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October 2019 Newsletter

October 2019 Newsletter

Dear all,

Last month, 500 Startups held our global Annual General Meeting in San Francisco, where we were pleased to officially announce the addition of Tony Wang to the executive team as a managing partner. A veteran of Google (former managing counsel, international) and Twitter (VP, global partnerships and development), Tony was inspired to join 500 Startups in part due to our mission to extend opportunity all around the world. In a Medium post, he observed:

“For the first time in history, more VC dollars are being deployed outside the U.S. and there are more unicorns being created outside the U.S. This next stage of venture capital going global happens to pass through where 500 is strongest.”

Indeed, 500 has now invested in more than 2,300 companies in 74 countries around the world, and several of our earlier international investments have become unicorns. We’re excited to have Tony with us for the next stage of growth.

The work is not merely limited to investment though. In the past few weeks, 500 has announced a number of new initiatives, including a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to launch an impact accelerator in Indonesia (read more: e27) and a partnership with Enterprise Singapore to help Singapore startups expand to the U.S. and U.S. startups to expand to Asia via Singapore (read more: Business Times).

We’ve got our own exciting news to share soon. Until then, please enjoy the latest on Vietnam and our tech scene below.

Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

 

 

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

 

500 Startups and other VCs shared bullish view on Vietnam as the region’s next growth market. ‘If you want to start your company in a safe and dynamic country that loves foreigners and has a large concentration of affordable engineering talent, Vietnam is hard to beat,’ Binh Tran said. Kr-Asia, TechinAsia, CafeF. 9/11

Following the Saola Accelerator’s inaugural Demo Day, Eddie Thai shared with VTC10 on 500’s vision and strategy in Vietnam, and shed light on Saola Accelerator’s second batch. VTC10. 9/9

500-backed NextSmarty shared about its AI recommendation technology that helps boosting e-commerce sales by 50%. Kr-Asia. 9/25 

Binh Tran spoke at the first International Techfest Vietnam in the USA, organized by Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology. Binh emphasized that ‘Government support plays a very important role in the development of Vietnam startup ecosystem. This is one of the many initiatives to help the ecosystem continue to grow. We at 500 Startups are here to support’. VietnamNow (Vietnamese). 9/13

 

 

Vietnam in the news

 

Vietnam’s economy expanded 7.3% in the third quarter, reaching its highest level in nine years… Despite uncertain global economic environment, Vietnam’s economic growth accelerated in the third quarter, underpinned by solid growth in exports and manufacturing. Vietnamnet. 10/4 

…During the same period, Vietnam’s trade surplus reached a record high at $7.1 billion. Vietnam’s trade turnover in Q3 stood at $139 billion, up 9% year-on-year and significantly higher than $116 billion recorded in Q1 and $127 billion in Q2. The US remained Vietnam’s largest export market. The Hanoi Times. 10/5 

State Bank of Vietnam cut interest rates in an effort to support businesses and bolster the economy as global risks rise. The benchmark refinance rate was lowered to 6% from 6.25%. The discount rate and overnight lending rate in the inter-bank market would be lowered by the same magnitude to 4% and 7% respectively. Bloomberg. 9/13

Insurance market heats up. The vibrant outlook is driven by announcements of various deals, namely: $400 million acquisition of Vietcombank Cardif Life Insurance by FWD, $2.5 billion divestment of Britain’s Aviva, a partnership between Manulife Vietnam with Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), and Prudential Vietnam Assurance with Shinhan Bank. Vietnam Investment Review. 9/28

Two Vietnamese CEOs named as top Asian ‘Power Businesswomen’ by Forbes. The chief executive officers of budget carrier Vietjet, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, and dairy firm NutiFood, Tran Thi Le, was named among the 25 most powerful businesswomen in Asia, honouring their significant role in shaping Asia’s business landscape. Forbes. 9/23 

NYT: As Formula One expands, Vietnam becomes a new destination. The addition of a grand prix in Vietnam in April 2020 will be especially significant because it will be the first race added under the sport’s new owner, Liberty Media Corporation. The New York Times. 9/6

Vietnam’s IPO market dries up with no new listings in 2019. Factors such as a tumbling stock market coupled with better alternatives to capital supply have kept companies away from floating their public issues in 2019. Nikkei Asian Review. 10/4

