July 2020 Newsletter

July 2020 Newsletter

Dear all,

Vietnam continues on its economic recovery. Last week, the IMF published an analysis of how Vietnam’s success in containing COVID-19 offers a roadmap for other developing countries. The Financial Times reported that a swift return to normal could provide a “COVID dividend” for Vietnam in the form of greater investment and orders. As foreign investors returned to Vietnam, investor inflows drove the benchmark VN Index up 28% this quarter, making it the second-best performer globally. A landmark deal locked up when the buyout powerhouse KKR led a consortium to invest $650 million in Vinhomes

This month, our team at 500VN focused on community:  

  • Our Saola Accelerator team has been cross-posting a curated set of startup growth blog posts from around the world, in English and Vietnamese, while they prepare for Batch 3. It starts in August, so apply today!
  • We hosted a full-room 500 community event with 500-backed founders in HCMC on June 12, welcoming new faces of the family and celebrating wins of our portfolio companies. 
  • We joined other business leaders in a number of events as we aimed to advise founders and support the ecosystem during the market downturn.
  • We closed our investments in portfolio company #62 (bookkeeping automation startup Bizzi), #63 (digital investment platform RealStake), as well as a follow-on investment into one of our fintech portfolio companies Trusting Social, alongside Sequoia, Beenext, and Tanglin.

Last but not least, 500 Startups was featured in Preqin as the most active VC firm in Southeast Asia in 2019 with 50 deals closed across our 3 regional funds (500 Startups Vietnam, 500 Durians, and 500 TukTuks). Earlier this year, White Star Capital reported that 500 Startups Vietnam was the most active VC in Vietnam in the past decade by number of deals.

See you next month,

Binh & Eddie 

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

500 Startups Most Active VC in Southeast Asia500 Startups was the most active venture capital firm in Southeast Asia in 2019, according to Preqin’s “Private Equity and Venture Capital in Southeast Asia’s Digital Evolution”. This reflected investments across 500’s three regional funds, 500 Startups Vietnam, 500 Durians, and 500 TukTuks. Preqin. 6/30

 

 

 

 

TrustingSocial raised a Series B round. Earlier notes converted, and Sequoia Capital, BEENEXT, and 500 Startups Vietnam “doubled down” on our earlier investments. Since launch, TrustingSocial has served over 80 financial institutions and more than 500 million consumers across India, Indonesia, and Vietnam. DealStreetAsia. 6/24

Digital investment platform RealStake secures seed funding from 500 Startups Vietnam. Angel investing also was Neil MacGregor (CEO of Savills Vietnam), Huan Anh Dinh (Founder & Chairman of Seedcom), Truc Ba Ha (Vietnam Country Director of Qatar National Bank), and others. Fintech News Singapore. 7/6

Binh gave advice to student entrepreneurs and aspiring founders, from how to start a company, which aspects of a business model are most important, to how to raise VC funding and actionable ways to reach out to VCs. Find out the answers on e27

Saola batch company Axie Infinity is among the 8 international startups selected for Ubisoft’s fifth Entrepreneur Lab. Paris-based Ubisoft is one of the world’s biggest video game publishers. Venture Beat. 6/10

Nghia Vu, founder of Bizzi, shared about market opportunities for automation as companies accelerate digital transformation, and shed light on Bizzi’s growth agenda. Bao Dau Tu. 6/18

Our Webinar Archives

Eddie gave the keynote speech for a UNDP webinar on “Leading With Integrity” — launch event for the UNDP’s Business Integrity Toolkit for Young Entrepreneurs. Eddie shared tangible reasons and tips for doing business with integrity, and spoke about how his father inspired him in this respect. People from 40+ countries registered for the event.

⇲ Binh joined esteemed Indian ministers and business leaders at Horasis India Meeting. Addressing post-pandemic VC capabilities, Binh shared an optimistic outlook in balance with certain cautions. He also discussed why long-term investors need to differentiate temporary trends from the permanent “new normal”. 

⇲ Binh live-coached participants of the annual startup competition for Vietnamese entrepreneurs globally — Vietchallenge, as well as founders of SOSV SEA Virtual Roadshow. Meanwhile, Eddie joined the judging panel of TechShake’s Pitch Session where 7 startups pitching to a selected audience.

