Travel startups working in what is commonly called the Greater Mekong Subregion (in this case, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) have a new opportunity to meet mentors and connect with market opportunities and investors.
The programme is named The Mekong Initiative for Startup Tourism (MIST) and in early-2017 it will be hosting its first event — a reverse hackathon and startup competition that will take place in Danang, Vietnam in December.
A reverse hackathon is typically described as an event in which traditional companies and larger corporates pitch to startups (instead of the startups pitching to investors as is common in the startup world).
The best startups from each country will be invited to a bootcamp and Demo Day at the Mekong Tourism Forum in 2017. For Vietnam, the best local startups will have the opportunity to pitch at a Demo Day at the APEC Investment Summit in November 2017.
MIST has the advantage of being aligned with two regional initiatives — the ‘GMS Tourism Sector Strategy 2016-2025’ and the ‘GMS Tourism Marketing Strategy 2015-2020’ — giving it significant connections within the industry.
The strategy for MIST is to identify local players — giving emphasis to local Founders — and then solicit global solutions from industry veterans in order to foster collaboration between startups and larger companies.
Thanks in part to positive macro economic trends, the Mekong region is seeing a boom in tourism, but it is largely driven by traditional companies, making it an excellent opportunity for startups.
“The Greater Mekong Subregion is a magnet for tourism, but accelerating tourist volumes have also brought challenges to drive inclusive growth. The region will need to develop and innovate if it is to sustain today’s growth over the long term,” said Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) in an official statement.
Along with the MTCO, the official organisers for MIST is the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI). The MTCO receives funding from the governments of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The MBI is funded by the Asia Development Bank and the government of Australia.
Dominic Mellor, of the MBI, explained the reasons for starting the MIST programme:
“Innovation and technologies are transforming the world’s tourism sector, but the Mekong region has lagged behind. We are eager to see the region’s startups innovate and create new avenues for tourism growth”.
The Danag event is co-organised by the Danang Business Incubator and is partnered with the Seoul Global Startup Center and the SECO Entrepreneurship Program (funded by the Swiss government).
The programme was officially launched at Echelon Vietnam 2016.
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