0: Retrospective

The startup scene in the Mekong region has been blooming in the recent years with a well of potential to grow even more. And what better way to accelerate this growth than bring together the ones that have the power to make that change?

The Mekong Startup Ecosystem Summit 2.0 did just that. In its second run, this summit was a meeting of regional startups to discuss on how to improve technological innovation in South East Asia.

Mekong Startup Ecosystem Summit 2.0 saw a diverse mix of participants including 15 early-stage investors and over 70 incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, startup competitions, business associations and nonprofits. 

Over 70 big players of the startup ecosystem from Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar were present at the summit, making it a platform that brought people with a good understanding of their countries’ challenges and opportunities in the entrepreneurial landscape together.

This year, the summit held regional ecosystem activities that helped push regional startups to the next level, increased opportunities for collaboration in the region and highlighted the growing startup scene in Laos.

Such activities were apt and in line with what Mekong startups were interested in, which according to Souphaphone, an organiser of the event, was exploring new ways to create value and allow technological innovation to work better for people and markets in the region.

These activities included:

  • The Mekong Startup Initiative Challenge: A platform for startup programs to find partners and pitch for $20K worth of grant money for regional startup activities. 
  • Ecosystem Speed Dating: A networking opportunity for organisers and startups to connect and engage with each other.
  • Startup Program Sharing and Learning: Workshops held to highlight the successful experiences in the region on startup programming in aspects such as training, mentoring, co-working and connecting
  • TechSauce Tour: A pitching session where a small group of regional startups will pitch in front of regional investors with the chance to attend the TechSauce Summit in Bangkok.

The TechSauce tour was a refreshing addition to this year’s summit that featured a keynote address by Jeff Hoffman (Priceline.com – Agoda in Asia), an exclusive panel from Digio, Apptividia/Bookkaze and Priceline on how Lower Mekong startups can scale up to Southeast Asia. Wrapping up the tour nicely was a networking party sponsored by InVent. Mentorship sessions were also held for all selected startups, who gave their final pitch on the last day of the summit.

Ultimately, Chatesat, a Burmese tech startup that connects freelancers with opportunities bagged the attractive prize of the pitch: 2 air tickets round trip with accommodation to join the final round of startup at the Techsauce Global Summit in Bangkok, which is essentially a melting pot for tech leaders in the Southeast Region.

This summit was part of the US State Department’s TIGERS@Mekong initiative supported by the Mekong Business Initiative and the Asian Development Bank. It was also strongly supported by the Lao National Chamber and Commerce and Industry that was led by Keovisouk Dalasane, the founder of 108.jobs and one of the first web-entrepreneurs in Laos.

Organisers of this event also expressed that although Mekong startups were reshaping industries such as tourism, transportation, education and agriculture in the region, for them to survive and thrive, they would still require a backbone of entrepreneurship programmes with investors and mentors to support them.

We can certainly see where the organisers are coming from, and couldn’t agree more, which is why such events like the Mekong Startup Ecosystem Summit are so important to the growth of the region’s scene. We are happy to see that in the recent years, many organisations and activities have provided such support to startups, through accelerator programmes, co-working spaces, mentor activities, startup competitions, meet-ups, and a variety of training, allowing startups to be boosted to greater heights.

But even more exciting is the growing connections made between people and organisations across regional borders. For one, a startup in Cambodia is teaming up with a business partner in Myanmar to develop a new education technology company. Such cross-collaborations would not have been possible without regional events, and as always, Geeks in Cambodia looks forward to being able to cover more of such events like the Mekong Startup Ecosystem Summit.

In fact, Geeks in Cambodia likes covering such events so much, we even managed to snag a post-event interview with Mekong Startup Ecosystem Summit 2.0’s participants Leap Sok, Chantra Be and Rithy Thul. Be sure to check out this insightful interview to learn more about Cambodia’s startup scene here!

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