Start Tel Aviv 2015

Last year we had the Startup Israel competition in Hanoi; it’s now been rebranded to Start Tel Aviv 2015 so things are a little bit different. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tel Aviv Global & Tourism are holding a competition to send one founder of the winning startup to Israel from September 6-12.

Startup extraordinaire and Indiegogo evangelist Oren Simanian was in Hanoi on May 14, 2015 to announce the program’s launch to a crowd at Hub.IT. Mr. Simian engaged the crowd, pushed the audience out of their comfort zone, and gave some actionable advice to aspiring and current entrepreneurs alike.

From a document distributed at the event:

“Start Tel Aviv is an international competition held by The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tel Aviv Global & Tourism. In this competition startups from 20 different countries will compete for the opportunity of a 5-day intense startup experience in Tel Aviv to learn from the ecosystem in the city. This list the fourth annual competition, formerly known as Bizcamp Tel Aviv and this is the first time Vietnam is invited to join.

Start Tel Aviv will take place during the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival, and participants will have the opportunity to meet the coolest and smartest companies, techies, startups, designers, artists, scientists, investors, and cultural drivers from Israel and abroad.

The DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival, a global gathering of innovators and entrepreneurs from around the world, is held throughout Tel Aviv in mid-September. The Festival is comprised of a long list of events, conferences, meet-ups, mingles and gatherings, all focusing on different sides of digital, technological, social and urban innovation.

Some of the participating countries this year are Norway, UK, Germany, Spain, Finland, Italy, Korea, India, Japan, and Russia.

As a part of Start Tel Aviv 2015 as well as a continuation of the successful Startup Israel 2014, the Embassy of Israel in Vietnam in collaboration with Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam and Business Studies Assistance Center (BSA) will organize a startup competition to find out a winner for Start Tel Aviv 2015.

Only 01 founder member of the winning startup will go to Israel for the study tour in September 2015.

  1. Criteria
  • Age of submitting founder: 25-35
  • Sectors: information and communications technology
  • Stage of startup: seed stage
  • Participants are responsible for reserving their intellectual  property rights to the submitted products
  • Founder member of the startup need to be fluent in English

2. How to Apply

  • An application in both English and Vietnamese includes the general information about the startup and thorough business plans in PDF
  • A video clip in English, no more than 2-3 minute long, explaining why their company should be picked to go to Israel
  • After screening of application and video clips, the finalists will have interviews (in English) with a board of judges including representatives from the Embassy, the Ministry and BSA in Hanoi. The final interview stage consists of presentation and Q&A session with judges.
  • Application need to be sent by email only to the following address:
  • Deadline for submission: June 7, 2015 (only shortlisted applicants will be contacted)

*Please note that participants shall cover their own expense if they need to travel to Hanoi for the final interview.

Fore more information, please contact:

Ms. Phan Thuy Trang, Email:

or visit or

Mr. Simanian gave some pointed and salient advice to the crowd, and even brought some members up on stage to quiz them in front of everyone else.

Below, points have been paraphrased from Mr. Simanian’s remarks at the event:

First, be ready. Leave the door open, don’t close yourself off to opportunities. Find a way to be better, faster, and cheaper than any of your competitors. The team and team development are a priority.

Keep your pitches short, keep your description to one page. Entrepreneurs need to get best out of every interaction. Don’t waste other people’s time. The world is flat, you need to use digital connections. Be a nice annoying person—for example, when following up, add another piece of the puzzle to help people understand what you are doing. Remember, no one works for you… so use creative ways to find a connection with the person you want to reach. Make your pitch one page, get it ready, so when you get the right contact then you are ready to go.

Most things will fail—it’s part of success so find a partner and fail. Enjoy your way but focus on the what, why, and how of things. What/who are you competing with?

Adopt more branding. Look to the Israeli Army’s Unit 8200 branding or Israel’s “Startup Nation” moniker, which was established six years ago. So start a brand; create a brand to improve the start up ecosystem—establish a unique selling proposition (USP). Figure out what’s unique in Vietnam. Build a brand around something new, and create it.

Try to find an academic correlation between your product and team—it helps establish credibility. Network! Find Vietnamese outside of Vietnam and try to connect with them. If you’re missing the know-how then find someone who has it; there is a huge Vietnamese community overseas.

Build your minimum viable product (MVP) so you can meet the market when ready. Timing is crucial; don’t pull trigger too early. Find connection on social media— on Facebook or LinkedIn. The world is flat so it’s easier than ever to raise money. Israel is a beta test market with 8 million people so most products/services are targeting the US. Go outside of Vietnam. Visit a different country. You need to understand how people around the world feel, so visit new countries.

Don’t be shy—it’s called chutzpah in Hebrew. Every “no” is an opportunity for education—find out why. Don’t be afraid to fail; this is life. Even if you fail, you will have expanded your tool box and gained more confidence. So start and fail. Start; don’t talk too much about it. Approach people to make it international. Before, startups used to raise money from friends, families, and fools. Now it’s friends, family, and Facebook. Use your network and be open to feedback. Think what is next. Think what you will be if you do well–and then do it.

Start with a feature killer. Don’t get distracted, but be flexible. Build it and ship it.

The Takeaway

Mr. Simanian had a great quote during his presentation: “Stop reading, put down the book, and do something.” We’d like to add, “and if you fail then try again.”

Thanks to Oren Simanian and the Israeli Embassy in Hanoi for their support of the startup community in Vietnam. If you’d like to know more about Oren Simanian then you can find his TED Talk here.

