Start-up battle for grants


BANGKOK, 5 May 2017: Twelve start-up travel enterprises from Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam will vie for a top prize of USD10,000 as they pitch their business plans to a panel of judges at the Mekong Tourism Forum, 6 June in Luang Prabang.

Four finalists will finish on the podium with the first winner taking home a prize USD10,000 and three runners up taking prizes of USD7,000 up to USD9,000.

The Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST) leads the grant programme that has the backing of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Mekong Business Initiative (MBI).

Start-up whittled down to 12 finalists from 250 applicants.

Industry experts shortlisted 12 start-up companies from more than 250 applications last month sending them on to the finals held on the eve of the Mekong Tourism Forum.

The start-up firms represent travel technology solutions, traditional tourism products, hospitality projects and social enterprises.

The 12 finalists attended a three-day training and evaluation programme, last month in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The sessions were led by executives from Amadeus Next, Asian Development Bank Buffalo Tours Clickable Vietnam, Entrepid Advisors, Gobi Ventures and Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.

MIST co-creator Jens Thraenhart, executive director of MTCO, explained that it is critical in today’s competitive and fast changing travel and tourism landscape to integrate innovation and start-ups into tourism development planning. MTCO is currently the only regional tourism organisation that incorporates start-ups into its tourism strategy development process.

The finalists

Artisan Origins by TAEC – Lao PDR: Artisan Origins offers authentic, high quality crafts from rural ethnic communities in Lao PDR, a café and information centre about visiting handicraft communities, and displays about the ethnic groups, cultural context and techniques demonstrated through the crafts.

Bayo – Vietnam: Bayo’s mission is to help Vietnamese make the best travel decisions by helping them find the right travel information, right suppliers, right products and prices, and to transact with local suppliers easily.

BookMeBus – Cambodia: BookMeBus connects travellers and bus operators in real time, helping bus companies fill their seats and users find the most cost-effective ways to easily get around the region.

CamboTicket – Cambodia: CamboTicket aggregates bus, ferry and private taxi bookings around Cambodia and Laos into one platform, creating an even playing field for over 40 operators.

I Love Asia – Vietnam: I Love Asia offers women-led motorbike tours of Hoi An and Hue while supporting projects for disadvantaged communities in the cities where they operate.

Dichung – Vietnam: Dichung uses technology to promote low-impact rideshare transportation options, giving drivers the chance to trade free seats in their vehicles, and working with taxi companies to develop vanpools.

Chameleon City – Vietnam: Chameleon City is an on-demand chat-based service providing travel and lifestyle answers from local experts, 24/7.

ezStay – Myanmar: ezStay offers hotel reviews and instant booking confirmation, including for hotels and guesthouses without an online presence, broadening and simplifying accommodation bookings for travellers in Myanmar.

GoP – Myanmar: GoP is an online tour platform amassing providers and options into one place, offering high-quality service, reliable bookings and instant confirmation.

GuideInsider – Cambodia: GuideInsider offers comprehensive in-country guidance on local sights and activities, including history, opening times, available tour guides, possible tour packages and user reviews.

Ma Te Sai – Lao PDR: Ma Te Sai preserves cultural heritages while developing skills and offering employment options for youth in Nambak through tourism to unique TaiLue villages via a multipurpose information centre and roadside café.

Morning Rooms – Vietnam: Morning Rooms is Vietnam’s largest budget hotel network, helping economical tourists find the right quality rooms for the price they need.

Qualifying MIST start-ups will present their business plans to media, investors and an expert judging panel. Four will be awarded innovation grants of USD7,000 to USD10,000.

MIST is a so-called tourism accelerator for Asia’s top growth markets, giving start-ups financial assistance to launch successfully, achieve profitability, create jobs and impact communities in the Greater Mekong Region.

In addition to grants of up to USD10,000, the MIST start-up accelerator offers exposure, connections to local stakeholders and ecosystems, individualised coaching and the chance to network with investors and global accelerator programs.

MIST is a joint project of the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) and the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO). On Facebook: Mekong Innovative Start-up Tourism. .

The Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) is an advisory facility that promotes private sector development in Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, and Vietnam. It is supported by the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Australia.