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Vietnam’s backers say the sky’s the limit, even as start-ups shiver through ‘winter of funding’

Hunting for the perfect rose myrtle berries, he immersed himself in the horticultural and foraging traditions of the hill-tribe communities of the country’s Northern Highlands.

The result was Vietnam’s first craft gin, Song Cai, aimed in part at an increasingly experimental and affluent domestic market.

Home-grown produce and talent, as well as a thriving economy that’s forecast to record 6 per cent growth this year, made Vietnam ripe for his epicurean endeavour, California-born Daniel says.

But its moment in the sun may not last long.

“Vietnam’s advantage is a quickly growing economy. Our labour costs are relatively cheaper. But these competitive advantages are not long term,” Daniel told This Week in Asia.

“If Vietnam wants to become competitive, and continue to grow in the future, we have to change our mindset that when we stop being a low-income country, our competitive advantage in terms of a low-cost labour pool no longer exists.”

With a population of nearly 100 million, whose median age is around 32, Vietnam has a strong domestic base of both workers and consumers – and that’s good news for anyone looking to launch a business.

“This, combined with the fastest-growing middle class in Southeast Asia, provides a huge potential consumer base for digital solutions and services,” said Willis Wee, founder and CEO of Tech in Asia, organiser of the first-ever Saigon Summit for start-ups, being held in Ho Chi Minh City in May.

“There’s also the talent factor – Vietnam is well-known for harbouring affordable and talented engineers. The sky really is the limit for Vietnam.”

The country’s digital economy is expected to reach US$45 billion by 2025, according to the e-Conomy SEA 2023 report by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company.

For now