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June 2019 Newsletter

June 2019 Newsletter

Dear all,

In May, Vietnam hosted representatives of the International Development Innovation Alliance, an effort to advance innovation for sustainable development via collaboration with leading international organizations (World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF, etc.), development agencies (USAID, UKAID, Australian AID, etc.), and foundations (Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, etc.).

There were presentations and workshops, plus an open session at which various stakeholders were invited to share observations and ideas about Vietnam’s innovation ecosystem to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and other government officials. Eddie was invited to share a few words. Snippets:

“I have long believed that the country’s plentiful low-cost, high-tech talentmany of whom intimately understand the difficulties of poor people in emerging marketsgives Vietnam a chance to be not simply one of many “startup nations”, but a hub of impactful innovation for the entire emerging world.

[…] But there’s a lot of work to be done. 500 Startups will continue to do what we can on the private sector side. That includes, most importantly, investing in & supporting talented Vietnamese entrepreneurs, but also sharing about Vietnam’s problems and its promise with other investors, training & mentoring entrepreneurs, and training investors. Particularly, I want to make clear that, even though there is a lot of money to be made by serving Vietnam’s wealthy class, some of the greatest opportunities in tech are in serving the least fortunate people among us.

Indeed, investing through an impact lens has yielded some of our most promising portfolio companies, from homegrown startups like Sequoia-backed fintech startup Trusting Social and Google-backed edtech startup ELSA to Vietnam-entrant startups like ApplyBoard, which announced the close of their CA$55M Series B, and PayJoy, which also announced the close of a US$20M Series B led by Greylock Partners.


Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam



Saola Sighting


This month we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our Silicon Valley–inspired, Saigon-based accelerator program. It’s like a startup MBA on steroids, condensed into three months. Follow us on Facebook for frequent updates on the program and our Batch 1 companies, plus startup insights from our global experts.

The team has also moved into a new home: Kafnu Ho Chi Minh City will be the basecamp for our Saola Accelerator. A word from Chris Edwards, General Manager at Kafnu:

“Kafnu HCMC is delighted to be the venue sponsor for 500 Startups Saola Accelerator program. At Kafnu our mission is in developing our members through a vibrant community of like-minded individuals and we believe this aligns perfectly with 500 Startups. We look forward to welcoming the program members to Kafnu and being a part of their journey in becoming business successes.”

Image: Kafnu

Stay tuned for more saola (“Asian unicorn”) sighting.



500 Startups Vietnam in the News


Binh shares his thoughts in Nikkei Asian Review’s cover story “Southeast Asian ‘turtles’ return home to hatch tech startups”. “Folks are saying, ‘There’s something happening in Southeast Asia, there’s access to capital, there’s more talent in the region … maybe the timing is right for me to make a move.'” Nikkei Asian Review. 5/22

Eddie shares his observations about the Vietnam ecosystem with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and other government officials (Video, starting at 11:00.) VTV. 5/15

Other TV spotlights: Papaya Insurtech on insurance in the digital age (Vietnamese, VTV); Hiip on their regional expansion (Vietnamese, VTV); Leflair on making premium brands accessible to Vietnamese consumers (English, Vietcetera); and Eddie on his work and passion, with cameo appearances by Binh, Hau, founders, (more!) friends, and family (Vietnamese, VTC10).

ApplyBoard raises C$55M in Series B round. ApplyBoard launched as a result of the challenges the co-founders faced as Iranian students pursuing post-secondary education in North America. The proprietary platform uses AI and machine learning to assist students with program and institution selection, document submission, application, and obtaining a visa. PE Hub. 5/27

PayJoy raises $20M from Greylock, others. PayJoy enables consumers with no bank accounts or formal credit history to purchase smartphones on installment payments and get cash loans. Reuters. 5/23

Eddie talks with The Investor about 500’s mission in Vietnam. “500 Startups Vietnam has actually changed a lot in the ecosystem,” Eddie told The Investor, the business-focused site of The Korea Herald. “Prior to our entry, we saw that people weren’t all convinced by the opportunity and timing regarding Vietnam just yet. We had to spend a lot of time explaining about Vietnam, telling people what was happening, where we saw the market going and why it made us invest.” The Investor. 5/17




Other Vietnam Tech News


Vacation rental startup Luxstay bags $4.5M from South Korean retail firm GS Shop and early-stage venture capital firm Bon Angels. Deal Street Asia. 5/22

Vietnam doesn’t trust Huawei an inch. Viettel, a military-owned mobile network operator with ventures spanning from Myanmar to Haiti, is not only planning to deploy 5G. It is also developing its own core technology, vowing that 80% of the tech will be developed at home. Foreign Policy. 5.9

