07 Jun 500VN June 2017 Newsletter
The big recent news was that VNG — the Vietnamese tech company that began as a game developer & distributor but has since moved into OTT messaging, ecommerce, etc. — has begun exploring an IPO on NASDAQ. It’s just the beginning of a long process and nobody can predict the result, but nonetheless VNG’s team deserves big congratulations. It’s been a long journey since being founded in 2004 — i.e. in a much younger time of Vietnam’s digital economy — and to get to the point where it could even explore a listing on NASDAQ is a testament to their hard work.
Around the same time, Eric Schmidt (executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company) visited Vietnam in late May. He addressed digital literacy (attending the inaugural ceremony of a Google-sponsored initiative to train tens of thousands of Vietnamese farmers) and social media topics. Fun fact revealed: Vietnam ranks #2 globally in using YouTube. More substantive perhaps was the discussion on content & censorship. Over the past few months the Vietnamese government had been stepping up pressure to control “toxic information”. After a meeting between the Prime Minister and Schmidt, the government released a statement saying that Schmidt “will tightly cooperate with Vietnam to remove toxic information violating Vietnamese laws.” Meanwhile a Google spokesperson noted, “We have clear policies for removal requests from governments around the world, and those policies have not changed.” There appears to be a delicate dance ongoing.
Eddie was invited to join a lunch with Schmidt, U.S. Ambassador Ted Osius, and others but could not attend due to a previously-scheduled commitment: attending Harvard’s Commencement featuring speaker Mark Zuckerberg. “I’m not here to give you the standard commencement about finding your purpose. I’m here to tell you finding your purpose isn’t enough. The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose: by taking on big meaningful projects together, by redefining equality so everyone has the freedom to pursue purpose, and by building community across the world.” (abridged; full text here)
Creating a world where everyone has the freedom to pursue purpose. That’s what Google is trying to do, what Facebook is trying to do, and what we’re trying to do here in Vietnam and beyond. At AVCJ’s first-ever Private Equity and Venture Capital Forum in Vietnam, Binh chaired a panel on Vietnam’s startup ecosystem. It was a good opportunity to educate investors and encourage more of them to seek opportunities. Meanwhile, in the 5 weeks ending May 31, we closed 3 new investments, 2 of which clearly aim at expanding access for the bottom half of the pyramid. Not all of our investments will have this type of impact focus, but it’s always been clear to us that at a lot of our potential value will be in supporting teams whose purpose is to solve emerging markets problems.
Team 500 Startups Vietnam
Vietnam in the News
- Vietnam’s Prime Minister looks to salvage Obama trade gains in Trump visit. “Hanoi’s leaders want to reduce Vietnam’s economic dependence on China while further integrating with global markets, including the U.S.” Bloomberg. 5/30
- VietJet seeks Vietnam’s first overseas listing. Vietjet, which controls almost half of Vietnam’s domestic airline market is currently in talks with stock exchanges in London, Hong Kong and Singapore. DealStreetAsia. 5/29
- Vietnam’s Prime Minister suggests Google open rep. office in Vietnam. Welcoming Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in Hanoi, PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc suggested that Google open an official representative office in Vietnam to jointly handle issues that may arise. Voice of Vietnam. 5/26
VC Unlocked: 500 Startups’ Investor Training Program
Join us at the next session of 500 Startups-Stanford joint investor training program #VCUnlocked: Secrets of Silicon Valley Investing 7/24-8/04. Spots are limited. Apply now at: education.500.co/stanford
Vietnam Tech in the News
- VNG signs MoU to list via IPO on NASDAQ. VNG, “founded in 2004 and based in Ho Chi Minh City, forecasts 2017 revenue of $180 million.” Bloomberg. 5/21
- Can Vietnam Become a Global Tech Hub? Eddie is interviewed by Yale School of Management regarding Vietnam’s challenges and opportunities on the road to reaching its full potential. Yale Insights. 6/7
- POPS completes series B round, in talks to raise series C. “Currently, POPS has over 1,500 content partners, over two billion views per month across its multi-platform network and more than 25 million subscribers.” DealStreetAsia. 5/24
- Genesia Ventures invests in Vietnam’s Airbnb-like startup Luxstay.Luxstay allows customers to rent short-term villas, apartments and high-end homestays owned by local people across Southeast Asian countries. DealStreetAsia. 5/26
- Vietnamese doctor consulting app gets Google’s support. Through Google’s LaunchPad Accelerator program, eDoctor will receive a sponsor package worth US$50k. Viet Nam News. 5/25
- Innovatube Frontier Summit, July 30, Hanoi. Covering 4 sectors of smart tech, including AI, IoT, Blockchain and VR/AR. This event gathers bright minds to share their knowledge in frontier technologies & how to implement them in real-world projects. Event Page
- Woomentum: Pitch Differently, June 17, HCMC. Join Woomentum at their workshop and learn how to pitch to get investors and the crowd to line up for you! Event Page