Companies have been moving to raising capital with bonds over stocks as trade tensions triggered stock market volatility. Bloomberg. 9/4

 

Vietnam tech in the news

 

Vietnam emerges as most digital of all ASEAN economies as measured by gross merchandise value (GMV) as a % of GDP, according to Google and Temasek. Vietnamnet. 10/4

Vietnam jumped from fifth to third in the list of most active startup ecosystems in ASEAN. The move is underpinned by six-fold growth in amount of invested capital and numbers of technology deals done in the country in the 2017-2019 period, according to a report by Cento Ventures and ESP Capital. Vietnam Plus. 9/5

Vietnamese internet company VCCorp launches a social network, Lotus. Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung expects that Lotus will become an inspiration for other Vietnamese tech companies to create more made-in-Vietnam technology products. Tuoi Tre News. 9/17

InnoVen Capital closes two maiden financings in Vietnam, marking the first venture-debt transactions recorded in the country. The Southeast Asia- and India-focused venture debt firm has thereby provided loan to e-commerce firm Tiki and shared workplace UP Co-working. DealStreetAsia. 9/13

VinGroup’s VinTech Fund invests $3.7 million in 12 applied science projects. These projects will be applied for pilot to Vingroup’s multidisciplinary ecosystem before being commercialized. VNExpress. 9/23

Vietnamese proptech startup Rever raises $2.3 million from GEC-KIP Fund. The proptech company plans to open 30 additional large experience centres within the next 18 months to better serve its clients and start expanding beyond Ho Chi Minh City. e27. 9/5

VinaCapital Ventures leads investment in Vietnamese social commerce platform Ecomobi. The investment was joined by South Korea-based GSShop, Naver Group, and LINE Ventures. Vietnam Economic Times. 9/5

 

Events

 

Demo Day – WISE Women Accelerator 2019, HCMC, 10/30

Launched in March 2019, WISE Accelerator 2019 aims to accelerate technology-related women-led startups in Vietnam. Saola Accelerator Manager Hau Ly will join the judging panel of the Demo Day. Event.

Architectures of Highly Scalable AI Systems, HCMC, 10/17

Herve Roussel, Founder of 500 Startups-backed Quod AI will share about building the scalable AI system. Herve is an ex Silicon Valley CTO with 10+ years of experience, an advisor and mentor for organizations such as IBM AI XPRIZE, PlatoHQ (YC’16), RMIT, AngelHack and more. Event.

WHISE – Week for HCMC Innovation, Startup and Entrepreneurship, HCMC, 10/18-19

The event is co-organized by the Department of Science and Technology and Youth Union HCMC and chaired by the People’s Committee HCM and Embassy of Finland. Event.

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

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

September 2019 Newsletter

September 2019 Newsletter

Dear all,

Last week we unveiled the first batch of graduates of our Silicon Valley-inspired, Saigon-based accelerator, Saola. Founders took the stage to an audience of more than 200 investors, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and other ecosystem partners.

Saola Batch 1 companies in A-Z order:


+ Axie Infinity – a digital pet game on the blockchain with a die-hard community, $2.5M in game item sales and marketplace transactions, and the backing of leading blockchain investors like Hashed and Consensus

 

+ Dibee – a digital payment solution for corporate auto fleets that counts marquee names like DHL, Avis, and DB Schenker among its clients and boasts a 100% client retention rate

 

+ NextSmarty – an AI recommendation engine to convert website visitors into customers with former CMO and COO of Microsoft Vietnam as incoming CEO and backers like Tina Ju, managing partner of Kleiner Perkins China

 

+ Papaya – an employee healthcare & wellness benefits platform for corporations in Vietnam and beyond, which has already partnered with a top insurance provider and an insurance broker

 

+ Quod AI – an AI platform that helps software engineers be more productive by explaining source code in plain English, developed by a 3X CTO and a mathematical physicist who previously developed AI models for NASA

 

+ Schola – a 1-to-1 online English learning platform for non-native children founded by Facebook and Garena alums and seeing a 70% course completion rate

 

In addition to these companies, our Demo Day hosted rising stars from 500’s portfolio across the region, including Beam (a micromobility company seeing 30% week-on-week growth and backed by Sequoia, Founders Fund, and Zhen Fund), Finaxar (providing SMEs working capital in as little as 24 hours), Jala (a shrimp IoT and data management solution serving customers in 4 of the world’s top 5 shrimp-producing countries), Portier (the “No Download” travel assistant that has seen +300% ARR in 4 months), and a fifth undisclosed company.