Vietnam in the News

Vietnam's Economic IndicatorsIMF: Vietnam’s success in containing COVID-19 offers a roadmap for other developing countries, citing tentative signs of a domestic recovery (IMF, 6/29). Vietnam’s purchasing managers index (PMI) read above 50 in June indicating factory output expansion. The index grew for the first time since January before the virus spread in the region (New York Times, 6/30). 

 

 

 

Vietnam’s economic growth in the second quarter fell to +0.4% from a year earlier, a record-low for the country but still likely better than the rest of the region, Bloomberg reported June 29. Vietnam’s rice exports surged to record high in the five-month period to May following the authorities’ export bans drop (Bloomberg, 6/11). Globally, rice futures have spiked to their highest level in nearly nine years after the global pandemic boosted shoppers’ demand for the grain. 

Travel bubbles: As Vietnam has no plans to open up to international tourists yet over fears of a second wave of infections, it has relied on domestic tourism to break out of the COVID tourist trap (Reuters, 6/26). Highly skilled foreign experts, however, have been allowed to enter Vietnam on special flights and quarantine at hotels in a bid to help keep the industry afloat throughout the global pandemic (CNN, 6/26).

A swift return to normal could mean there will be a “COVID dividend” for Vietnam in the form of greater investment and orders, the Financial Times’ John Reed reports. Apple, Nintendo, and Google are among the manufacturers that have moved some of their production to Vietnam. The move seeking to hedge their bets against a backdrop of US-China trade tensions may now prompt others to follow suit. Power tool manufacturer Techtronic Industries will invest an additional $650 million in Vietnam to produce cordless appliances (New York Times, 6/23).

Foreign investors return to Vietnam. Although foreign investors have withdrawn some $140 billion from Asian markets this year, some markets including India, Taiwan, and Vietnam have started seeing net inflows in June. Investor inflows drove the benchmark VN Index up 28% this quarter, making it the second-best performer globally. Among global fund managers betting on Vietnam stocks are Ashmore Group Plc and Coeli Asset Management SA. 

Buyout powerhouse KKR led a consortium to invest $650 million in Vinhomes, the housing development arm of Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup (Financial Times, 6/16). KKR said the deal underscored Vietnam’s attractiveness as an investment destination, citing it looks to triple Vietnam investments in the next decade. Others agreed. Matthew Vogel of FIM Partners in Dubai wrote in an op-ed on the Financial Times: “Investors should not shrink from frontier emerging markets […] We believe the Philippines, Peru and Vietnam are best positioned to recover.” (Financial Times, 6/17).

Vietnam Tech in the News

The big read: Digital payment taking off

The Vietnamese government is set to approve a pilot project for local telecom players to launch mobile money services. Local telcos VNPT, Viettel, and MobiFone have indicated an interest in launching these services (DealStreetAsia, 6/30). 

In a separate development, Vietnamese budget carrier Vietjet plans to operate an intermediary payment service (Nhip Cau Dau Tu, 6/16). Meanwhile, the State Bank of Vietnam and the Ministry of Industry and Trade have affirmed that they have not licensed Zalo Bank to provide online built-in financial services (Vietnam News, 7/1). As the broader SEA e-wallet market takes off, proxies give Chinese tech giants a seat at the table (DealStreetAsia, 6/9).

VinSmart, a unit of Vingroup, has produced its first 5G smartphones in cooperation with the U.S.’s Qualcomm, Reuters reported July 6. Earlier in June, Qualcomm reportedly set up a new R&D facility in Hanoi (TechRadar, 6/22). The chip maker’s first R&D lab in Southeast Asia will develop new cellular technologies and provide testing services to domestic manufacturing partners. 

Ecosystem roundup: One billion downloads later, Vietnam-based Amanotes is optimistic about the future of non-streaming music platform (e27, 6/22). Venture capital investors are eyeing Vietnam’s HR tech startups with increased interest due to their resilient nature and high-margin potential (DealStreetAsia, 7/1). Indonesia’s most valuable startup, Gojek, will unify its Vietnamese and Thai brands and bring them under one technology platform (Nikkei, 7/3). Meanwhile, Baemin, the food delivery business of South Korean unicorn Woowa Brothers, has expanded to Hanoi a year after its foray into Ho Chi Minh City (Nikkei, 6/23).

Events

Homecoming Series

Join our very own Binh Tran and other overseas Vietnamese as they share about the contributions that they look to bring to the community upon returning to Vietnam. Register here.

