Our first Chairman’s Circle reception for 2021 on Wednesday, February 3, focused on 2021 U.S.-Vietnam Leadership Changes and the Impact on Your Business. The exclusive event offered senior AmCham business leaders an opportunity to obtain critical business intelligence and exchange views with a top panel of Vietnamese, regional, and U.S. economic and political experts about the likely focus of the Biden/Harris Administration and new Vietnamese Government leadership just two weeks after the U.S. inauguration and two days after conclusion of Vietnam’s 13th National Party Congress.
The event featured an all-star cast of experts, including:
Nguyen Xuan Thanh
Lecturer of Public Policy
Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management
Dr. Deborah Elms
Founder & Executive Director
Asian Trade Centre (ATC)
Nguyen Khac Giang
Co-author of “Civil Society in Vietnam: An Institutional Approach”
Senior Vice President for Asia
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The key takeaways for the U.S.-Vietnam relationship, business climate in Vietnam, and prospects for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) were: Continuity. Balance. Opportunity to Reset. Need to Exercise Patience. Hurry Up and Wait. Demonstrate benefits to American workers of trade and costs of loss of competitiveness if the U.S. remains on the sidelines of FTAs. Invest in Vietnamese Real Estate!
Putting it all together, our experts recognized significant continuity in Vietnam’s leadership and its continued desire to balance relations with the United States and China. Yet, there is an opportunity to reset the bilateral relationship. AmCham leaders should exercise patience as we hurry up and wait laying groundwork for a bilateral FTA or the United States joining an improved Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), with at least United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) standards, especially on labor and the environment. We need to demonstrate benefits to American workers of trade and the costs of loss of competitiveness if we stay on the sidelines of FTAs, while recognizing geopolitical security concerns may be as compelling as economic concerns in getting support for an FTA. And meanwhile, if we have any spare cash, we should invest in Vietnamese real estate, since more inbound investment is coming, especially in manufacturing, and the new Prime Minister is likely to ensure more progress on real estate and infrastructure investment.
More information about Chairman’s Circle Events
Interesting discussion on Vietnam’s venture capital and tech startup investment scene with Ms. Vy Le, Co-founder and General Partner of Do Ventures, with Capital Markets and Financial Services Committee (CMFSC) Chairman and Saigon Asset Management Chairman and CEO Louis Nguyen, held at the Sunwah Innovation Center.
The meeting covered various topics including the status of venture capital in Vietnam, what caused almost $1b in startup transactions in 2019, details behind large deals such as VN Pay, Tiki, Yeah 1, what’s hot and what’s not in 2021.
Vy spoke about her own career as an entrepreneur, beginning at age 7, launching her first tech startup at 22, and her first $50m VC fund at 33. She also noted Do Ventures’ investment strategy to focus on early-stage, pre-series A investment.
Vy highlighted the Vietnamese government’s efforts to promote tech innovation, including recent participation of senior government members at technology events, and at its National Innovation Center (NIC) outside Hanoi. There are high-tech parks and incubators in HCMC, including SIHUB, Shinhan Future Lab, and Block71, but none of them is yet at NIC’s scale.
She also discussed the influx of investors from Korea, Singapore, and Japan. She noted significant potential for more U.S. venture capital investments in Vietnamese tech startups and expressed the hope that post-COVID, more deals would be realized, even if IPOs would not be a likely exit strategy.
She said key hot sectors for 2021 are the “new normal businesses” such as the revival of B2B, online education, healthcare, and financial services.
What’s not so hot now for early stage investors are digital payment and logistics. The payment option sector is pretty well-developed already and logistics is a tough market to enter without significant capital.
While she thought it was late for early stage investors to enter the e-commerce space in Vietnam, she noted there was still plenty of potential for growth, with only 5% of Vietnamese retail taking place online, compared to more than 20% in the United States and over 30% in China.
She stated that Do Ventures has incorporated Environment, Social, and Government criteria into its investment approach, as well as KPIs for its investors. Vy reflected that among her highest returns were from two female-led companies, Elsa and MindX. She commented that, in Vietnam as well as generally, there is still a scarcity of women in tech.