Budding entrepreneurship – How to navigate the startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia


After the success of the first two seminars on ‘Energy Economics and Policy’ and ‘Digital Transformation Challenges and Opportunities Post Covid-19’, YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam is continuing its mission to connect and empower young Southeast Asian leaders. The series of 2021 flagship seminars at YSEALI Academy will round off with an Entrepreneurship Seminar on Navigating the Startup Ecosystem. Being the last of the flagship series, this seminar will offer a one-of-a-kind curriculum, which will cover the ins and outs of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and feature a fun Hackathon.

The entrepreneurial landscape of Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is flourishing as the fastest growing economy and the third-largest market in the world. With this rapid growth arises a number of pressing challenges facing the region, such as educational inequities, healthcare inaccessibility, and climate change. But with a budding entrepreneurial mindset, today’s challenges can be the fuel for tomorrow’s transformation towards a prosperous and healthy society.

The number of startups and the amount of early-stage venture capital investments in Southeast Asia have increased 20-fold over the past decade, reflecting the region’s enormous rise in entrepreneurial potential.

“The launch of an Entrepreneurship seminar comes in a timely manner. We want to leverage entrepreneurial talents and harness leadership capacities with the long-term vision of building a world-class innovation ecosystem in Southeast Asia. The two-week rigorous yet exciting program will equip the young Southeast Asian leaders with knowledge and confidence to embark on their startup journey tackling the world’s critical problems,” – Hoang Ha Thi, M.D., Ph.D., Lead Faculty of Entrepreneurship at YSEALI Academy shared at the info session webinar.

Interconnected and united, ASEAN still has a wide demographic, cultural, and linguistic diversity, and the ten countries are at various stages in their economic development. However, seeing that there are over 70 million MSMEs and SMEs, accounting for about 99 percent of the region’s businesses, the diverse cultural fabrics of Southeast Asian countries are woven with the same appetite for owning and running their own business. Yet, Dr. Thi believes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to starting one’s own business. With such a rich cultural background, Southeast Asia needs to identify and address the market’s pain points on an individual level. Therefore, while encompassing the lessons from the world’s success stories, the YSEALI Academy’s Entrepreneurship seminar will also be deeply rooted in the regional context.

“As the name Navigating the startup ecosystem suggests, the seminar will be the first pointers for budding entrepreneurs to find their networks of advisers, friends from across the region, and even potential co-founders for their next business idea. In the spirit of fostering international collaboration, YSEALI Academy will act as a catalyst to connect the Southeast Asian most ambitious minds, offering Fellows the first-hand experiences and a launchpad for their future successes,” said Dr. Hoang Ha Thi.

Dr. Le Vu Quan, Dr. Hoang Ha Thi, and Ms. Trang Tran at an Info Session about the Entrepreneurship Seminar

Demystifying Entrepreneurship: from food truck to startup

The Entrepreneurship seminar aims to help Fellows connect the dots themselves, starting from that tingling, that urge to solve a problem, to building an actionable framework for launching their future startups.

The only prerequisite for the seminar is an ambitious and open mind with a brave heart to turn the most naïve idea into reality. Dr. Thi says that even with just a food truck as a starting point, you can spin it into a vision for a startup, build a brand, business model, raise capital, and scale.

In two weeks, the Fellows will be introduced to the field of entrepreneurship, gain a clearer vision of what entrepreneurship entails, its different types of ventures, and possible trajectories. Fellows will hear from entrepreneurs of different stages sharing about the life cycle of a startup from Ideation and opportunity analysis, to Building the right team, to Pitching and prototyping, then Launching the startup, Branding and marketing strategy, and finally, Fundraising strategy, startup growth and exit strategies.

Although YSEALI Academy has always incorporated leadership workshops within its programs, in this Entrepreneurship seminar, there will be a module focused on building leadership capacities to help Fellows hone their critical soft skills, nurture empathy to lead well-performing teams, create an engaging company culture, and sustain the innovative spirit in the long run. The curriculum is designed to incorporate a theoretical foundation and pragmatic approaches to de-risk the highly uncertain endeavor of entrepreneurship with the sharing from experienced lecturers and renowned guest speakers from all across the globe.

Along with the intensive schedule of lectures, discussions, and vibrant activities, there will also interlace mentoring sessions to prepare the Fellows to pitch their business proposals in teams at the Hackathon. “Entrepreneurship is probably the least theoretical topic out there so we cannot have a seminar without having a practical component that allows you to put your learnings into practice,” Dr. Thi reasoned as he shared his excitement for the upcoming Hackathon.