Startup Fundraising: Insights from VCs

Our Investment Associate Thao Nguyen along with other VCs and angel investors will share insights into investing in Vietnamese startups in a webinar organized by Vietcetera and Hustle Fund. Register here.

Forbes Vietnam Tech Summit 2020

With a focus on new technologies in data, the summit will gather industry thought leaders to discuss the future of AI, big data, IoT, among other topics. Register here.

Gala Final: FlagUp Startup Competition

Our Investment Analyst Le Nguyen will join the judging panel of the FlagUp Startup Competition organized by International University HCMC. Read more here

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

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

June 2020 Newsletter

June 2020 Newsletter

Dear all,

In Vietnam, COVID-19 seems almost like a distant memory. The first country in the region to emerge from the pandemic after lifting its nationwide shelter-in-place order in late April, Vietnam has remained clear of COVID-19 community infections for 54 straight days as of June 9. The country is aiming to achieve 5% GDP growth in 2020, as boosting post-outbreak economic momentum is now the authorities’ priority. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc called foreign investment a crucial factor for GDP growth. With Asia’s busy investors seeking opportunities beyond China, Vietnam is the new top spot for intra-regional foreign investors targeting ASEAN. 

Vietnam’s National Assembly greenlighted European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) on June 8. Vietnam has already been well-positioned to capture more of the global supply chain as companies look to diversify their manufacturing base away from China. Apple is reportedly producing millions of its popular AirPods wireless earphones in Vietnam. In another development, the benchmark equity index rallied 13%, driving Vietnam to become Asia’s best-performing stock market in May

All in all, a successful COVID-19 containment plan has underlined Vietnam’s status as a leading investment destination in Southeast Asia. Still, a full recovery by 2021 will be dependent partially on COVID stabilization in other parts of the world (given Vietnam’s dependence on tourism, export markets, etc.)

Our team at 500VN was excited to get back to the office:  

  • We closed deal #61 (podcast and ebook app Voiz FM) in late May, meaning we invested in one new startup every 2-3 weeks since the end of February (an action-packed few months, albeit probably not a pace we’ll keep up for the year!)
  • We hosted two startup growth webinars led by Saola’s seasoned entrepreneurs and growth experts. While Sean Percival (former VP of Marketing for MySpace) covered 10 of the most important metrics for startups, serial entrepreneur Rob Neivert unlocked B2B sale techniques to help startups drive faster and higher value closes. 
  • Batch 3 of the Saola Accelerator is filling up. If you’re a startup founder who is eager to grow your business and work with top-notch experts like Sean and Rob, apply today!
  • Check out Binh Tran on Business Unusual with Karen Lam and The Startup Buddy Demo Day as he live-coached business owners and discussed how he is helping founders through the crisis.

Coming up, Eddie will join the judging panel of TechShake’s Pitch Session with 7 Vietnamese startups pitching to a selected audience of investors, corporates, and government agencies. Register here.

Stay safe out there,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

Micromobility startup Beam raises $26 million in Series A funding led by Sequoia India and Hana Ventures, along with other APAC investors. The fresh funding will support Beam’s expansion in its existing markets of South Korea, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Taiwan. 500VN is an early investor of Beam. TechCrunch. 6/1 

Eddie and other investors shared perspectives on Vietnam as an investment destination. “On consumer demand, Vietnamese people have taken COVID-19 largely in stride, viewing it as a temporary effect rather than a new normal. They are very proud of their nationwide response – rightly so – and point to it as further evidence of Vietnam’s strong long-term prospects”, added Eddie. Asian Venture Capital Journal. 5/14

AmCham Taipei spotlights LivMote, a touchless temperature-screening device developed by 500-backed Soda Labs, among Taiwan’s notable AI developments to battle the pandemic. The wall-mounted device combines infrared thermography with a few other ambient sensors and engages machine learning to improve the accuracy of its temperature reads over time. AmCham Taipei. 5/14

Bookkeeping automation startup Bizzi raises seed funding from 500. As more businesses ramp up their digital transformation initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, companies offering automation services are seeing an opportunity. Tech in Asia. 5/19

Podcast platform Voiz FM raises seed funding from 500. Voiz FM was launched in late 2019 by three Vietnamese entrepreneurs with the goal of capitalizing on opportunities in the emerging audio space. e27. 5/29 

Tam Vu, Founder of Earable, opened up about becoming a professor, a scientist, and an entrepreneur. Vietnam News. 6/1

Vietnam in the News

Off the charts: Vietnam has escaped the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, reporting a total of 332 cases and no deaths as of June 9. Its success is in stark contrast to outbreaks in other nations (Financial Times Coronavirus Tracker, 6/9). Officials in Hanoi are winning global praise including credits by the World Health Organization for containing cases and reopening for business at lightning speed. 

