New IoT Competition hopes to turn Ho Chi Minh City into a smart city

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The Saigon Hi-Tech Park Incubator Center (SHTP-IC) is organizing an IoT competition for Vietnamese startups throughout the spring and summer, the center announced last week.

“The competition is a great opportunity for professors, undergraduates, and the startup community to approach IoT developers” and gain “access to assistance and professional training from experts in the field to develop, complete, and commercialize the product from its very inception,” Le Hoai Quoc of the park’s management board told Tuoi Tre News. The park plans to run the competition annually. They also hope to attract some 20,000 people to IoT Startup 2016 later this year.

The full name of the competition — IoT Startup – Smart Urban Development and Improving Quality of Life — implies Ho Chi Minh City (a.k.a. Saigon) is looking at local talent to bring it into the smart city age.

Registration opened on April 9 and will run through May 31, aimed at universities and tech businesses in Saigon as well as surrounding provinces. However, the competition is open to any Vietnamese citizen under the age of 45. Five winning projects will get mentoring and assistance to get their products to market, in addition to the $4,500 prize (VND100 million).

That’s no paltry amount in Vietnam, where average tech salaries are far lower than in the Western world, according to PayScale. IT project managers make about $20,000 a year, Java developers $12,000 a year and software engineers $15,000 a year. Contrast that with the U.S., where IT project managers get about $85,000, java developers $70,000, and software engineers $80,000.

Le Hoai Quoc of the Saigon Hi-Tech Park announces the 2016 Internet of Things Startup Competition in Ho Chi Minh City, April 9, 2016. (source, SHTP-IC)
Le Hoai Quoc of the Saigon Hi-Tech Park announces the 2016 Internet of Things Startup Competition in Ho Chi Minh City, April 9, 2016. Photo credit: SHTP-IC

Hanoi vs. Saigon

The city finds itself in a friendly rivalry with the northern city of Hanoi for the center of the country’s tech industry. A number of coworking spots have sprung up in the last few years, including Start Saigon, WORK Saigon and Saigon Coworking (we didn’t say their names had pizzazz). Each city has its strengths. The local conglomerate FTP is in Hanoi, but a lot of the new companies are down south in Ho Chi Minh. Hanoi though might be more apt at educating new engineers.

That’s the assessment of Vertex Venture Holdings’ new director of communications, Anh-Minh Do. Do is an anchor in the Vietnamese startup ecosystem with a resume that includes Vietnam Angel Network, SHIELD, Launch, Vietnamese American Entrepreneurs Network, Startup.vn, Thousand Network, and Global Shapers.

Do wrote in 2014 he would “argue that although Hanoi is still the capital of Vietnam’s startup ecosystem, Ho Chi Minh City is producing a more promising set of young startups like Giao Hang Nhanh, Triip.me, Babyme.vn, Ticketbox.vn, and more. The tide is slowly shifting to Ho Chi Minh City, but it’s really too early to say how significant it’ll be.”

To register or find out more about the competition and IoT Startup 2016, visit iotstartup.vn (Vietnamese).

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