 

We’re proud of all of the founders, and grateful to folks who came out and supported them.

Batch 2 of our Saola Accelerator Program is open for applications. It’s still ~4 months from starting, but we’ve already filled 3 of the 10 spots. Are you a founder ready for growth? Or do you know one? Check out bit.ly/500apply now!

 

A short video about Saola Accelerator: 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DgRUxAYba9ZE7OpdJd9Y-ZmSV2oens_a/view

Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

 

 

 

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

 

Regional investors and entrepreneurs converge in Vietnam for a Southeast Asia showcase by 500 Startups. Eleven “rising star” startups pitched their ideas to a room of more than 200 investors and entrepreneurs as part of the 500 Startups Demo Day to highlight the promising startup ecosystem in Vietnam and broader Southeast Asia. Vietnam Economic Times, Vietnam News, CafeBiz, Vietnam Insider. 9/6

500 Startups sees healthy early-stage pipeline in Vietnam. “As long as there are smart entrepreneurial people, and many challenges to solve in Vietnam as well as other markets in the region, we should be able to keep investing at a healthy pace,” Eddie told DealStreetAsia. DealStreetAsia. 9/8

500 Startups sees the biggest potential for Vietnamese startups lie in developing technology solutions that solve emerging-market problems. Eddie expects disruption, but also evolution, in sectors that include financial services, education and training, transportation and logistics and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) productivity. The Business Times. 8/7

Saola Accelerator growth expert Mike Villar wants to put the romance back into advertising. “Relationships escalate one step at a time. Selling without a story is like asking someone to marry you on a first date,” he told a dozen Saola founders. Jumpstartmag. 8/5

 

 

Vietnam in the news

 

Vietnam investors shrug off U.S. trade risk for growth. Robust economic growth and the government’s planned sale of stakes in state-controlled companies will offset dips in equity prices triggered by trade frictions. Bloomberg. 8/16

Women-led businesses on the rise in Vietnam. A recent Grant Thornton’s report titled ‘Women in Business 2019,’ revealed that women hold 36 percent of senior management positions in Vietnamese businesses, ranking second highest in the region after the Philippines’ 37.5 percent. The ASEAN Post. 8/28

Vietnam announced revised plans to privatize state-owned companies. 93 companies including Mobifone, Agribank, and VN Post are slated for partial or complete privatization by the end of 2020. Bloomberg. 8/16

PE investors scout for deals in Vietnam’s renewable energy sector. Renewable energy emerged as one of the most preferred sectors for investments in the country in 2019 as it took the third slot after fintech and education. Nikkei Asian Review. 8/26

Airlines boom as travellers opt to fly over overloaded infrastructure. Even as airports are getting degraded and cramped, more and more new players like Vietravel Airlines, Vinpearl Air, and KiteAir are entering the aviation market. Vietnam Investment Review. 8/30

 

Vietnam tech in the news

 

Vietnam’s e-commerce player Tiki acquires 500 Startups portfolio company Ticketbox. The acquisition is part of Tiki’s aim to become an ‘all-in-one’ e-commerce platform. DealstreetAsia. 8/20

Google to shift Pixel smartphone production from China to Vietnam. The push reflects the twin pressures of higher Chinese labor costs and the spiraling tariffs resulting from the trade war between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. internet giant intends to eventually move production of most of its American-bound hardware outside of China. Nikkei Asian Review. 8/28

Vietnam says Facebook steps up local content restrictions. “Facebook now meets 70 to 75% of the Vietnamese government’s requests, compared to around 30% earlier,” information minister Nguyen Manh Hung said at a parliament meeting in Hanoi. Reuters. 8/16

Singapore hotel booking platform RedDoorz raises $70 million to build Vietnam tech hub. The company will use the funds to build its second technology hub in Vietnam besides expanding to new markets, investing in technology and user experience, and boost hotel staff training. VnExpress. 8/27

Vietnamese POS startup KiotViet gets $6 million from Jungle Ventures and Traveloka. Established in 2014 as a cloud-based POS system, KiotViet now provides omnichannel business and management software solutions catered to microbusinesses and small and medium-sized enterprises. TechinAsia. 8/15