After becoming the first in the region to emerge from the pandemic, boosting post-outbreak economic momentum is the authorities’ priority. The country is pressing to achieve up to 5% GDP growth in 2020 (Bloomberg, 5/22). The State Bank of Vietnam made its second policy rates cut in less than two months to support the economy (VNExpress, 5/13). The government is also enacting policies such as a $679 million corporate tax cut plan and a $2.6 billion aid package for 20 million workers

Robust FDI flows are crucial for GDP growth in 2020 and beyond. As Asia’s busy investors seek opportunities beyond China, Vietnam is the new top spot for intra-regional foreign investors (Financial Times, 5/11). In a recent business conference, representatives of South Korea, Japan, Europe, and the US expressed support for Hanoi’s plan to attract FDI and build robust supply chains in the country (Nikkei, 5/11). 

Vietnam’s National Assembly approved a free trade agreement with the European Union on June 8, which will cut or eliminate 99% of tariffs on goods traded between the Southeast Asian country and the bloc (New York Times, 6/8). The European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), expected to take effect in July, has already been ratified by the EU, making Vietnam the second Southeast Asian nation to have such a trade treaty with the European bloc after Singapore.

Vietnam has been well-positioned to capture more of the global supply chain as companies look to diversify their manufacturing base away from China. Apple is now reportedly producing millions of its popular AirPods wireless earphones in Vietnam (Nikkei, 5/8). Many Apple suppliers, such as iPhone builders Foxconn and Pegatron, and iPad maker Compal Electronics, are all expanding production in north Vietnam. The US tech giant’s move followed suit of others such as Samsung, LG, and Intel, who have already set up large operations in the country. 

On the street: Vietnam is Asia’s best-performing stock market in May. The benchmark equity index has rallied 13% in May, driven mainly by local investors as foreign funds pulled money from risk assets, Bloomberg reported May 27.

Vietnam Tech in the News

The big picture 

Unsurprisingly, many of the headlines have been dominated by coronavirus as its impact hit the economy. However, Vietnam’s tech scene is not all doom and gloom: Big deals are still happening and it seems that capital flow is back on track. 

In yet another large deal, JD.com-backed Tiki and SoftBank Ventures Asia-backed Sendo are said to have agreed on a merger. Tiki is understood to have raised around $130 million in its latest funding round.

FPT, a leading Vietnamese IT company, began construction of the country’s largest data center in HCMC, Nikkei reported May 28. The company is expecting data demand to increase as FDI sparks economic growth. Vietnam’s policy on data protection and plan to commercialize 5G services in the second half of the year are both pluses for data centers.

On the funding trail

Propzy, a Vietnamese offline-to-online real estate platform, raises $25 million Series A led by Gaw Capital and SoftBank Ventures Asia. Founded in 2016, Propzy’s technology covers almost every stage of a real estate transaction (TechCrunch, 6/9).

Sales and management platform Sapo Technology announced it had closed a Series A round led by South Korea’s Smilegate Investment (Nikkei, 5/16). Real estate marketplace Hoozing also later got Smilegate backing (Tech in Asia, 5/21). 

Meanwhile on the seed front, several funding rounds were announced. JobsGo, WindSoft, and EcomEasy secured investments from the newly-established VC firm Viet Valley Ventures (Deal Street Asia, 5/13); HR tech startup BravoHR raised an undisclosed sum from Zone Startups Vietnam and 1005 Ventures (e27, 5/14); skill-sharing marketplace Vibeji raised $70K from Reapra (e27, 5/20); and fintech startup Nano got FEBE Ventures backing (Deal Street Asia, 5/27).

Events

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

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

May 2020 Newsletter

May 2020 Newsletter

Dear all,

Three months after its first case was detected, Vietnam appears to have beaten back the virus. Despite its shared border with China and a population of 95 million, the country registered a total of 271 confirmed cases and reported no deaths as of May 5. The nationwide shelter-in-place order imposed since April 1 was lifted on April 22, allowing daily life in major cities to gradually come back to normal. Vietnam’s effective response to the pandemic has won international praise (Diplomat, Channel News Asia, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and The Guardian, among others). 

