The annual business model competition ECOTHON (short for Eco-Entrepreneurs’ Marathon) has been co-organised in several ASEAN countries by the ASEM SMEs Eco-Innovation Center (ASEIC) and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) Vietnam since 2019 with the aim of promoting green business ideas and raising public awareness of SCP in ASEAN countries. The ECOTHON in Lao PDR was co-organised and hosted by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Lao PDR (MoIC), the Lao ICT Commerce Association (LICA) and USAID.
Among many applicants, nine teams made it to the final round of ECOTHON in Lao PDR 2021 where they had a wonderful chance to present their innovative business ideas to experienced international experts in SCP, circular economy, business consultancy, social entrepreneurship, and SCP.
With huge enthusiasm and determination, they brought to the competition amazing ideas for facilitating sustainable practices throughout the supply chain – from the selection of eco-friendly production inputs and technology, through the use of sustainable distribution channels to the end consumption – in many sectors: agriculture, energy, fashion, and health care. As a major part of the competition, they also participated in intensive coaching and mentoring sessions focusing on various aspects of sustainable business management such as conducting market and customer analysis, building profit model, building scale-up and innovation, and measuring sustainable impact. The competition does not only seek to motivate them to realise their sustainable business ideas at the earliest stage of their business life cycle, but more importantly, it also equips them with knowledge and skills that will be helpful throughout the later stages of their business development.
As the dialogue with responsible state and regulatory institutions is an integral part of the Ecothon series, Mr Sa Siriphong – Deputy Director General at MoIC spoke highly of the mission of the ECOTHON series and expressed his support for overcoming the immense challenges for the young green entrepreneur scene in Lao. He highlighted that promoting start-ups and SMEs, especially sustainability-oriented ones, is also a responsibility of the MoIC, and he looked forward to further support from international organisations to organise similar events in Lao PDR in the future.
The first prize winner of ECOTHON in Lao PDR 2021 is team Back2Nature with the idea of building and selling sustainable toilets that turn human waste into organic fertiliser and renewable energy. Their mission is to accelerate the transition to sustainable waste management and renewable energy in Lao PDR and in the world. Together with the first prize winners of ECOTHON in other countries, team Back2Nature will have chance to present their idea to potential investors at the most famous and biggest start-up festival in Korea “K-Startup Week Come up 2021”.
The second and third prizes went to team 2nd Hand Word and Modway Market, respectively. Both teams are at the initial stage of running their digital businesses: while 2nd Hand Word offers a digital platform for selling, buying and donating second-hand products, Modway Market is a Facebook-based marketplace that directly connects local organic farmers and customers.