Vietnam is a high-potential, fast-growing, and underserved market for seed stage investment. It is one of the world’s fastest growing economies since 1990 and has been identified for being Apple’s fastest growing market in the world. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, former U.S. President Barack Obama, and other notable leaders have visited Vietnam since 2015.
The US$10 million target fund will aim to make 100-150 investments into Vietnam-connected startups: teams addressing Vietnam market needs and Vietnamese teams tackling overseas markets. While we are “vertical agnostic, returns religious”, we believe there are many interesting investment opportunities in B-to-B and Enterprise SaaS, Fintech, and E-Commerce.
Eddie: 500 Startups has invested in 12 Vietnamese companies in the past 12 months and we want to increase the pace, while helping to define best practices for early-stage startups in Vietnam.
Binh: Specifically, we want to train Vietnamese angel investors about tech startup investment, be a guide for regional tech investors about the Vietnam opportunities, provide thought leadership resources for founders, such as a library on tips & best practices on product development, growth, and fundraising). We also aim to streamline legal work for deals, so that founders can spend less time on legal and more time on building great companies. We also want to help Vietnamese corporations and SMEs partner or invest in startups and innovation.
It’s big. But let’s break it down into three areas: opportunity, activity, and resources. A more specific breakdown of the ecosystem players by our colleague Anh-Minh Do can be found here.
Fast growth: 6.8% real GDP growth in 2016
A large market: 90m population with high concentration in two cities
High connectivity: ~50% of the 90m population is online
~3,000 startups are active with another 1,000+ coming online every year
Saigon, Da Nang, and Hanoi all have startup activity and support
International and domestic events like Echelon are coming to Vietnam
Government involvement to help Vietnam become a ‘startup nation’.
Financing: 24 post-angel (Seed to Series C) deals have been made in the first half of 2016
Talent: 100,000 engineers are trained annually in Vietnam, while local and overseas Vietnamese are returning to Vietnam after working or studying abroad in greater numbers.
I don’t live in Vietnam and don’t speak Vietnamese. Is there a company that would consider hiring me?
Yes. Vietnamese teams have experience working globally and welcome applicants that currently don’t live in Vietnam and don’t speak Vietnamese. We suggest reaching out directly to the team that you’re interested in working with.
I’m interested in working at a startup. Who should I talk to and where do I begin?
You can fill out this job application form and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy of your resume and LinkedIn. We actively welcome applicants with backgrounds in finance, engineering, sales/business development, marketing, and more.
I’d like to work for a 500 Startups portfolio company. Where can I find a list of jobs?
You can check out the individual jobs pages of our portfolio companies to find a list of jobs. You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter for updates. For regular email updates of job opportunities at 500 Startups portfolio companies and others in Vietnam, subscribe to our regularly maintained Google Groups updates here. If you’re looking to hire, let us know about a job opportunity for the next send by submitting your info on this form.
Where can I get information about living and working in Vietnam?
We suggest you reach out to a visa specialist if you need a work permit. If you are overseas Vietnamese, you are eligible to receive a five-year multi-entry visa exemption valid for 180 days on each visit. We recommend budgeting around $500-$1000 for monthly living costs depending on your lifestyle.
What does a mentor at 500 Startups do?
We bring together a diverse network of mentors who know (almost) everything. It’s free to access for our portfolio companies. We make the connections and we let it go from there.
How do I become a mentor?
Please fill out our mentorship form to start a conversation.
Who is in your mentorship network? How do I access them?
Our mentorship network includes employees at 500 Startups and individuals with varying degrees of startup experience from around the world and Vietnam. We are actively welcoming mentors into our Vietnam network.
Can you help us with hiring?
500 Startups Vietnam prioritizes hiring needs for portfolio companies. If you’re looking to hire, let us know about a job opportunity for the next send by submitting your info on this form. We welcome job listings from any industry.
I’m an investor and am interested in contributing to the 500 Startups Vietnam fund. Who do I talk to?
Please email email@example.com for information about contributing to the 500 Startups Vietnam fund.
We’re interested in collaborating with 500 Startups Vietnam. What types of partnerships does 500 Startups Vietnam consider?
We consider partnerships of all kinds. Please fill out our partnership form to start a conversation.
What are some suggested readings?
We publish a newsletter to our global audience. Example: Jan 2017
Where should I incorporate my startup?
