Lao entrepreneurs gather to launch startups

Startup Weekend was held in Vientiane last weekend, giving entrepreneurs and business hopefuls a chance to pitch their ideas to experienced coaches.

This year is the first time the event has been held in Laos. It was organised by TOH LAO Coworking Space and ran from May 23-25.

Around 50 participants showed up on the first day, passionate about creating businesses of their own.

The participants, a majority of whom were women, played games and got to know each other.

Some pitched their innovative start-up ideas. Six teams then organically formed around the top six ideas, chosen in a popular vote.

The second day was a frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation.

The weekend culminated with presentations to local entrepreneurial leaders who gave critical feedback.

The six groups worked on their projects together with the support of coaches from various industries, including food and beverage, IT, banking, trading, hospitality and tourism.

On the final day all the teams came together to pitch their final projects to expert judges from the fields of IT, finance and business.

Winning the event was Lao Art Design, an online platform to promote unique Lao products to international buyers.

A member of the winning team, Ms Amy Chanthaphavong, said the website did not yet have a domain name but once it was set up the site would be very useful for promoting Lao products to the world.

“We will start with one local product shop before continuing to others due to our small budget. If we have success, we will grow the site,” she said.

The first runner up was a social mobile application for promoting local hospitality businesses, events and other entertaining venues.

Representative from the first runner up team Ms Mayouly Phommathansy said she would gather her team in two weeks' time and begin creating the app.

“Now the team already knows the goal of the app and is ready to design it,” Ms Mayouly said.

The second runner up went to Mr Yannick and his team for developing a system for monitoring the security of kindergarten and primary school students.

The event organisers and the co-founders of TOH LAO Souphaphone Souannavong, Lattanaxai Senkitchanoulack and Anouza Photisane said they were willing to hold a similar event again at the end of the year when the weather is cooling down, and that they aimed to host Startup Weekends twice every year in Laos.

The Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1,800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014.

The non-profit organisation is headquartered in Seattle, Washington in America but Startup Weekend organisers and facilitators can be found in over 200 cities around the world. From Mongolia to South Africa to London to Brazil, people around the globe are coming together for weekend-long workshops to pitch ideas, form teams and start companies.

vientiane times

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