Vietnam’s tech futurists lay out economic alternatives. In a report by Australia’s national science agency, four scenarios offer a blueprint for policymakers. In the first option, the country reaches its full technological potential in the next two decades, with smart cities, high productivity, and high-skilled talent in an economy geared toward services. Voice of America. 5/18

Online travel startup Vntrip raises undisclosed amount in pre-Series C funding from Jubilee Capital Management. Vntrip also reports raising top-up funding from existing investor Hendale Capital, which initially invested $10M in 2017, following a $3M Series A round. Deal Street Asia. 5/27

Abivin wins $1M Grand Prize at the “Startup World Cup” event organized by Pegasus Tech Ventures. Abivin, a startup that provides AI-powered supply chain optimization, was the only representative from Southeast Asia. KrAsia. 5/20

Vietnam’s social selling platform Ecomobi won second prize at e27’s Echelon Asia Summit 2019. The platform evaluates millions of products to make personalized recommendations to key opinion leaders (KOLs), who in turn advertise the products on their social media channels. e27. 6/3



Vietnam in the News


Thich Nhat Hanh has come home. Long denied the right to return to his native Vietnam, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh lived abroad for more than five decades, campaigning against war and teaching the practice of mindfulness. NYTimes. 5/16

SK Group makes $1B push into Vietnam with Vingroup investment. In addition to considering jointly running M&As, the two companies will work together as the next generation of high-speed 5G networks comes online. Nikkei Asian Review. 5/16

How can Vietnam avoid becoming China’s dirty industrial backyard? Critics argue Chinese projects exploit cheap labor and minerals, while polluting the environment and landing the locals in debt. SCMP. 5/9

Vietnam is among top 5 countries that watch YouTube the most. The other four are India, Japan, Indonesia and Thailand. Urbanist. 5/13

The rise of Vietnam’s second-tier cities. Receiving even more foreign investment than Da Nang in 2018 was Hai Phong. The city’s airport links international travelers to the UNESCO World Heritage site at Ha Long Bay. But beyond that it has been a key shipping hub, even more so as investors move out of China and seek alternative trading partners like Vietnam. Voice of America. 5/27




Vietnam Venture Summit, HCMC 6/12

Eddie will be speaking at the event by Golden Gate Ventures, alongside international investors, top-tier founders and other key ecosystem stakeholders. Event

AI & Scaling Up, HCMC, 6/6

Lace will be speaking on a panel about AI alongside representatives from WeWork, Haravan, Viet AI, and portfolio company ELSA. Event

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814 Mission St., 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103, USA

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

May 2019 Newsletter

May 2019 Newsletter

500 Vietnam happy hour at Anan Saigon. Photo: VTC10

Hi all,

Saigon’s rainy season has just begun, which for this writer triggers an annual contemplation on the complexities of the city and the broader nation. At the boundaries of breathless coverage of Vietnam’s economic rise on one hand, celebrations & lamentations of conflicts past on another, and nostalgic reminiscences of a pastoral world slipping away on another still, live stories that challenge neatly-drawn narratives and dogmatic axioms. Take a few headlines from April:

  • As Vietnam polices speech, an ex-cop thrives on the art scene (WSJ)
  • Vietnam’s top telecom [military-backed Viettel] to adopt self-developed 5G tech (Nikkei)
  • After China bans plastic imports, Southeast Asia to become the world’s largest recycling plant (Saigoneer)

This writer asserts no particular truth, only hopes that the reader will intermittently look at this landscape and its people with fresh eyes.

That meditation aside, let’s get down to business:

In April, we closed investments #41 (a fintech / enterprise SaaS company) and #42 (an edtech company). Among current portfolio companies, we had another close a Series B, this one a not-yet-announced $20M round. Meanwhile, influencer marketing platform Hiip announced the acquisition of Jakarta-based BP Network to accelerate its regional expansion. Our very own rising influencer Hau Ly was featured in a tightly-edited segment on VTV1 (Vietnam’s most-watched nationwide news channel). Binh completed a whirlwind itinerary on his latest regular visit to Vietnam.


Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam


500 Startups Vietnam in the News


Hiip acquires Jakarta-based BP Network to accelerate its regional expansion. Shintaries Nijerinda, Co-founder and CEO of BP Network, said: “BP Network will rebrand to Hiip Indonesia and become part of this highly successful regional company. This will give our customers and influencers access to Hiip’s proprietary AI technology and international cross-market opportunities.” E27 4/25

500VN portfolio company ELSA featured in leading Japanese business newspaper Nikkei Asian Review. Vu Van thinks ELSA can improve the lives of nonnative English speakers: “We believe that when they speak good English…there’s just a lot more opportunity open to them.” The app’s proprietary voice recognition and AI is “incredibly effective” and “makes their technology difficult to duplicate”, said 500VN’s Binh Tran. Nikkei Asian Review. 4/13