Startup Israel–2014 Competition

On October 6, 2014, Hub.IT hosted an information session about Startup Israel–2014 Competition, an initiative organized by the Embassy of Israel in Vietnam in collaboration with Ministry of Science and Technology and Business Studies and Assistance Center (BSA). The information session was an opportunity for startup teams to ask Ambassador H.E Ms. Meirav Eilon Shahar questions about the competition as well as to learn more details about the application requirements.

During the event, Ambassador H.E Ms. Meirav Eilon Shahar (who has been Ambassador to Vietnam for about two years) explained that the competition launched about a month ago and it’s the first program of its kind that the Israeli Embassy in Hanoi is promoting. According to Hub.IT, approximately 30 startups were represented in the audience. The competition’s deadline was recently extended to accommodate an influx of new candidates.

The competition specifically seeks Vietnamese seed stage companies. The interesting feature of this competition is that the startups get to choose what to send to the review panel—so they need to determine the best way to present their startup’s idea, team, product, competitive advantage, etc.

The winners will be announced in mid-November and they will travel to Israel in December to take part is what has been termed a “study tour.” The exact details are unknown but suffice to say the Vietnamese entrepreneurs will meet similar startups, visit with incubators, take in lessons learned and connect with businesses in Israel, which already has a global outlook for its startup community.

Originally, the plan was to send startup founders for a few months to work with startup companies in Israel but that was deemed unrealistic due to the time commitment required. So, the project had to be adapted to the Vietnamese reality of being busy with managing a startup. Now, one representative from each team from each sector will go to Israel for primarily networking, learning from adaptation, and knowledge exchange. Ultimately, the organizational partners want to see the results of this first “class.” Maybe the results will be too limited so the project can be tweaked in the future or additional resources (except financial) can be added, such as tutoring.

The hope for the project is that the Vietnamese founders have the study tour to learn about the ecosystem and to make connections with Israeli founders. One of the big lessons learned is that startups involve failure—but despite failing one should try to improve for the next time.

According to a handout that was distributed to the participants:

“The competition brings together Vietnamese startups throughout the country to compete for the opportunity to take part in an intense startup study in Israel.

Only four representatives from four winning teams selected from the shortlist of 8 teams will go to Israel for the startup study tour in December 2014.

In order to eligible to apply for the competition, applicants need to meet the following criteria:

Age of submitting founder: 20-40

Sectors: Web/Mobile/Agriculture/Life Science

Stage of Startup: Seed Stage

Participants are responsible for reserving their intellectual property rights to the submitted products.

At least one member of the founding team of the startup should be fluent in English.”

Israeli Vietnamese Connection

The purpose of this project is to share experience with Vietnamese entrepreneurs and to expose Vietnamese startups to the Israeli startup scene. The startup scene in Israel is privately-led by businesses—although at a time it was largely government directed. The Israeli market is small; its population is approximately 8 million so everything has to be exported globally; this outward focus is true for all Israeli businesses. So in a sense, Israeli startups need to have a global view even from the onset whereas American startups can focus on the available 300+ million population. Indeed, even the VC presence is difficult in Israel but it was harder before; Israel in the 1980s was very different than today’s Israel—it improved over time, developed competition, and leveraged a strong teamwork ethic to foster innovation.

Israel is currently experiencing a debate over whether exit events by local startups and the resulting outflow of human capital is taking away innovation. Is it better to keep innovation in Israel at the expense of a potential exit? Startups in Israel simply go to US and maybe Japan. However, traditional entrepreneurs come to Vietnam as part of delegations and invest as small businesses.

Ambassador H.E Ms. Meirav Eilon Shahar revealed that the Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology was in Israel last week for five days. During this time, the first joint committee was formed and Minister Nguyen Quan met with Israel’s chief scientist to learn more about the Israeli startup sector and the unique ecosystem in Israel. As a result, Israel and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to increase collaboration between the two nations in the fields of science and technology. In Vietnam, the Israeli Embassy in Hanoi is concentrating in private sector because government support is currently limited for startups.

A Winning Formula

Flexible criteria was purposely selected to be as inclusive as possible in order to spur creativity for the Vietnamese entrepreneurs who might connect with Israeli startup. What is important for startups to remember is to have the right product/market fit. It may be that the most important life experience is to go to another environment than one’s home country—in this instance for Vietnamese entrepreneurs to go abroad. Bobby Liu, founder of Hub.IT, explained, “I realized that we are only a few years behind Singapore, which started its accelerator in 2012. Being successful requires a lot of confidence. We have no choice but to explore since Vietnam may not have a suitable environment. Go somewhere else to explore: that’s what entrepreneurs do.”

Failure is a part of startups; entrepreneurs need to see and learn how to improve for the next time. It’s a long term haul—not a short-term win. One industry that Israel has focused on to grow and “own” is Homeland Security; in fact, Israel will be hosting the Israel Homeland Security convention next month which features information on cyber security, emergency preparedness, and law enforcement.

Considering there is no signup form, the challenge for startups is to submit an application that best portrays the product to the judging panel. So, 10 page proposals are out and the idea should be optimally refined to a single sentence of explanation (with supporting information). Hopefully, better judgment prevails here.

Interested parties can apply as outlined below (via handout):

An application in both English and Vietnamese includes general information about the startup and thorough business plans in PDF.

A video clip in English, no more than 2-3 minutes long, explaining why their company should be picked to go to Israel.

After screening of applications and video clips, 8 finalists will have interviews (in English) with a board of judges including representatives from the Embassy, the Ministry, and BSA. The final interview stage consists of presentation and Q&A session with judges.

Applications needs to be sent by email only to the following address:

For more information, please contact Ms. Phan Thuy Trang; Mobile: 0914 551 528; Email: or visit the Embassy Homepage or the Embassy’s Facebook page.

The deadline for submission is October 15, 2014 and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.