Vietnam’s economy is showing signs of recovery. The world’s third-largest rice exporter ended a rice export quota after a month-long restriction to protect domestic food security. Vietnam stocks have climbed out of bear territory following other Asian markets like the Philippines and Indonesia, setting to join global peers in a bull market. The 2.7% growth rate that the International Monetary Fund expects Vietnam to record this year, though a long way below the 6.8% logged last year, is among the fastest in the world.

In April, we wrapped up Batch 2 of Saola Accelerator. Seven batch companies participated in a total of 212 lectures, workshops, and office hour sessions. Applications for Batch 3 are now open. If you’re a tech startup founder who is ready for the next phase of growth, check out on how we can help! We also guided founders at large. Binh joined other US-APAC leaders and shared his experience as an investor and entrepreneur who built a tech startup throughout the 2008 global crisis.

Most notably for us, 500VN-backed ApplyBoard became the latest edtech startup to join the unicorn club (companies valued over $1 billion). ApplyBoard is a platform aimed at helping international students access quality higher education in the U.S. and Canada. When we met lead co-founder Martin Basiri three years ago, we were excited by his intelligence, charisma, and grit. We also understood clearly the strong and rising demand for study-abroad (since Vietnam is the #1 in Southeast Asia as a source of study-abroad students). So we invested in their seed round and never looked back! This week ApplyBoard has announced the close of a US$75 million Series C financing at a US$1.4 billion valuation.

Coming Up — May 13 “double-header”: 

  • At 3PM Vietnam time, Binh will join other SEA investors — Wavemaker Partners, ScaleUp Malaysia, and Amazon Web Services — for a virtual panel discussion on “Startup Investing During and Post COVID-19”. Register here.
  • At 5PM Vietnam time, we will host a “Top 10 Metrics for Startups” webinar with Sean Percival, Saola Accelerator’s Program Director & former VP of Myspace. Join us to discuss important metrics for startups and how to articulate them, along with a breakdown of tools and tips for analytics. Register here

Stay safe out there,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

ApplyBoard became the latest edtech startup to join the unicorn club (companies valued over $1 billion). The platform aimed at helping international students gain greater access to higher education raised US$75 million in funding at a US$1.4 billion valuation. TechCrunch, CrunchBase, Financial Post. 5/4

ApplyBoard’s co-founders, Meti Basiri and Massi Basiri, are recognized in the Bay Street Bull 30X30 Guide for 2020, featuring Canada’s brightest young leaders who dare to push boundaries and refuse the status quo. Bay Street Bull. 5/2

ELSA was honorably mentioned in the AI and Data category of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards 2020. The award recognizes projects that “harness the power of data, machine learning, or artificial intelligence to understand the world and empower change”. Fast Company. 4/28 

The Information’s latest installment of Startups to Watch profiled Turing among half a dozen companies whose businesses have accelerated since the start of the outbreak. As the future of work is remote, Turing enables businesses to hire the finest developers with a touch of a button. The Information. 4/28

Bunch sees a surge in global demand due to coronavirus quarantine. The mobile app that allows users to video chat while playing games has been breaking into the top 20 social apps in 17 countries in recent weeks… Bunch’s breakout growth is featured on major news outlets around the world including in Japan (Social Game Info, 4/20), Colombia (Forbes, 4/22), and Turkey (Hurriyet, 4/24. Aksam, 4/25). 

Founders shared how their companies have been surviving and thriving amidst the global crisis: Selcuk Atli, CEO, and Harsh Kher, Product Manager of Bunch on breakout growth (The Mobile User Acquisition Show, 4/6); Vu Van, Co-founder of ELSA (CafeF, 4/10) and Vien Tran, Co-founder of Base (CafeBiz, 4/29) on staying agile and quickly adapting to the changes in the business environment.

Vietnam in the News

Despite its shared border with China and a population of 95 million, Vietnam has been a success story in containing the pandemic. As of May 5, the country registered a total of 271 confirmed cases and reported no deaths (Vietnam Plus, 5/6). Over 30,500 people have been quarantined, and 261,000 tests have been carried out (New York Times, 5/3). In addition, Vietnam has recorded no new cases of domestic transmission in almost two weeks. 