500VN manager Hau Ly featured on national television. “Venture capital is not a male arena.” VTV 4/18


Other Vietnam Tech News


How Vietnam is embracing the cashless revolution. According to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2019, the number of people making mobile payments in stores is growing the fastest in Vietnam, increasing by 24% to reach 61% in a single year. China leads the pack with 86% of its population tapping mobile payments, followed by Thailand at 67%. Entrepreneur. 4/19

Go-Jek brings in Misfit co-founder and ex-Facebook head Christy Trang Le to lead Vietnam business. Bringing in a new leader — and one with the background of Le — looks like a coup, although her role building out Go-Viet’s on-demand business will be quite different from that of anchoring Facebook or running Misfit/Fossil. TechCrunch. 4/22

Shark Tank Vietnam’s co-star talks recent investments and the country’s startup ecosystem. “Many people think of Vietnam as a place to get low-cost production or software development. Vietnam has 100M people with strong consumerism habits, high literacy rate, who are curious and open to change,” said Linh Thai. Forbes. 4/20

Sequoia reveals first cohort for its ‘Surge’ accelerator program in India and Southeast Asia. Two startups from Vietnam are Telio, a B2B commerce platform that aims to digitize the process of brands and wholesalers selling to retailers; and Uiza, a startup that lets publishers and companies develop their own video infrastructure independent of platforms like YouTube. TechCrunch. 4/19

Shopee starts charging commissions in Vietnam. Shopee’s decision to implement this policy in Vietnam, where it is the most popular e-commerce platform, is the next step in a strategy that first focused on gaining market share and now aims at building a more sustainable business model. KrAsia. 4/8

Vietnam’s Vingroup takes aim at Samsung and China’s Oppo. Vietnam’s richest man, Pham Nhat Vuong, is stepping up his efforts to grab a share of the domestic smartphone market from foreign rivals such as South Korea’s Samsung. Financial Times. 4/28

How Vietnam’s ride-hailing apps are challenging Grab’s local monopoly. Besides Go-Jek, Vietnamese startups including VATO, Aber, FastGo, Be are countering Grab’s stranglehold on the Vietnam market. ASEAN Today. 4/22

IoT Innovation Hub by Ericsson and Vietnam’s Minister of Science and Technology opens in Hanoi. The hub is the first of its kind in Vietnam and is located in Hoa Lac Hi-tech Park. Vietnam News. 4/11

Vietnam’s blockchain startup Utop raises $3M from SBI Holdings, FPT. Utop partners with small businesses to link their reward programs with each other to reduce costs and keep data secure. DealStreetAsia. 4/23




Nordic Mingle Event, HCMC, 5/8

Meet Eddie and other esteemed panelists at the event hosted by the Nordic Innovation House, in celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Sweden and Vietnam. RSVP

2nd Open Innovation Vietnam 2019, HCMC, 5/21

Focusing on innovation in Southeast Asia, the panel includes speakers from VNG, HSBC, and Shinhan to name a few. Event

Women’s Summit 2019 by Forbes Vietnam, HCMC, 5/23

With keynote speeches and panel discussions by women leaders in different fields, the event concludes with a ceremony honoring Forbes’ 50 Vietnamese Most Influential Women 2019. Ticket

Echelon Asia Summit 2019, Singapore, 5/23-24

Eddie will be speaking at e27’s 2-day event with 15,000+ attendees, 100+ exhibiting startups, and three stages on Founders, Future, and Capital. Event

RISE.AI Roadshow, HCMC, 5/31

Networking event by RISE.AI, a corporate AI accelerator program that will bring 30 AI startups from all over the world to Southeast Asia. Event

San Francisco
814 Mission St., 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103, USA

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

April 2019 Newsletter

April 2019 Newsletter

Image: 500 Vietnam Manager Hau Ly in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2019


Hi all,

Driving Vietnam’s record-level of venture funding in 2018 as reported by Topica Founder Institute was a handful of large ($50M+) deals, e.g.

Some negative hits notwithstanding (entertainment company Yeah1 having its content-hosting agreement with YouTube terminated; ride-hailing app GO-VIET parting ways with its CEO), the momentum seems set to continue into 2019. January saw the announcement of Warburg Pincus’s $100M investment into ewallet provider Momo, and it was reported in March that Tiki is finalizing a $75M investment from Northstar. This month we took meetings with various notable investors looking to understand more about the Vietnam ecosystem and potentially identify for opportunities, including Sequoia, GGV (the marquee China/SF fund), Korea Investment Partners, and Eight Roads (Fidelity’s venture arm).

We are happy to help deliver great companies to later-stage investors like these. One of our companies recently closed a >$30M Series B (not yet announced), one of a half-dozen that successfully raised money in Q1. Another 10+ of our companies may aim to raise new financing within 2019.

