Vietnam is a country that has lived many lives and evolved through many identities, both under the rulership of others and as a sovereign state. It is at once a very old country with aspects of ancient cultures, and a very young and fledgling country rebuilding itself after a history of constant warfare and rulership, from Chinese sovereignty, to French colonial administration, to American intervention. The Vietnam of today is a country reborn within the past forty years. Each time the country sheds its collective skin, remnants of the past linger, resulting in a natural tension between different styles; a reconciliation and blending of old and new, colonization and independence, communism and capitalism, rural and urban, third-world and first-world, tradition and modernity.
The multifaceted national and cultural identity of Vietnam, balancing the past, present, and future, is evident in the many different types of companies and entrepreneurs in the startup landscape. For every recent-college graduate in the city hoping to make a name for himself or herself leveraging the latest emerging technologies–a blockchain wallet or an augmented-reality Yelp-like location data application–there’s a farmer from a rural village building a small machine to improve the efficiency of planting seeds in his fields and cut down on labor costs. These examples illustrate the diverse backgrounds and visions of Vietnamese entrepreneurs and their companies, making for a unique startup nation.
Based on its young economy, massive growth potential, cultural adaptability, and diverse population, Vietnam appears to check many of the boxes as a setting for startup growth, leveraging technology to actualize its economic potential. Whether this turns out to be the case depends on the people leading these companies, and the efforts of the community members supporting these companies in Vietnam: a financial commitment, greater institutional support and mentorship, and long-term economic and corporate reform on the part of the government.