The nationwide shelter-in-place order imposed since April 1 was lifted on April 22, allowing daily life in major cities to gradually come back to normal (Reuters, 4/22)… Schools across the country reopened from May 4. The public gathering limit was raised to 30 people from the previous 20. Domestic travel resumed and flight restriction eased (Nikkei Asian Review, 4/25). Three months after its first case was detected, Vietnam appears to have beaten back the virus. The country’s effective response including mass testing, targeted lockdowns, and constant communication has won international praise (South China Morning Post, 4/13; Diplomat, 4/18; Channel News Asia, 4/23; Bloomberg, 4/27; Wall Street Journal, 4/27; New York Times, 4/29; and The Guardian, 5/3; among others). 

…Vietnam, however, is keen to ensure that it does not run short of medical equipment, in view of the second wave of infections hitting Singapore. The government ordered companies to manufacture ventilators to bolster the country’s defense (Nikkei Asian Review, 5/4). In a separate development, Vietnam continued to support other nations through donating domestically-made medical masks and medical equipment to the US, Japan, Cambodia, Laos, and European countries including Russia, France, and Italy (Bloomberg, 4/16). 

Vietnam’s economy is showing signs of recovery. The world’s third-largest rice exporter ended a rice export quota after a month-long restriction to protect domestic food security (Bloomberg, 4/29). Vietnam stocks have climbed out of bear territory following other Asian markets like the Philippines and Indonesia, and are set to join global peers in a bull market (Bloomberg, 4/29). The 2.7% growth rate that the International Monetary Fund expects Vietnam to record, though a long way below the 6.8% logged last year, is among the fastest in the world (IMF, 4/14).

Vietnam Tech in the News

CNN spotlighted how new technology is transforming Vietnam’s economy, featuring startup pioneers such as VNG (Vietnam’s first unicorn), Tiki, and Appota. A 2018 report by Google and Temasek described Vietnam’s digital economy — which is growing at more than 40% a year — as “a dragon being unleashed.” […] Technology is reshaping the way people in Vietnam do business, manufacture goods, entertain themselves, shop, organize their finances, and communicate. CNN. 4/7 

Former Lazada execs’ OnPoint snaps up $8M to double down on Vietnam. This marks one of the largest Series A rounds in Vietnam in recent months amidst the ongoing global pandemic. Founded in December 2017, OnPoint is a leading e-commerce enabler in Vietnam. Vietnam Investment Review. 4/23 

Vingroup develops masked facial recognition tech for smartphones in virus fight. VinAI Research, the artificial intelligence unit of Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup, has developed a facial recognition technology that can identify users wearing masks. Bloomberg. 4/20

Other funding announcements: Online pharmaceutical marketplace BuyMed raised a $2.5M led by Sequoia’s Surge and Genesia Ventures (TechCrunch, 4/27); mobile game publisher Funtap secured a seven-digit Series A round led by Makers Fund (DealStreetAsia, 4/29); Vietnam’s VC fund Next100 invested $430K in local recruitment platform TopCV (DealStreetAsia, 4/15); Homebase raised an undisclosed pre-seed amount from Antler, Iterative VC, and others (Tech In Asia, 4/9). 

Local payments startup GPay receives a license to join Vietnam’s crowded fintech market. Kr-Asia. 4/22

Virtual Events

Startup Investing During and Post COVID-19, 5/13. Binh Tran, General Partner of 500 Startups Vietnam, will join other SEA investors — Wavemaker Partners, ScaleUp Malaysia, and Amazon Web Services — for a virtual panel discussion that addresses startup investing during and post COVID-19. Register here.

Startup Growth Webinar: Top 10 Metrics for Startups, 5/13. Join our upcoming webinar with Sean Percival, Saola Accelerator’s Program Director & former VP of Myspace, where we discuss important metrics for startups, how to articulate them, along with a breakdown of tools and tips for analytics. Register here.

Fireside Chat with Credit Karma’s Founder & CEO, Kenneth Lin, 5/6. 500 Startups is bringing together Christine Tsai, Founding Partner of 500 Startups, and Kenneth Lin, Credit Karma’s Founder & CEO, to discuss how he has built the company and advice for founders during these unpredictable times. Register here.

Supporting Female Founders in Times of Crisis, 5/7. Christine Tsai, Founding Partner of 500 Startups, will join other leaders — IFC, Harlem Capital, Backstage Capital, Village Capital, and others — in a webinar on what is needed and what support is available for female founders during this time. Register here.

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

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

April 2020 Newsletter

April 2020 Newsletter

Dear all,

We hope this newsletter finds you in good health, wherever you are in the world.