Vietnam prefers its mobile networks to be free of Huawei. Vietnam’s smaller carriers appear to be shying away from Huawei, as well. MobiFone Corp. is using Samsung Electronics Co. equipment while Vietnam Telecom Services Company, or Vinaphone, entered into a partnership with Nokia to deploy its 5G network, according to local media. Bloomberg. 8/26

Vietnam’s new social app Lotus aims to raise $52 million to take on Facebook. VCCorp has ultimately chosen Lotus as the brand name for this latest social app, which is expected to make a soft launch next month. DealstreetAsia. 8/25

Ride-hailing giant Grab to invest $500 million in Vietnam over the next 5 years. The company will expand its transport, food and payments networks in the country. CNBC. 8/27

 

Events

 

Seedstars Ho Chi Minh City 2019, HCMC, 9/19

Seedstars World promotes, connects and invests in emerging market startups through its exclusive startup competition in over 50 countries. The winning startup at Seedstars Ho Chi Minh City 2019 will get a free trip to the Seedstars Regional Summit. Event.

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

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

August 2019 Newsletter

August 2019 Newsletter

Dear all,

Normally our introductory statement synthesizes recent developments in Vietnam or the region. But, as you can see from the photo above, the team has been having a lot of fun over the past several weeks, so we thought we’d share a bit about why below.

The first batch of the Saola Accelerator is in full swing, with July the first full month of the program. The program has brought in an all-star cast of experts to work with the startup founders, via ~100 training sessions, workshops, and mentoring sessions so far. The experts themselves collectively have been founders or other leaders of 22 startups (of which 11 have exited), invested in 100+ startups, worked for companies including Google, IDEO, Samsung, and Cisco, and studied at schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford.

Batch founders seem to appreciate the support from these experts who have “done it” before. “Good framework and mindset.” “The topics were very relevant and deep.” “The engagement was fantastic.” “Amazing”. “Very practical. So we’re excited to announce that we’re looking for talented founders to join Batch 2 of our program. Want help building an impactful company at scale? Apply now here!

Of course, 500 Startups has been committed not only to backing our great founders but also to supporting the development of the Vietnam startup ecosystem at large. As part of that, in July we hosted a public event featuring 500 Startups Partner and Saola Program Director Saalim Chowdhury, who talked about how to build a great growth machine.  120 startup founders, executives, and growth enthusiasts attended and many others viewed the video during / afterwards. On the other side of the world, in San Francisco, 500 Startups HQ hosted an ASEAN Tech Summit, featuring Binh and a dozen other speakers who shared about the region’s opportunities and challenges.

In the midst of all of that, we closed investments into startups #45 (a retail enabler) and #46 (a medtech startup), which meant that we’ve kept up a pace of 2 new startups invested per all-but-one-month since February 2019. So perhaps it should be unsurprising that we observed an overarching thread across the development of Vietnam, its startup ecosystem, and our team: there’s still a lot of work to be done, but we’ve come so far already.

To gear up for the next phase, we are hiring a few final missing pieces to the team, especially one more Investment Analyst and one Communications Specialist. If you’d like to expand your perspectives and your network, plug into the global tech & innovation scene, get an insider’s look at Vietnam’s startup ecosystem, and work with ‘phở-nomenal’ people around the world, apply NOW!

 

Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

 

Vietnam in the news

 

Venture capital piles into Vietnamese technology companies. Vietnamese companies in sectors ranging from trucking to fintech and facial recognition are attracting a record wave of venture capital money, drawn in by the digital transformation and growing wealth of one of Asia’s youngest and fastest growing economies. Financial Times. 7/24

Your next iPhone might be made in Vietnam. Thank the Trade War… Samsung already assembled half of its handsets in Vietnam, which got a big lift from U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, and now Apple is homing in.  The New York Times. 7/30

…But Vietnam is now in trouble itself. Thank the Trade War. The country is benefiting so much from the impasse that it’s at risk of being hit with punitive American duties. Bloomberg. 8/6

Good short-term effects for Vietnam after Fed’s rate cut. The US Federal Reserve’s latest rate cut will benefit commodity and equity markets in the short term. The rate cut would increase the value of investment into equity and commodity assets as the US dollar was weakened, encouraging international investors to purchase more local assets. Vietnam Plus. 8/4