Critical to our work have been the efforts of Hau Ly. Hau joined us almost 3 years ago, in response to a job post seeking our “missing link”. Since then she has worked on investment, portfolio support, fund operations, and now our SF-inspired, Saigon-based Saola Accelerator. It’s been amazing to see how much she’s grown and an honor to have her stay committed. So we were thrilled by her just-announced recognition on Forbes Asia’s 2019 30 Under 30 list.

Our founders’ progress and Hau’s efforts exemplify our mission to support Vietnam’s most promising tech startups. While we continue to be focused on that for the seed-stage for nowwe just completed a quarter-long marathon sifting through thousands of tech companies in our internal database, and we’ll launch our Vietnam accelerator program later in Q2we are beginning to think about “What’s next?”

Let us know if you’d like to join the conversation!


Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam


Alibaba’s eFounders Fellowship is looking for digital ventures that have been in operation for at least 2 years, and are based in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, or Vietnam. Apply by 4/7.

SC Ventures, the innovation, ventures and fintech investments unit of Standard Chartered Bank, has created SC Ventures Fintech Bridge, a platform to connect community builders such as startups, investors and accelerators. Join or recommend a company.

2019 Visa Everywhere Initiative – Women’s Global Edition celebrates women entrepreneurs with a $100K prize to each challenge winner. Apply by 4/14.


500 Startups Vietnam in the News

Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2019 – Finance and Venture Capital: Hau Ly. “Championing gender equality in tech in Vietnam is Hau Ly, 500 Startups manager based in Ho Chi Minh City. Although not yet a partner, Ly is instrumental in helping the $14 million fund invest more than a quarter of the capital into local next generation entrepreneurs. In addition to managing the ecosystem operations, she also leads the Saola Accelerator.” Forbes. 4/1

Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2019 – Consumer Technology: Alan Jiang and Deb Gangopadhyay. The co-founders of Beam believe that in dense Asian cities, personal car ownership will eventually be replaced by shared electric vehicles. Forbes. 4/1

Vietnam is shaping up to be Southeast Asia’s next hottest startup ecosystem. Having “plenty of low-cost high-tech talent” is also an advantage for the country, with US tech giant IBM projecting that “Vietnam could be top three in the world by the number of engineers in five years,” explains Eddie. Tech in Asia. 3/20

Hiip, Vietnam’s leading social influencer platform, closes Series A. Vnet Capital led the round; Japan Strategic Capital, Tokyo-listed marketing technology company Rentracks, and Singapore-based Vulpes Investment Management joined. e27. 3/25

A brain drain in reverse. Binh told ASEAN Today that overseas Vietnamese bring “global cultural perspectives, knowledge of modern product development design and processes as well as a better understanding of capital options” to the tech industry. ASEAN Today. 3/20

The uniqueness of startup founders in Southeast Asia: Venture Voices. “Compared with startup ecosystems in Singapore and Indonesia, Vietnam’s ecosystem is still a few years behind. This has required Vietnamese founders to learn how to be resourceful and agile. With all else equal, I think this makes them more competitive in the long run than their counterparts in more cash-rich ecosystems,” said Eddie. KrAsia. 4/2

F&B products that are actually giving back this International Women’s Day. Copper Cow Coffee, a women-owned and sustainably sourced Vietnamese pour-over coffee startup, will be donating 20% of all sales to Women for Women International. Refinery29. 3/9


Vietnam in the News

Vietnam Q1 GDP growth slows to 6.8%. The government has targeted economic growth of between 6.6 percent and 6.8 percent this year. Reuters. 3/29

Gaw Capital says Vietnam is a ‘no-brainer’ investment (video). “Vietnam will still likely in the next 5-7 years be the highest-return market of any Southeast Asia markets, or any Asia markets for that matter,” said Goodwin Gaw. Bloomberg. 3/26

How will foreign investment change Vietnam’s economy? Vietnam is currently at a turning point, looking back at simple exports like rice and Reeboks that helped it develop, and looking forward to a more advanced economy along the lines of Taiwan or South Korea. Voice of America. 3/25

Vietnam students invent air-cleaning bicycle. Test results show that the device could filter up to 86% of dust and 63% of nitrogen oxide. BBC. 3/29

U.S. real estate developers look to Vietnam for cheap financing. The EB-5 program offers green cards in return for investing in job-creating US businesses or real-estate projects. About 20% of EB-5 investment in American real estate now comes from Vietnam, putting it behind India’s 25% and China’s 30%. Wall Street Journal. 3/5


Vietnam Tech in the News

Vietnam’s Tiki set to raise $75M funding round led by PE firm Northstar. Previously, JD.com lead a Series C investment round in Tiki alongside VNG, the Vietnam-based online media and gaming company in January 2018. DealStreetAsia. 3/29

