The Mekong Business Initiative organized a Demo Day to mark the end of the 5-month Smart City Innovation Challenge: a unique initiative to identify innovative enterprises from around the world with the potential to address real urban challenges facing Vietnamese cities.

The Demo Day, hosted by MBI at Sheraton Hanoi Hotel, saw 15 outstanding finalists pitch and showcase their solutions to an audience of enterprise executives, investors, entrepreneurs, and key stakeholders within the smart city ecosystem and local government.

Three top winners were selected at the Demo Day with cash prizes offered (1 st prize: USD5,000; 2 nd prize: USD3,000 and 3 rd prize: USD2,000) and will be fast-tracked to the cities’ programs to help accelerate the localization of their solutions. TNB Ventures, a venture capital partner for this Smart City Innovation Challenge Vietnam, is currently considering Series A funding for several high potential companies, subject to their internal due diligence.

The three winners were:

1​st Place: GridComm​, a smart street lighting solution for cities and their partner, G Element​, a 3D software company focusing on smart cities and buildings. When asked about impact, Mike Holt, CEO of GridComm said: “Ultimately, we are about making big impact. Our impact is building a smart city through a sensor network that provides valuable data insights. There is a driver to adopt Gridcomm’s control of streetlights with immediate payback of dramatically reducing the cities overall electricity cost. Once this infrastructure is in place, Viet Nam will then have the ability to deploy other smart city projects such as traffic management or urban planning much faster and easier.”

2​nd Place: XRVision​, facial recognition software for uncontrolled environments. CEO Guy Ron used to work for Microsoft, heading up the security practice in Israel; and when asked why he chose to start his company in the region, he explained that “Southeast Asia offers some unique characteristics that help a company like XRVision. Digital transformation is catching up very quickly and we see the trend very strongly in countries such as Viet Nam and Thailand. The need for facial recognition for their government and large corporations is growing and we see great opportunity here.”

3​rd MimosaTek​, a Viet Nam-based urban agriculture startup providing irrigation solutions for all crops. CEO Nguyen Khac Minh Tri summarized the deeper meaning of a smart city being “where people can utilize technology to lead smoother and more effective lives. It is about having a better and happier life, no matter where one stays.”

The Smart City Vietnam Demo Day Judging Panel commented that it was a tough decision to determine the 3 winners and thus decided to give an honourable mention to Whizpace, a TV white space technology company, for its great potential in enabling remote connectivity.

After the announcement of the results, the program’s focus shifted to a panel discussion on “the power of innovation in addressing urban development challenges.”

Some valuable insights shared from the panel are as follows:

“Building a smart city ecosystem is not a one-time effort – it happens over time; welcoming innovative solutions from all around the world and marshalling the local community. Smart City Innovation Challenge 2017 shows the recurring theme that countries around ASEAN can support each other to push the development of innovation – I am highly impressed with all the solutions. Innovation challenges brings overall awareness of what is possible and we need to persist in this so that value and culture will grow.” – Michael Yap, Managing Partner of TNB Ventures

“We are excited to have such high quality companies with interesting solutions. This program will truly be successful when the finalists and top 3 winners maintain the connection with business partners and deploy their solutions into the Vietnamese market.” – Roger Thomas Moyes, Project Director & Senior A2F Advisor at Mekong Business Initiative

“As a local, I can say that Viet Nam has reached a critical point of inflection where drastic measures are needed to address real urban issues. The attendance of representatives from over 30 provinces in Viet Nam expresses serious interest and need for deployable solutions. In these 15 finalist teams, we saw the power of being genuine and the desire to better lives. That is the main motivation behind the Mekong Business Initiative and here at MBI, we are committed to supporting solutions that fulfil this purpose.” – John Tran, Project Coordinator for ecosystem development in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV)

Other finalists were also matched to noteworthy local mentors influential within the Vietnamese smart city and local business ecosystem. Through this mentor-mentee connection, the cohort will continue to grow and accelerate their sales pipelines, develop business planning, and receive valuable corporate insights regarding go-to-market strategy in Viet Nam.

The Smart City Vietnam Demo Day was organized by MBI in cooperation with The National Agency for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Development (NATEC-MOST), HCMC Department of Science and Technology, Da Nang Business Incubator (DNES), Vietnam Angel Investor Network (iAngel) and Vietnam Software Association (VINASA).