As Vietnam’s economy booms, more luxury buyers emerge. Wealthy Vietnamese are looking in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and as far away as Europe and the U.S. Mansion Global. 8/4

 

Vietnam tech in the news

 

Vietnamese minister calls for local tech firms to challenge Google and Facebook. Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said that Vietnam needs to build its own digital ecosystem where made-in-Vietnam social media networks and search engines can compete with Facebook and Google. KR Asia. 7/16

Enterprise Singapore supports access to Vietnam tech ecosystem with GIA expansion. Enterprise Singapore, Singapore’s government-owned enterprise development agency, is expanding the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to facilitate collaborations between the two startup ecosystems. E27. 7/22

SoftBank Vision Fund and Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC complete $300M investment into the parent company of digital payment player VNPAY. Deal Street Asia. 7/25

Vietnam tech company NextTech pledges US$10M fund for early-stage startups. E27. 7/31

 

Events

Hanoi Innovation Summit, Hanoi, 8/29

Binh Tran, General Partner of 500 Startups Vietnam, will be talking at Hanoi Innovation Summit.   The summit brings together executives, VC, startups  and community leaders from all over the world to discuss innovation for inclusion and sustainability in emerging economies. Event

Vietnam Startups Day, HCMC, 8/23

Organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology and Business Startup Support Center, the two-day event includes startup exhibitions, keynotes, panel discussions, and hosts the final stage for Vietnam Startup Wheel competition. Event

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

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

July 2019 Newsletter

July 2019 Newsletter

Dear all,

The inaugural batch of our SF-inspired, Saigon-based accelerator program kicked off last month. Here’s a quick look at the first two weeks by the numbers:

  • 25 participating founders & senior team members of 6 nationalities
  • 50% of the teams have female participants
  • 24 lectures and workshops

Topics ranged from “growth mindset” and narratives to analytics and experimentation. The teams are now hard at work putting their lessons into action, supported by regular office hours with our London-based program director and the 500VN team.

As part of our mission to support the broader Vietnam startup ecosystem, our program director will be having a public talk on “Secrets to a Great Growth Funnel” in HCMC on July 24. Scroll down to find out more!

Additionally, in June, 500VN closed investments into startups #43 (developer tool) and #44 (fintech). And at the end of the month we joined our international colleagues at our annual global team offsite, this year in Thailand, where we celebrated another sister fund’s oversubscribed final close (our firm’s 3rd oversubscribed final close in the past 9 months) as well as the firm’s milestone of >$500M in committed capital globally.

All in all, a good first half of 2019. On to the second half!

 

Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

Saola Sighting

We’re pleased to introduce Saalim Chowdhury, Saola’s director and mentor extraordinaire. Saalim is a partner at 500 Startups who specialises in advising on growth strategies and running global founder programs, sharing his experience having been a successful founder himself. He’s led and architected 500’s flagship global programs for startups as well as working with 500’s strategic and limited partners to develop startup-like transformation in their organisations. In the past 4 years he’s worked hands-on with over 250 startups from 25 countries across 4 continents, and keynoted at major conferences including Web Summit and Slush.

A startup veteran, notable exits he’s been part of include Internet Security firm ScanSafe to Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) for $183M and Machine-Learning Talent Platform Skillbridge to Toptal (An A16z Unicorn). Outside of entrepreneurship he’s held, he has also held senior leadership positions at News Corporation (NYSE:NWS) and Trinity Mirror Group (LON:TNI). His career started at the Boston Consulting Group. He was educated at Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics.

 Inside a workshop on pitching

To meet with Saalim, sign up for his talk on July 24 in Ho Chi Minh City (“Secrets to a great growth funnel”). For more saola sightings in Saigon, follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn. Stay tuned for more saola (“Asian unicorn”) sighting.