GOJEK’s Vietnam CEO steps down, takes on advisory role. Nguyen Vu Duc helped deploy Uber’s services in Vietnam before becoming co-founder and CEO of Go-Viet, which began operations last August. TheLEADER. 4/1

YouTube to end content-hosting agreement with Vietnam’s Yeah1. As a result of the termination, Yeah1 is considering selling California-based ScaleLab, which the Vietnamese company just bought for $20M in January. Bloomberg. 3/9

Breakthrough as Vietnam licenses the first crypto exchange. The current license gives the company the mandate to operate in Vietnam in spite of the authorities banning crypto activities. Yahoo News. 3/28

Vietnam ‘state-aligned’ hackers are targeting auto firms. “It is likely to support the Vietnamese government’s publicly stated domestic manufacturing goals for automobiles,” said Nick Carr of FireEye. Bloomberg. 3/20

Vietnamese ride-hailing app FastGo to launch in Singapore in April. Unlike some ride-hailing apps, FastGo will charge its driver-partners a fixed daily subscription fee instead of collecting commission fees. Yahoo News. 3/22

Jio Health raises a $5M Series A, combines online and offline healthcare in Southeast Asia, starting in Vietnam. The “full-stack” healthcare startup operates an online healthcare app and a physical facility in Saigon. TechCrunch. 4/1

Digital gifting and loyalty platform UrBox raises seed funding to expand into SEA. The startup connects businesses with gift suppliers and merchants to enhance their rewards and loyalty programs. UrBox’s merchants include 7-Eleven, Family Mart, Shopee, and Grab. Tech in Asia. 3/29

Vingroup opens VinTech research centre in South Korea. Vingroup will invest $11M into VinTech Korea to research application of IoT, AI, robotics, and smart manufacturing plants. Vietnam News. 3/5



Venture Builder vs. Venture Capital: Choosing your early-stage funding partners, HCMC, 4/5

Panelists from Fram, REAPRA and Patamar Capital discuss the fundamental differences in investment philosophy, equity structure, founder selection criteria and support system between venture builder and venture capital firms. Ticket

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814 Mission St., 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103, USA

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

March 2019 Newsletter

March 2019 Newsletter

Image: Partner Binh Tran moderating a panel on how to scale a tech team, with Turing CEO Jonathan Siddharth and Meltwater CTO Aditya Jami

Hi all,

After the failed Trump-Kim meeting in Hanoi, people are discovering that North Korea is not quite Vietnam: “Vietnam had the right leaders, despite their well-documented flaws, at just the right time—as the Cold War was winding down, and the markets were set to open globally. North Korea has no such benefit.” That said, we do believe that people tend to overestimate what can happen in 2-3 years and underestimate what can happen in 20-30 years. After all, nobody in 1989 could imagine Vietnam looking like it now does in 2019.

Vietnam is facing a new dilemma. In just 10 years, the country’s wealth grew by 210%, with its “super-rich” class expanding faster than that of India and China. Local corporations are buying billions worth of Boeing jets, and foreign investors and local nouveau riche are flooding into Vietnam’s luxury condo market. So far, some of the country’s economic growth has been able to trickle down to lower- and middle-class Vietnamese, but inequality still seems to be rising precipitously fast. We hope our portfolio companies will be able to democratize access to resources and opportunities and support long-term sustainable economic growth.

This Friday is International Women’s Day. The BBC recently ran an article titled “What North Korea can learn from Vietnam’s women”, whom, in fact, everyone can learn from. We’ve been, and remain, inspired by 7 women VC warriors and entrepreneurial women who lead. We celebrate all women this month, including ELSA’s co-founder Vu Van, who recently announced the close of Series A financing led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused fund.

ELSA’s announced round helps our portfolio companies break the US$100 million mark in downstream capital reportedly raised. This progress is even starker considering the fund has invested only ~US$3M of our $14M committed capital since initial close less than 2 years ago. We’re proud of our founders’ pursuit of game-changing products and services, and grateful to the great investors who support them & us.

Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam



Vietnam in the News

Vietnam and the dilemma of new wealth. More than 200 Vietnamese have investable assets of at least $30M. Having expanded by 320% from 2000 to 2016, Vietnam’s “super-rich” class is growing faster than that of India and China. Project Syndicate. 2/28

The hot new market for luxury property is Vietnam. Home ownership rates exceed 90%, one of the highest in the world. Rising values mean there are middle-class families with dwellings in excess of $1M. Bloomberg. 2/19

Two Vietnamese budget airlines greet Trump with $20.9B worth of Boeing and GE jet deals. Separately, Vietnam Airlines is also thinking about buying 50 to 100 Boeing 737 Max jets this year. Nikkei Asian Review. 2/27

