SINGAPORE - Former A*Star engineer Tan Yeow Kee set out to develop fall-detection technology when his mother-in-law fell from her bed in 2019 while hospitalised for an operation.
Her fall, which was discovered only after 30 minutes, caused a back injury requiring rehabilitation that stretched her hospital stay from one week to several months.
Mr Tan, 42, and his team at his start-up SoundEye created Lasso, a device that uses radars and laser technology to capture a depth image of the environment that detects falls without using cameras. The notification of the fall is then sent to a mobile app.
SoundEye, which Mr Tan founded in 2015, is one of the start-ups that have kick-started its venture into the Vietnam market through the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) acceleration programme by Enterprise Singapore.
"We've been cooped inside Singapore for two years due to the pandemic, so we're trying very hard to expand overseas," said Mr Tan.
"Singapore is a stepping board, but a real business should have Asia as its market to sustain and grow itself. We chose Vietnam for our next expansion as it has a large market."
SoundEye operates in Singapore and is in talks to move into Vietnam and Japan. The Lasso device has been deployed at some hospitals and nursing homes, and Mr Tan hopes to bring it to Vietnam's public hospitals.
Another start-up with its sights on Vietnam is Acktec Technologies, an edtech firm that uses advanced technology such as virtual reality to create learning products. It also works with businesses such as enrichment centres and pre-schools to convert their offline curriculum into online content, so parents and their children can learn more beyond the school curriculum.
Acktec Technologies is in Singapore, Indonesia, China, Malaysia and Thailand, and is in the process of taking its first steps into Vietnam.
"The market size in Vietnam is much larger than in Singapore, and parents are also willing to pay for their children's learning as they value a good head start for their education," said Mr Rayvan Ho, 43, chief executive officer and founder of Acktec Technologies.
The start-up's team is doing market research and looking for business partners, said Mr Ho, adding that the GIA programme facilitated a physical visit for start-ups to Vietnam so they could understand the local market better.
Mr Gustavo Liu, 42, left his job of 11 years as a banker to start Rescale Lab in 2018, when he saw many aspiring entrepreneurs joining accelerators but few getting selected as they lacked access to consolidated resources and knowledge.
Rescale Lab works with academic institutions to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with a structured methodology to speed up the learning process and help them develop ideas into full-fledged start-ups. It also provides software for automated tracking of student entrepreneurs' performances.
"People don't see the need for entrepreneurship to be taught. We wanted to support academic institutions in teaching entrepreneurship and provide mentorship," said Mr Liu.
Mr Troy Yeo, the 24-year-old head of venture at Rescale Lab, wants the firm to break into either private or public entrepreneurship programmes in Vietnamese academic institutions by early 2023.
"Vietnam is a big country - access to these resources and knowledge is scarce unless you're in big cities," he added.