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Saigon Hub, an start-up incubator in Ho Chi Minh City
Saigon Hub, an start-up incubator in Ho Chi Minh City
Lien Hoang

HO CHI MINH CITY — Vietnam’s latest economic experiment has both significant government funding — $110 million — and an ambitious moniker: Silicon Valley Vietnam. Though it could take years before the country sees the same kind of success as the California tech companies it hopes to emulate, Vietnam’s GDP growth is at its slowest since 1999 and it is in dire need of an economic boost.

So it’s now betting on start-up companies to tap into a domestic market of over 90 million people and a burgeoning young population in particular. One popular meeting place for start-ups in Ho Chi Minh City is Saigon Hub, an incubator of sorts where an image of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is prominently displayed.

Here, Nguyen Hai is helping to connect the government with the world of technology. “Look at this project as a first signal to prove that the government is now aware of technology start-ups. So they do want to support and grow them in Vietnam.”

Officials haven’t released many details, but the earmarked government money is likely to go toward two so-called “accelerators” — one in Hanoi and one in Ho Chi Minh City. Accelerators are like mentor programs that support, train and connect start-ups with investors.

“The model is that they will support the start-up from the very beginning, from just the business idea to building the idea into the prototype,” Nguyen says. “And then test the market, launch the product, and then scale to the next level.”

Skeptics question whether governments should be involved in start-ups at all, but in communist Vietnam, nothing much succeeds without some government support. Many say that for start-ups to succeed, they need more efficient regulation.

“I would encourage anything the government can do to make it easier to get a license, to make it easier to pay my taxes to the government, to make paperwork easier,” says Chris Harvey, CEO of ITviec, a website advertising IT jobs.

“And if there’s a special program for Internet companies or start-ups, maybe some kind of fast-track program that makes it easier for us to get licenses and do business, that would be great.”

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Geopolitics

Our 'Emotional' Divide: How The Ukraine War Reveals A World Broken In Two

Russia's invasion has created a stark global divide: them and us. On one side are the countries refusing to condemn Moscow, with the West on the other. It's a dangerous split that could have repercussions far into the future.

Protesters against the war in Ukraine demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy in London

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — "The West and the Rest of Us." That's the title of a 1975 essay written by Nigerian essayist and critic Chinweizu Ibekwe. I've been thinking about his words as the war in Ukraine both reveals and accelerates divisions of the world that I believe are ultimately "emotional" in nature.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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With war returning to Europe and the risk of escalation, there is a gap between the Western view and that of the "others," a distinct "us and them." This gap cannot be explained in strictly geographical, political, and economic terms.

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