Hanoians warmly welcome North Korea and US leaders (photos). Vietnam News. 2/28

What North Korea can learn from Vietnam’s women. There are now more female business owners in Vietnam than anywhere else in Asia, and they own many of the SMBs which make up 40% of the country’s GDP. BBC. 2/27



Vietnam Tech in the News

Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI fund, leads $7M investment in English learning app ELSA. The deal is Gradient’s first in Asia. TechCrunch. 2/26

P2P lender Validus eyes Indonesia, Vietnam after $15M funding. Validus focuses exclusively on linking accredited and institutional investors – including fund managers, family offices, and corporates – to SMBs. Tech in Asia. 2/26

9 startups aiming for the crown at Vietnam TOP100. AI-enabled regulatory assistant, insurance CRM platform, and medicine B2B platform to name a few. e27. 2/22




Vietnam Tech: Going Global Blockchain + Crypto, 3/7, HCMC

A conversation with tech leaders representing VC investors, blockchain/crypto companies, and platforms. Organized by Global South Tech, with panelists from 500VN and WisePass. Event Page

WISE Women Innovation Acceleration 2019 Launch, 3/8, Hanoi

Panelists include Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam Deborah Paul, Axel Schultze and Marita Schultze of World Innovations Forum, and WISE Acceleration alumni. Event Page

Echelon Roadshow 2019: Ho Chi Minh, 3/12, HCMC

Thao Nguyen of 500VN will be judging TOP100 2019 qualifiers from Vietnam. Hosted by e27, in anticipation of Echelon Asia Summit in May. Event Page

San Francisco
814 Mission St., 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103, USA

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

February 2019 Newsletter

February 2019 Newsletter

Image: A Đông Hồ folk woodcut painting in process

Hello all,

We all just got back from our Lunar New Year break and are thrilled to start the Year of the Pig. According to the Chinese zodiac and Vietnamese aunties & uncles, the Pig represents good fortune and prosperity. In other words, it’s the year for lucrative investments with steady and consistent returns. Whether you celebrate LNY or not, here’s to a successful year ahead.

In an interesting start to the year for Vietnam, the Trump-Kim summit will take place in Hanoi on February 27-28, carrying political and economic symbolism for both Washington and Pyongyang. “In short: North Korea’s aspiration is Vietnam’s history,” wrote TIME’s Charlie Campbell last month. What Vietnam can get from the summit, besides a moment in the international spotlight, is another matter of speculation.

In the meantime, we forge ahead with our work. In the past 4 weeks we’ve closed 3 more deals: #38 in an insurtech startup, #39 in a food startup, and #40 in a travel tech startup. To help us keep up the pace, we’ve moved to a brand new office in the heart of District 1 and brought on a new investment analyst & an eager-beaver intern. We have just a few slots to fill until the team is complete. Help us find our next startup or next team member and we’ll treat to a nice steak dinner!

Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam


Vietnam in the News

  • US-China trade war boosts Vietnamese city’s economy. Dan Krassenstein traces one economic boom after another, from Taiwan to China, and now to Vietnam: “Everything I’m seeing now in South Asia and Southeast Asia, it’s like ‘Groundhog Day’. It’s like 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago.” NPR. 2/12
  • Southeast Asia bucks trend of sinking global foreign investment. Southeast Asia was the world’s “main FDI growth engine” last year, with Vietnam receiving a record $19B in FDI. Nikkei Asian Review. 2/4
  • Top 10 business events that shape Vietnam in 2018 (infographics). Grab’s acquisition of Uber Southeast Asia, World Economic Forum ASEAN, CPTPP ratification, and more. VNExpress. 12/31
  • How Vietnam went from Cold War foe to a host for Trump and Kim’s summit. Why Vietnam? For starters, trust. Washington Post. Moreover, Hanoi may offer example of reform to Pyongyang during summit. North Korea’s economy in recent years is similar to Vietnam’s economy in 1985, a year before it embarked on the Doi Moi route to reform. Voice of America. 2/11
  • ‘Napalm girl’ Kim Phuc receives German prize for peace work. The founder of the Kim Phuc Foundation is being honored for her support of Unesco and children wounded in war, and for speaking out against violence and hatred. The Guardian. 2/11


