Berlin, October 2021 – One of the more spectacular events in the start-up scene and in international cooperation probably was the AsiaBerlin Summit this month, which took place from 4th-10th October in Berlin. Co-organized by the Vietnamese Embassy in Germany, SKARO, a cooperational project set-up by the GIZ in Vietnam (Digital Transformation Centre Vietnam) and the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises (SenWiEnBe), the event offered an occasion where German and Vietnamese start-ups could meet. Both, in person and online 2,000 participants were expected to get inspired by 175 industry experts, 50+ panels, 5 focus tracks, 9 satellite events and participants from 8+ countries.
Strengthening Vietnam-Germany Ties
According to Vietnam+, Dang Chung Thuy, Minister Counselor at the Vietnamese Embassy in Berlin, described the AsiaBerlin Summit 2021 as an excellent opportunity to bring together businesses, start-ups and investors from both countries and beyond. Dang Chung Thuy, who recently won the Vietnam-Germany Golf Tournament, which constituted an event to celebrate the friendship between Vietnam and Germany, has been advocating to strengthen bilateral relations for a while. One of the reasons why the Minister Counselor might be so interested in the latter is that “Germany [is] one of the most important partners of Vietnam in the European Union”. As Talk Vietnam explains, “trade doubled in the past decade, reaching 13.2 billion EUR last year, making Vietnam the largest trade partner of the European country in ASEAN”. The latter statement was approved by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, which stated that next to the fact that 370 German companies reside in Vietnam, investments into the country amount to $2.3 billion and have so far created around 50,000 jobs locally.
Especially, because the development cooperation between Germany and Vietnam aims at addressing the 2030 Agenda and the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement, a collaboration with regard to Vietnam’s Green Growth Strategy from 2012 and respective targets (i.e. sustainable growth, environmental protection, climate change, energy, health etc.) is expected to take place during the upcoming years. Based on the fact that 100,000+ Vietnamese citizens have worked or studied in Germany, students and graduates with an entrepreneurial drive might further benefit from bilateral relations.
Highlights from the AsiaBerlin Summit
For everyone who could not attend the summit, but is still curious what was discussed, keep on reading! And for all, who cannot wait for a full summary of the highlights of the summit, follow AsiaBerlin’s LinkedIn page!
- October 4, 2021: Day 1
During the first day of the summit, corporates met start-ups; start-ups were positioned as drivers of innovation and the digitization of the German economy; Nepal, China and Cambodia provided inspiration to foster regional tourism; female investors talked about building bridges; keynote speakers and panels discussed how to unlock LGBTQI+ talent and much more! As AsiaBerlin promised prior to the first day of the summit, interculturality would be a cornerstone of most speeches. Either speakers represented their own culture, identity and values, or they talked about the inclusion and work of particular groups (i.e. women, LGBTQI+) in the start-up scene, for instance through employee resource groups (ERGs).
Some of the key insights from the first day of the AsiaBerlin Summit 2021 were as follows: Thomas Saueressig, a member of the executive board of SAP SE, addressed the need and opportunity to work on innovation for a sustainable future now. As Rainer Seider, the Deputy Head of Division for Energy, Digitalisation, and Innovation from the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises at the Berlin Government reemphasized, especially after Brexit, Berlin’s start-ups play a major role in Asia as entrepreneurs might be able to benefit from the continent’s fast-paced innovation and the chances which its “economic, social, demographic, ecological, and cultural challenges” offer.
Following Seider and Saueressig, a few speakers talked about the need for the start-up scene and employment practises to transform themselves. Whereas Nina Pütz underlined that hiring practises might benefit from platforms where startups, SMEs and governments meet, Dr. Gesa Miczaika emphasized that at a societal level, there also is a need for role models, or in other words, for founders who can inspire others to follow. Bringing a solid enthusiasm into the discussion, Athena Lam presented a 3-point plan on how businesses can enhance their diversity and inclusion practises. The latter plan demonstrated the need for businesses to:
- “amplify the work of people outside of their circle who are doing incredible work in this regard;
- to extend resources and networks to those who need them;
- include people with perspectives other than their own.”
- October 5, 2021: Day 2
During the second day of the AsiaBerlin Summit 2021, some of the panels deepened their discussions, while other topics such as banking; “transition scenarios to a planet positive economy in Asia and the Western World”; a future outlook to 2050 China-Europe relations; the role of banks vs. fintech in lending in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic; development in the German and Chinese healthcare systems; green tech; the empowerment of minority communities and the fostering of cross-border entrepreneurial platforms etc. were also discussed. Next to that, the second day of the summit promised to surprise attendees with information about starting up a business in Berlin and a discussion about investments.
In the session on fintech and banks, various speakers, among them Aia Widyanto, Director and Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer (CRSO) of Amartha, and Tobias Ahrens, head of the founder center at Berliner Volksbank e.G., highlighted the crucial role, which regulators play in the financial sector. In addition, panelists argued that partnerships between fintech businesses and banks can both create positive conditions and challenges. Similar to other speakers, Katharina Lüth, the Vice President of Raisin Europe, emphasized that business models always need to be tailored to the needs of local markets. The latter arguably proves that fluctuations in the world of finance, even if they are caused by global interdependencies, are tremendously influenced by local conditions.
One such condition is the pace of the German fintech sector. As Gati Kalim, a Venture Portfolio Manager at DB1 Ventures, emphasized slow developments in the German fintech sector are on the one hand linked with regulatory mechanisms and on the other hand with consumer behaviour. Whereas the next remark comes from a different discipline, it underlines the essence of this thought. Among other speakers, Sidharta Mohanty, a Co-Founder of Twik.World, emphasized that consumer behaviour plays an important role in making the fashion industry more sustainable. Shopping from second hand stores rather than by trends will protect both the planet and our future.
- October 6, 2021: Investors Day
During the third day of the summit, which was celebrated as the ‘Investors Day’, Indo-German relations and India’s potential in the start-up scene were discussed in more detail. In general, this day marked an occasion to talk about the benefits of multinational cooperation and start-ups from a wider perspective. In the session about Indo-German investment cooperation, speakers such as Varun Sridhar, the CEO of Paytm Money, conversed about deep-tech and AI indicating that India offered much expertise in these fields, particularly when it comes to language processing.
In the ‘Crossbreeding Unicorns’ session, panelists addressed the hurdles, which minority and female founders face in approaching investors and sealing investment deals. As Cindy Gallop from MakeLoveNotPorn emphasized, women should make a ‘confidence vote’ for themselves when selling their innovation to investors, especially because innovation and diversity are linked. Finally, an advice by Prof. Dr. Karl Pilny, the CEO of Asia 21, was to get familiar with Asian cultures, market potential and products prior to investing without a clear plan. Especially for founders from Europe, as Bo Ji– the founder of China Start, emphasized China might be an interesting market.
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