Google program for Vietnamese startups, second season, launched

(VOVWORLD) - Google, in cooperation with the Vietnam National Innovation Center (NIC), on Tuesday launched the second season of its training program for startups. Called "Google for Startups Accelerator, Southeast Asia: Vietnam", the program aims to support and accelerate top Vietnam startups via in-person and online activities, one-to-one mentoring, and group learning sessions.

This week, we asked Thye Yeow Bok, Head of Startup Ecosystem, South Asia Frontier and Greater China Region, Google Asia Pacific, to introduce the new program and give us his assessment of Vietnamese startups.

Google program for Vietnamese startups, second season, launched - ảnh 1Thye Yeow Bok addesses the program's launch ceremony in Hanoi on July 11, 2023 (Photo credit: NIC)
Bao Tram: Welcome back to Digital Life on VOV24/7. Nice to talk with you again, Bok!

Thye Bok: Nice to meet you! Thank you for having me on the show again.

Bao Tram: As the project rolls out in Vietnam for the second year, are there any changes in Google’s objectives or expectations? 

Thye Bok: I think the objective remains the same, to further develop and nurture the entrepreneurs here in Vietnam. In terms of expectations, well, a lot of things happened in the past year, and I've seen a lot of innovation coming out of the ecosystem in the last year. So this year I'm really eager and I expect that start-ups applying to the program will come in with very interesting technology solutions using machine learning, cloud, web tree, and blockchain. Also, and this is not new news, mobile adoption in the country has continued to rapidly grow over the last year. A lot of solutions have been deployed on mobile and a lot more people from underrepresented groups in marginalized society have access to this technology now. So, my expectation is for much more interesting solutions, definitely, and from a program standpoint, we are eager to see how we can deliver a more intense curriculum over an extended period of time. Last year's program was one week; this year's program is three months, so much longer. And we are not only bringing in expertise and resources from Southeast Asia, we are also bringing experts from other regions into Vietnam.

Bao Tram: How different is the format of this year’s project from last year’s? 

Thye Bok: Much more intense I would say! Last year the gist of it was that one week bootcamp when mentors and startups came together. This time around we have what we call three high touch points of the program. So instead of just one week we have 3 intense moments. The 1st is a very rigorous exercise to understand the challenges that the startups are going through. So what happens during that phase, we will take the time to meet up with the startups and fully understand the challenges that they are currently facing. And this could be any form of challenges, doesn't have to be tech. It could be leadership development, business development, product development. The outcome of that intense exercise, which more or less will last a few weeks, is that we will fully understand the issues and the gaps that the startups are facing. With that knowledge, we will then build a bespoke program and that comes to making sure that the content that we incorporate into the program will help the startups to address those challenges. It comes with matching the right mentors and it also comes with the right collection of workshops and training. Once again, coming back to helping them make progress on the current roadblocks that they are facing.

The last milestone is a demo day and this is something we didn't have last year. So we want to make sure that we provide access to the startups to get connected to VCs (venture capitalists), investors not only from Vietnam, but also from across the region and maybe from other countries as well. With that, hopefully they'll be able to get access to funding, right, to continue to scale their business further.

In 3 months of intensive training, the "Google for Startups Accelerator, Southeast Asia: Vietnam" program aims to achieve:

● In-depth training for a select group of 20 startups, and large training workshops for about 200 startups

● More up-to-date training in Generative-AI for the startups' key workforce

● A keener focus on six key sectors in Vietnam: Education, Healthcare, Agriculture, Retail, Fintech, and Smart Cities 

Bao Tram: After the first year, were there any lessons for this year’s participants? 

Thye Bok: There were a lot of lessons, I would say a lot of lessons. I would say there is a gap between acquiring text queue sets and applying them and productizing them. So one of the things we notice is the startups in Vietnam need a bit of help in identifying product market fit and we talk about strong product market fit, where they will be able to build a sustainable business in the long term. That part is an area which I felt that, you know, Google together with NIC and the US government can help to address by bringing in their experts who have gone through this journey and impart that knowledge to the entrepreneurs here in Vietnam. That's one area. A second area is, I think, Vietnam entrepreneurs need to understand that they have the potential to be to go global from day one. There's nothing wrong with focusing on local problems. But a lot of their solutions are very applicable in other countries as well. And if they set their horizon on global from day one, it just helps them to realize their potential quicker, faster, and I believe strongly that the content that we put together and the curriculum that we put together through this program this year will help to instill a global mindset among the entrepreneurs.

Bao Tram: Last year when Google launched the intensive training model in Vietnam, I asked you how the bootcamps changed the Vietnamese tech startups and you said it was too soon to say. Now, after one year, my question is: How does Google rate the progress made by Vietnamese startups, especially tech startups?

Thye Bok: You know, when I look at when the ecosystem really started, 2016, that's the starting

Key dates to mark

July 11: Application opened

August 25: Application closed

October 13: Cohort announced

October 23-27: In-person camp

November 3 - December 10: Virtual workshops

TBU: Demo Day

To participate in ‘Google for Startups Accelerator, Southeast Asia: Vietnam’, register at

point for the Vietnam startup ecosystem and if you just ponder on that a bit, 2016 to 2023 is just a span of seven years. In this very short span, we have seen unicorns, we have seen innovative solutions, we have seen the tech talent in Vietnam really acquiring the skill sets of advanced technologies like machine learning, blockchain, and web tree, and they have started to productize this technology in their own business, in their own services, in their own products. It's evolving rapidly. VC capital funding has also increased and, it's very interesting, I was having a chat with one of my colleagues the other day and one of the things we noticed anecdotally is that the world economy, as it goes through its turbulence time and is, arguably, shrinking, Vietnam is expanding, increasing its adoption of technology, increasing its adoption of apps, increasing its adoption of content, and I think all of this comes from the fact that the country has a very young population. Now this is not new news, but we are starting to see that this young population is becoming the leader of the country, and really understands how to apply technology to solve problems and is able to move the economy. There's also a huge group of entrepreneurs in Vietnam that is eager and passionate to solve social problems sustainably. Communities from underrepresented groups come together and bond and make sure that they are able to get the resources they need to be successful. And all of this is just in the span of a few years. So, if you ask me what is different from last year to this year, I think it’s how the ecosystem has evolved so rapidly over the last year.

Bao Tram: Thank you, Bok, for granting VOV this interesting interview. That was Thye Yeow Bok, Head of Startup Ecosystem, South Asia Frontier and Greater China Region, Google Asia Pacific.

Thye Bok: It’s my pleasure. Thank you again for having me on the show. It’s nice to see you again after a year.