Vietnam Tech in the News

  • Momo, Vietnam’s top payment app, lands big Series C investment led by Warburg Pincus. The round size is rumored to be as high as $100M. Standard Chartered led a $28M round in 2016 while Goldman Sachs invested $5.8M back in 2013. TechCrunch. 1/18
  • Logistics startup LOGIVAN raises $5.5M from Alpha JWC, others. To date, the Vietnamese web platform that connects truckers with shipping capacity has raised a total of $7.9M. DealStreetAsia. 2/11
  • Cinnamon raises $15M in Series B for US expansion. Based in Tokyo and Vietnam, Cinnamon develops AI application products and expects to establish a presence in Silicon Valley. VietnamNews. 1/28
  • Media giant Yeah1 continues buying spree, acquires Thai operations of US company. Yeah1 has acquired Thoughtful Media Group’s Thai subsidiary for $1.6M. Earlier, on January 10, it paid $20M to buy Hollywood-based ScaleLab. VNExpress. 1/28
  • Vietnam-based restaurant tech startup KAMEREO raises $500K. KAMEREO allows restaurants to source and procure essential supplies online. Currently, it has over 120 suppliers and 200 restaurants signed up. Yahoo News. 1/7
  • South Korean unicorn to enter local food delivery market in 2019. Woowa Brothers would be a serious competitor to GrabFood and Now.vn, which dominate the $33M food delivery market after Lalamove left. VIR. 1/30


Upcoming Events


Australian Business Award 2019, 3/8, HCMC

Hosted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, the award ceremony recognizes Australian connected businesses and individuals operating in Vietnam. Event Page


Echelon Roadshow 2019: Ho Chi Minh, 3/12, HCMC

Hosted by e27 in anticipation of Echelon Asia Summit in May, the event features startup insights, networking opportunities, and Echelon’s TOP100 APAC 2019 Qualifier winners from Vietnam. Event Page

San Francisco
814 Mission St., 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103, USA

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

January 2019 Newsletter

January 2019 Newsletter

The rare saola, or Asian unicorn, in its natural habitat in Vietnam

Happy New Year!

We’re excited about 2019, but first a quick look back at 2018:

  • Ever-higher funding for Vietnamese startups! Preliminary research and analysis by Topica Founder Institute found more than $889M in financing for Vietnamese deals in 2018, representing a 3x year-on-year growth compared with $291M of 2017.
  • 500VN’s new investments equate to ~20% of the total 92 deals made in 2018. We made 19 investments last year, more than the 18 we made in 2016 and 2017 combined.
  • We also closed our fund at $14M, 40% over the initial target of $10M.
  • Our portfolio company founders continued to make us proud. Bang sold WifiChua to Appota, giving us our first exit (a few years earlier than we expected). Selcuk’s Bunch was nominated one of the best apps of 2018 by Product Hunt. And various founders reported closing a collective ~$68M in downstream capital — an impressive amount for products that are less than 3 years old.

With the new year come new resolutions that one strives to achieve. Our continuing mission is to help entrepreneurs achieve their goals, no matter where they are in the world. Towards that end, we recently launched the inaugural Saola Accelerator: each participating startup will receive $100K net investment from 500VN, the largest check from any accelerator program in Vietnam. Our partner GS SHOP will match our investment in select batch startups, bringing the total amount of potential investment in each company to $200K.

The program will be based on 500’s accelerator curriculumincluding the signature Growth Hell Weekand conclude with a Demo Day, where the companies will demonstrate their progress to invite-only regional investors. Know a strong founder with a promising Vietnam-connected startup? Refer them our way. Application deadline is January 20, with late deadline being February 15.

Elsewhere, Visa Everywhere Initiative Singapore is looking to award $25K to a startup solving core payment problems in Singapore and ASEAN.

While 500 added 7 more unicorns to our total portfolio in 2018, 500VN’s portfolio companies are starting off the year #500strong: Leflair raised $7M, with plans for Southeast Asian expansion. Panya closed $730K, and Turing launched to help entrepreneurs tap into the global talent pool for engineers.

