Hung Dao and Hai Nguyen arrived in Aarhus last November through the Start-up Denmark Programme. They are here to launch a promising new biomass gasification application.
By Christian Bjerggaard Jørgensen
It's busy times for Vietnamese entrepreneurs Hung Dao and Hai Nguyen. Since moving into cleantech hub INCUBA Navitas
nine months ago they’ve been registering a new company and handling everything that comes with it while travelling regularly between Aarhus and Hanoi.
Their startup EnergiTek specializes in sustainable biomass gasification solutions for both private and industrial use. An idea initially spurred by the sight of people cooking on dirty stoves in the streets in Hanoi back in 2012. Today, several prototypes later, the technology has been implemented and tested in 10 different cases across Vietnam.
Why head for Denmark?
“It’s a long story, actually” says Hung Dao, CEO.
“You have a very good environment for startups in Northern Europe including Denmark. That’s one reason.”
Another reason is Denmark’s position as a top cluster within cleantech and sustainable energy. EnergiTek wants to comply with European product standards and collaborate with knowledge-intensive partners. Being registered as a European company makes it easier to get the right connections, Hung Dao explains.
Out of the lab
EnergiTek has previously worked with development organizations including DANIDA and Oxfam on projects using their equipment. One partner advised them to consider choosing a good spot to launch the business officially and bring the technology out of the lab.
Through network they heard about Startup Denmark and decided to apply. The programme grants selected non-EU entrepreneurs permission to live and launch high-impact start-ups in Denmark. When in Denmark, entrepreneurs have access to a range of programmes and schemes, including individual counselling from the regional Business Development Centers on business plan, capital issues and product development.
“Compared to other countries, registering a company in Denmark is quite easy. I meet a lot of international entrepreneurs who haven't necessarily been a part of this programme but are impressed with the level of free guidance and sparring,” says Betina Møller, adviser in Startvækst Aarhus
under Business Development Centre Central Denmark (Væksthus Midtjylland).
Going to the bank
According to the latest ‘Ease of Doing Business Rank
’ by The World Bank, Denmark comes in third worldwide. However, EnergiTek didn’t elude minor obstacles, like trying to open a bank account.
“I need a job to get a bank account, but I need a company to have a job and I need a bank account to open a company. It was a cycle. I didn’t expect such things. Luckily you have very good support systems with people who helped us come through” Hung Dao humorously recalls.
When arriving, entrepreneurs often face a challenge in cultivating network. The Business Development Centre helps by directing them to opportunities such as investment funds, networks, accelerators and co-working spaces with the ability to further open new doors.
Shortly after arriving, EnergiTek moved into cleantech hub INCUBA Navitas close to AU Engineering. Here they were granted three months of free rent under the Touchdown Europe programme.
”Startups today need to have a global mindset. We are happy to see international entrepreneurs recognize the strong cleantech sector of Aarhus and support the increasing internationalization of the hub,” says Mai Louise Agerskov, CEO of INCUBA.
A radical change
Being settled, EnergiTek got down to business. In April they applied for a European patent on a new biomass gas stove for households. In Vietnam alone, pollution from millions of solid fuel stoves annually causes more than 45.000 immature deaths according to Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
“Right now, there’s a radical change in governments in the developing countries, including Vietnam. We have been waiting for this for years. Several months ago, we had an official announcement in Vietnam. It is so dirty, and the government has run out of patience, so they want to change all these old and dirty cooking methods and do something new. That is a four million stoves market followed by a huge market for pellets,” says Hung Dao.
Their gas stove can be fueled by pellets made from various sources. The pellets are gasified, and the gas is burned for heat. The newest prototype has a thermal efficiency reaching 67 % which is 6 to 20 times higher than that of open fire cook stoves, according to Hung Dao. This creates a very low heating cost and most importantly create almost zero toxic gas emission during use.
EnergiTek is currently in the process of working with Hanoi city Authority to propose an overall plan for Hanoi and the country in general. They expect to have a MoU (memorandum of understanding) with the government later this fall and will rush into calling for funding and finalizing strategic partners after that. 
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About Start-up Denmark
- Founded by Dao Quang Hung and Nguyen Minh Hai in February 2018. Hung Dao holds a Master’s degree in business administration from Syracuse University in the US and Hai Nguyen has a Master’s degree in sustainable energy from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.
- Besides the household stove EnergiTek are looking into other product lines such as a gasification module for industrial applications, production of biochar and biomass pellets. They are currently finalizing the test of a new type of pellet using Sesbania plants, which according to the company has many theoretical advantages and can be massively scaled up compared to wood pellets.
- EnergiTek has a small research team in Vietnam and collaborates with Delft University of Technology in Holland and The National Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering (NARIME) in Vietnam among others.
- A visa scheme for non-EU, non-EEA entrepreneurs who want to grow scalable and innovative high-impact startups in Denmark. The programme is co-led by the Danish Ministry of Business and Growth and the Ministry of Immigration, Integration and Housing.
- Applicants submit a business plan which is then assessed by members of Start-up Denmark’s independent expert panel.
- 980 entrepreneurs have applied for admission since 2015. 209 have received personal approvals.
- Applications were spread across the following categories: Software 48 %, service 25 %, physical products 22 % and others 5 %.
- Read more: www.startupdenmark.info