 

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

Stably’s StableUSD becomes the first stablecoin listed on Binance DEX. A new era of liquidity on the decentralized exchange. Coinspeaker. 6/24

Leflair among the next big things coming out of frontier markets. Founded in December 2015, Leflair follows the flash-sales model that has proven successful in Europe. In total the company has raised $12M. e27. 6/25

Forbes recommends Copper Cow Coffee for a more thoughtful cup of coffee. It comes with condensed milk to transport you to a hot, humid afternoon on the streets of Hanoi. Forbes. 6/29

while Refinery29 thinks their Rose Latte Pour Over might be this summer’s biggest coffee trend. Refinery29. 6/20 

VCs commit $425M for investments in Vietnamese startups over the next 3 years. Investors who are looking to invest more in the burgeoning startup ecosystem in Vietnam include 500 Startups, Golden Gate Ventures, Access Ventures, Burda Principal Investments, Jungle Ventures, Cyberagent Ventures, among others. DealStreetAsia. 6/10

Vietnam in the news

Vietnam, EU sign free trade agreement. Once the deal takes effect, the EU will lift 85% of its tariffs on Vietnamese goods. Vietnam is the EU’s second-largest trading partner in Southeast Asia, with trade turnover of $56B last year. Washington Post. 6/30 

Vietnam economy grows nearly 7% on trade war tailwinds. Haiphong, a major shipping hub near the Chinese border, logged a 16% jump in real GDP last year. Nikkei Asian Review. 6/29

Vietnam buys more US goods after Trump calls the country trade abuser. Vietnam’s trade surplus with the US reached $39.5B last year, the highest in records going back to 1990. Vietnam’s trade ministry will sign an MOU with the U.S. Energy Department that includes buying “large volumes” of liquefied natural gas from the US. Bloomberg. 6/29

Made in Vietnam: US-China tensions spark a manufacturing shift but not without growing pains. Plus an inside look into the manufacturing process behind products like Adidas and Nike produced in Vietnam (video). CNBC. 6/25

Vietnam and India see explosion in direct investment from China as tech suppliers shift production overseas, says Goldman Sachs. Vietnam’s FDI from China jumped 4.6x year on year to reach US$1.56B during the first 5 months of 2019. SCMP. 6/24

Vietnam gets tougher on YouTube as citizens see anti-government content…Google has tried to shut down about 8,000 videos as ordered. “They care a lot about the Hong Kong situation, because they wonder whether the matter in Hong Kong could happen in the future in Vietnam,” said Tai Wan-ping, Southeast Asia-specialized international business professor. Voice of America. 6/28

…and authorities said they have identified at least 100 brands whose ads were shown alongside law-violating clips to Vietnamese viewers, including ads from Grab, Shopee, and Huawei. The YouTube crackdown is part of the country’s broader efforts to regulate global tech companies to minimize tax losses in digital cross-border transactions. KrAsia. 6/25

 

Vietnam tech in the news

E-commerce major Tiki set to raise over $100M. The round could reach $150M with the backing of the firm’s existing Korean investors. The latest financing for Tiki follows a $44M investment led by JD.com. Nikkei Asian Review. 6/21

Online real estate platform Rever raises $4M from VinaCapital. Rever offers price preference tools using real market data analytics. The company will add loan brokerage, digital furniture fitting and smart-home solutions, to become a one-stop shop for all accommodation-related needs. DealStreetAsia. 6/12

Oyo launches in Vietnam, commits $50M investment. The SoftBank-backed hotel chain aims to have 20,000 rooms in 10 cities in Vietnam by the end of 2020. KrAsia. 7/2

Vietnam’s mPOS and e-wallet VIMO merge, herald consolidation for Vietnam’s fragmented digital payments market. There were 29 licensed non-bank payment intermediary services in Vietnam as of February, with around 20 of these services offering e-wallets. More than 40 banks also provide mobile payment services. Nikkei Asian Review. 6/17

Abivin taps AI to ease logistics headaches. Logistic costs account for 15-20% of Vietnam’s GDP. After winning the $1M top prize at the 2019 Startup World Cup in Silicon Valley, Abivin is eyeing expansion to new markets including Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. Nikkei Asian Review. 6/20

 

Events

 

Secrets to a Great Growth Funnel, HCMC, 7/24

Saalim Chowdhury, partner at 500 Startups and director of the Saola Accelerator program, will be talking about the secrets to a great growth funnel. Come to understand the elements of a growth mindset, and network with the Saola batch companies at the event co-hosted by 500 Startups Vietnam and Kafnu. Event

Vietnam Deep Tech Ecosystem Meetup, 7/18, HCMC

Network with representatives from SGInnovate and YellowBlocks, together with other Vietnam ecosystem stakeholders in deep tech. Event

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

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

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

 

 

Events

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

San Francisco
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

 

Events

 

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