Cheers to the year ahead,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam


500 Startups Vietnam in the News

  • 500 Startups announces the Saola Accelerator in Vietnam. Each participating startup will receive $100K from 500VN, plus a potential additional $100K from GS Shop; access to $500K in perks from 500 Startups’ partners including Amazon, Microsoft, and Google; and connection to the #500strong global community. The program will include 500’s signature Growth Hell Week and conclude with a Demo Day. 500 Startups, DealStreetAsia, Tech in Asia, Reuters, Yahoo News, Vietnam Economic Times, VN Express. 12/19
  • Vietnam’s rising tech talent helps put country on the startup map. “Vietnam currently has around 250,000 engineers, the number of tech jobs having doubled over the last three years,” Eddie Thai said, adding that Vietnam’s IT labour costs are about 40 per cent less than in China and India. South China Morning Post. 12/29
  • Youngsters lead VN’s start-up scene. According to Bình Trần, a partner at 500 Startups and co-founder of Klout, Inc., the country’s engineers are able to build and develop products just as well as their rivals in Silicon Valley – at a cheaper cost. INQUIRER. 1/7
  • Vietnam is the next tech market for a lot of LPs: Eddie Thai, 500 Startups. The magnet that Vietnam possesses, according to Thai, is a combination of a strong economy, exciting demographics, low-cost tech talent and a position as a trade war winner amid the US-China tension. DealStreetAsia. 12/21
  • Vietnam’s e-commerce startup Leflair raises $7M funding from Belt Road, GS Shop. GS Shop, the South Korean limited partner in 500 Startups Vietnam fund, participated in the funding with $3M as its first direct investment in the country. DealStreetAsia. 1/9
  • Turing helps entrepreneurs tap into the global talent pool for engineers. “Turing lets customers push a button and instantly hire an elite, pre-vetted remote engineer,” said Turing CEO Jonathan Siddharth. Entrepreneur. 1/6
  • PayJoy, which comes pre-installed on many smartphones such as Samsung, enables consumers to finance the phone. Anyone, including those with no credit history, is approved and can pay as they go for their phone. Forbes. 12/18
  • Southeast Asian drinks, on the go. Copper Cow Coffee makes portable kits for Vietnamese coffee and Thai iced tea. New York Times. 12/31
  • Trivia game app Panya bags $730K from 500 TukTuks, 500 Startups Vietnam, BigBets, Antler, Investigate, and angel investors. Tech in Asia. 1/11
  • Bunch looks to score with video chat for mobile games. A prolific serial entrepreneur, Atli has created five companies in nine years and has led three of them to successful acquisitions. Forbes. Bunch also got nominated Mobile App of the Year on Product Hunt


Vietnam in the News

  • Why Vietnam could be Asia’s biggest trade war winner. Cheap labor, investment deals, geography, and the VND’s stability: Production workers in Vietnam are paid an average of $216 a month, less than half what their peers get in China. Bloomberg. 12/12
  • Vietnam’s first privately owned airport opens for business. The 290-hectare facility is wholly owned by Sun Group, a Danang-based company that specializes in tourism-, leisure- and entertainment-focused properties and projects. Nikkei Asian Review. 12/30
  • Vietnam economy remains outperformer as growth tops 7% mark. Economic growth is being buoyed by robust domestic demand, and increases in exports, manufacturing and foreign investment. Bloomberg. 12/27
  • Vietnam reaps 6 straight record year in foreign investment. Trade war drives 9% gain in 2018, pulling garment production from China. FDI in Vietnam climbed 9.1% in 2018 to reach $19.1B. Nikkei Asian Review. 1/10
  • Japanese firms pick Vietnam as Asia’s top investment spot, with India a distant second. Of 630 respondents across East Asia, Southeast Asia, India and Australia, 35.7% chose Vietnam as most promising for investment — far above the 17.8% who selected second-ranked India. Japan Times. 1/10


Vietnam Tech in the News

  • Vietnamese media firm Yeah1 acquires US-based ScaleLab for $20M. ScaleLab is a network of 1,750 channels for YouTube influencers who collectively have more than 400M subscribers and 3B monthly views. It recorded 2017 revenues of $27.2M. DealStreetAsia. 1/11
  • Vietnam’s Vingroup targets global markets with smartphones in tech shift. The Vietnamese firm wants to sell its smartphones and other smart products to all continents and has identified Russia and Spain, where it owns 51% of Spanish technology firm BQ, as potential markets in Europe. Reuters. 12/14
  • Vietnam’s VNG mulls $15.6M private placement in first quarter of 2019. It will sell a maximum of 360,000 treasury shares at the offering price of at least VND1M ($43.5) apiece. DealStreetAsia. 1/7
  • Vietnam’s AI awakening: 8 startups putting the country on the global AI map. Trusting Social, Sentifi, Ami and more. Analytics India. 1/3
  • Google ‘studying steps’ to open headquarters in Vietnam in accordance with cybersecurity laws. Vietnam’s information ministry also wants half of social media customers to use domestic social networks by 2020, and plans to stamp out “toxic information” on Facebook and Google. South China Morning Post. 12/12
  • Vietnam threatens to penalize Facebook for breaking its draconian cybersecurity law.  Facebook is accused of allowing users in Vietnam to post “slanderous content, anti-government sentiment and libel and defamation of individuals, organisations and state agencies,” according to a report from state-controlled media. TechCrunch. 1/9
  • Grab loses Vietnam lawsuit, ordered to pay Vinasun $200K. Vinasun sought nearly US$1.8M as compensation, which it claimed was Grab’s portion of the US$3.3M in losses that it suffered. Grab offered to invest US$2.8M in Vinasun but the Vietnamese taxi operator refused the offer. KrAsia. 12/28
  • 7 Fintech Startups from Vietnam to Watch out for in 2019. OnOnPay, Tima, and more. FinTech News. 12/14
  • Home vacation rentals startup Luxstay secures US$3M funding. The Vietnamese startup nabs the round called bridge round from CyberAgent, Y1 Venture, and others. e27. 1/2

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