“You will have a chance to work hand in hand with entrepreneurs that guide you through the process of how to build a pitch deck, how to de-risk an idea, and how to ultimately pitch it to a panel. These can be a practice run of your entrepreneurial journey, where you will have to go through all of the steps to secure money and attention from the market.” To Dr. Thi who builds this curriculum, this Hackathon will be the heart and soul of the seminar as it replicates the most practical aspects of the startup ecosystem.

During the two-week program, Fellows will find their teams of five highly motivated partners from diverse professional and national backgrounds. These teams will collaborate to create conceptual business solutions for pressing societal needs and pitch their ideas to a panel of seasoned investors and/or experienced entrepreneurs. The seminar will culminate with this Hackathon’s pitch competition, where there will be prizes and the best pitches will receive continued support from the Academy to further explore their business ideas.

Bridging world-class experts and regional leaders

The seminar will invite exciting entrepreneurs from all stages of the startup life cycle, investors, marketers, and leadership coaches to inspire the Fellows and share their learned lessons with them. With the seminar being delivered virtually, YSEALI Academy will catalyze an interconnected startup ecosystem by bridging world-class experts and regional leaders, and everyone can benefit from this at the comfort of their home.

“We encourage Fellows to personally connect with the invited entrepreneurs and learn from their failures, personal experience with their journeys. There will be people at the very early stage, who like you, just started their entrepreneurial journey one or two steps ahead: they just launched a startup, and they may be just as scared or as excited as you are. There will also be the more seasoned entrepreneurs who have had multiple exits: they can share a more seasoned view, reflect on their experience and give you advice on how to navigate this ecosystem, not only professionally, but also emotionally and personally,” – Dr. Hoang Ha Thi stated. Amalgamation of resources, capital, and network is the instrumental factor of the seminar, through this, Fellows will be able to unlock their door and take the first steps into navigating the startup ecosystem.

Due to travel restrictions of the pandemic, the seminar will take place virtually, however, the two weeks will be packed with an academically rigorous and highly interactive networking schedule. There is a total of 23 sessions in two weeks (Monday – Friday), plus optional social activities, self-study, group work sessions, and lunch breaks for get-togethers. Joining this flagship Entrepreneurship seminar, Fellows are expected to commit at least 36 hours for online Seminar activities and approximately 12 additional hours for homework in 2 weeks. Therefore, participants are recommended to take two working weeks off their ordinary work duties or other commitments to participate efficiently in and achieve the most from the Seminar.

About the seminar: The Entrepreneurship Seminar on “Navigating the Startup Ecosystem” will be open to 35 YSEALI Fellows who are young professionals between the ages of 25-40, highly qualified and motivated, from all 10 ASEAN member states and Timor-Leste. Once selected, all participants will be fully funded by the U.S. Department of State to attend the Seminar. Due to the COVID pandemic, this Seminar will be conducted online.

The seminar will be hosted by the YSEALI Academy faculty and supported by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Fulbright University Vietnam.


YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam is excited to host the second webinar on its upcoming Entrepreneurship Seminar on “Navigating the Startup Ecosystem”.

Throughout this information session, our panelists including Hoang Ha Thi – Lead Faculty for Entrepreneurship at YSEALI Academy, and Vo Duy Anh – Strategy and Operations Manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, will answer all questions related to the curriculum and the exciting experiential learning activities at the seminar.

Prospective applicants will also have an opportunity to learn about what they should expect when joining the seminar virtually through the sharing from our very own YSEALI Academy’s alumna, Nuzulia Fajriningrum.

We anticipate that our Entrepreneurship Seminar will help budding entrepreneurs turn their business visions into reality in order to solve big challenges of today’s society.

Webinar Information:

The Webinar will be live-streamed on Wednesday, September 22, 2021, 19:00 – 19:45 p.m. (Hanoi/Bangkok local time, UTC +7) on:


  • MD. Ph.D. Ha Thi Hoang, YSEALI Academy Lead Faculty for Entrepreneurship
  • Mr. Vo Duy Anh, Strategy and Operations Manager, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Ms. Nuzulia Fajriningrum, 2021 YSEALI Academy Energy Economics and Policy Alumna

Seminar schedule:

  • Enrollment: September 6–24, 2021
  • Participant selection announced: October 21, 2021
  • Seminar dates: November 29 – December 10, 2021 (two weeks, ten working days)

To find out more about the program:

To apply:

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