In order to facilitate funding from a diverse range of investors, we encourage startups to incorporate in one of three countries: Hong Kong, Singapore, or the US.
Does 500 Startups assist with legal corporation?
Yes, we do provide such assistance to our portfolio companies.
How does 500 Startups structure its investments?
We typically invest via convertible note. You can read more about the 500 Startups investment structure on Quora.
Refer to http://bestpitchdecks.com/ for a few example pitch decks from successful startups.
The best time to raise money is when you have a MVP (minimal viable product) and some traction in the form of users and/or revenue. At 500 Startups, we typically fund companies that have at least 100,000 users and/or $5k-$10k revenue a month.
In Southeast Asia specifically, there are many investors in the region and most of the ones with operational history are strong partners to work with. The not-so-good ones usually shut down quickly since the competition is strong. Other than that, we don’t actively recommend any one investor over another.
We believe there are interesting opportunities in Vietnam for B-to-B and Enterprise SaaS, Fintech, and E-Commerce. Ultimately though, we are vertical agnostic, returns religious.
Strong Team: A solid team is the foundation for all great companies. We usually look for a small cross-functional team with the combination of technical skills, design talent, marketing know-how, or at least a combination of two out of the three. We look for smart, passionate people who work well together, and are driven to solve problems for a target customer group. Founders who have worked together for at least a few months are a bonus.
Investment Themes: The startups we invest in all have an internet-based form of distribution. They typically fall under the common theme of: Consumer E-Commerce, SMB Productivity & Cloud Services, Mobile + Tablet (iOS & Android), Payments & Financial Services, “Family Tech” & Education, International + Cross-border, Language, Healthcare/Wellness; Food Tech
Product: We have a strong preference for companies whose products are launched and have demonstrated some usage validation (beyond just friends and family). The product should address a problem for a specific target customer and rely primarily on scalable methods of distribution, particularly using online platforms (search, social, mobile, local).
Traction: Having traction is a demonstration of proof of concept. If the data suggests things are moving in the right direction, it will help your chances of being accepted to 500.
Business model: We prefer simple and straightforward revenue models. Examples include subscription, lead generation, transaction/SaaS, etc. We also like capital efficient businesses. We look for companies that can be operational with less than $1M in funding.
Here are basic steps everyone goes through. Sometimes we spend months developing a relationship, other times just a couple of weeks.
Generally speaking, here’s what you can expect:
Initial review: Every startup that connects with a member of our investment team. We’ll look at any materials sent by the founder and determine whether the business fits our basic investment criteria.
Initial meeting: If the initial review passes, we’ll organize a meeting or phone call to learn more about your team and product.
Second meeting: If you’ve made it here, you’ll sit down again with one of our team members. We’ll talk about your business and what it means to be part of the 500 Startups Vietnam family of portfolio companies.
Follow-up: Our partnership makes all decisions as a team. We’ll follow up with you in-person to discuss any outstanding questions.
Final Decision: After your presentation, our partnership will discuss your company in great detail with the goal to give you a final answer usually within 24 hours of the meeting.
We make seed stage and follow on investments. Our check size range is $10,000-$250,000, and we take a standard percentage for these type of investments.
Portfolio support: we have an on-the-ground team operating in Vietnam that can assist with recruiting, introductions, and operations support.
Mentorship: As founders enter the 500 family, you will have access to the 500 partners in Vietnam and worldwide, seasoned entrepreneurs, experienced investors, or individuals with considerable expertise in their field to give feedback and offer you guidance.
500 Network: The 500 Startups network consists of a growing list of several hundred founders and mentors strong. They come from diverse backgrounds, expertise, and locations. You’ll be connected to a growing list of growth hackers, engineers, designers, marketers, and founders from not just Silicon Valley or other parts of the U.S., but also Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia, and other international markets. It is a tight-knit community that actively communicates with each other and provides support. We really are a big global entrepreneurial family.
Brand and PR: Associating your startup with the 500 Startups brand is valuable. Our brand helps us attract an impressive group of tech investors and press in Vietnam and globally.
Funding: We write check sizes of $10,000 to $250,000.
Fun: The 500 Startups culture encourages collaboration, innovation, creativity, taking risks, having fun, and being authentic. You’ll be working hard but it will be crazy, fun and like nothing else.