Obama plays host at entrepreneurship event in Ho Chi Minh City

U.S. President Barack Obama switched roles from a visiting leader to the host of an event focused on entrepreneurship and opportunity for Vietnamese people shortly after his arrival in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday. The U.S. leader came to the southern metropolis yesterday afternoon, after spending two days in Hanoi, with his first activity in Ho Chi Minh City being a visit to the century-old Jade Emperor Pagoda near the city’s center. Obama then toured the Dreamplex Coworking Space, a VND10 billion (US$446,429) co-working space for startup enthusiasts, delivering remarks to nearly 100 attendees. He concluded the activity by emceeing a small discussion with three outstanding Vietnamese entrepreneurs. “I think going from a 100-year-old sacred temple to this 21st century Dreamplex is a wonderful expression of the evolution that is taking place here in Vietnam, a country that honors its history, but is also boldly racing towards the future,” Obama began his speech. The U.S. president spoke highly of Ho Chi Minh City, which he said is “a city on the move,” adding however that the real driver of Vietnam’s growth, and the engine of Ho Chi Minh City, is “the spirit of entrepreneurship.”

Obama then hailed Dreamplex as playing an important role in incubating startups in Vietnam. “It is not only a home for digital entrepreneurs like you. It is also a place where you can share ideas and work together and build a community that supports each other,” he said. Obama added that startup incubators like this allow Vietnam, alongside its emphasis on entrepreneurship, to see more startups happening in this country than ever before. “In one year alone, the funding for startups doubled in this country… we are seeing major acquisitions, like Fossil Group’s takeover of Misfit Wearables, a Vietnamese company that makes devices like fitness trackers,” he said. “We’re seeing Vietnamese Americans who are coming here to start new ventures – and that shows a strong bond between the United States and Vietnam.”

Obama reiterated the announcement of a $10 million fund for Vietnam by Silicon Valley venture capital fund 500 Startups in March to say that the world is taking notice of Vietnam’s startup ecosystem. The U.S. leader said he will welcome eight Vietnamese entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley next month as he hosts the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. “Your success sends a message to global investors about this country’s incredible potential for innovation,” he said. “Hopefully it also encourages other Vietnamese entrepreneurs to chase that new great idea and start that new company, which will continue to fuel an ever-expanding Vietnamese economy.” Obama concluded his speech with a message to all the entrepreneurs that “ believe in you, America believes in you, and we are going to keep investing in your success.” “Ultimately, it is the inventors and dreamers… and all of you in the audience who are going to shape Vietnam’s future for decades to come,” he said. Following the remarks, Obama became the host in a talk show with “three outstanding young businesspeople who are leading the way here in Vietnam.”

The guests were Khoa Pham, director of legal and corporate affairs at Microsoft Vietnam; Le Hoang Uyen Vy, founder of Adayroi, which is aiming to become the Amazon of Vietnam; and Do Thi Thuy Hang, vice president of Seedcom, which invests in Vietnamese companies. 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. The U.S. president is scheduled to participate in a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) town hall at the GEM Center in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday morning, before departing for Japan to attend the G7 Summit in the afternoon. 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. The U.S. president is scheduled to participate in a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) town hall at the GEM Center in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday morning, before departing for Japan to attend the G7 Summit in the afternoon. Tuoi Tre News -

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