In Vietnam, authorities took several measures to contain the illness, including suspension of international flights from March 21 and a nationwide shelter-in-place order effective April 1. As a result, Vietnam had a cumulative total of 262 confirmed cases and 0 deaths as of April 13. Meanwhile, to help support businesses and people during the economic slowdown, authorities decided to delay the collection of taxes and rent (est. US$7.6 billion), cut key interest rates, and suspend rice exports to ensure national food security. At the same time, the country began supporting other nations. It obtained WHO approval to produce 10,000 COVID-19 test kits per day for widespread use. On April 3, VinGroup announced that it would begin producing 55,000 ventilators per month to help meet the global shortage. On April 8, Vietnam shipped 450,000 protective suits to the US to assist healthcare professionals in the fight against the virus.

All-in-all, Vietnam’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be impressive. Linh Dao, co-founder of HackerNoon, wrote about what we can learn from Vietnam’s response to COVID-19.

The 500VN team made adjustments in parallel with the authorities, having the team work remotely, shifting our accelerator program online, etc. Still, we continue to support the ecosystem by investing and supporting founders.

  • We closed investments #58 (ecommerce), #59 (enterprise productivity), and #60 (logistics).
  • We shifted more of our team’s attention to supporting our portfolio companies during these difficult times, providing strategic advisory, scenario planning, and executive coaching. We have also been providing guidance to founders at large, for example Eddie’s LinkedIn post with specific tips for founders to help their startups survive the pandemic.
  • We continued to operate Batch 2 of our Saola Accelerator. We provided 7 batch companies with 138 lectures, workshops, and office hour sessions led by 5 experts.
  • Eddie joined other leaders for an open discussion on the landscape, opportunities, and challenges of impact investing in Vietnam.

Coming up in the coming weeks:

  • Binh will join other esteemed US-APAC investors & founders for an exclusive (but free-entry) webinar on “VCs and Startups Adapting to COVID-19” organized by Silicon Valley Bank & Horizon Connect. 
  • We will be among 50+ VCs participating in “Meet Your Match Vietnam”, an initiative to help Vietnam-based startups continue to connect with investors despite COVID-19.

Stay safe out there,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

Jonathan Siddharth, CEO of 500-backed Turing, joined hands with other entrepreneurs and business leaders to share their experiences coping with the business impact of the pandemic when the plague came to Silicon Valley. How to B2B a CEO Podcast. 4/1

500-backed ELSA offered free 3-month English learning courses on its platform to all Vietnamese citizens to meet the surge in demand for quality online education. CafeF. 3/26

Eddie Thai advises founders to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Some specific tips for surviving in these tough times include cutting burn hard, looking for contribution rather than just revenue, and taking another look at your fundraising strategy. DealStreetAsia, Bao Dau Tu. 3/19 

CNBC spotlighted the growth of Buildbox, a game development platform acquired by 500-backed AppOnboard in mid-2019. “Buildbox subscriber growth has climbed 2,850% since February 26”, added Jonathan Zweig, CEO of AppOnBoard. CNBC. 4/8 

Gaming services are booming. Selcuk Atli, founder of 500-backed Bunch, highlighted with BloombergQuint the recent developments of its service. “Over a seven-day period in late March, uses of the app jumped to more than 1 million, from less than 100,000 […] We started feeling a very fundamental need and got adopted by a lot of users overnight,” said Selcuk. BloombergQuint. 4/1

Forbes lists 500-backed Copper Cow Coffee as one of the “five beverage delivery services you never knew you needed” as going out to bars or cafes is no longer an option. Forbes. 3/26

Eddie commented on his perspective into Vietnam’s startup ecosystem amidst the coronavirus outbreak and 500 Startups Vietnam’s plan in 2020. “There continues to be immense long-term potential for Vietnam tech […] However, there are at least a couple of short-term risks to consider”, added Eddie. Vietnam Investment Review. 3/27

Vietnam in the News

As of April 13, Vietnam confirmed a total of 262 cases of coronavirus with no deaths. 144 of the affected patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals (VNExpress, 4/13). The country began a 15-day nationwide social distancing campaign from April 1 in addition to several other measures to contain the pandemic (Reuters, 3/31). Prior to the announcement, Vietnam had won international praise for its response to the coronavirus, with officials acting quickly to quarantine patients and trace contacts (Financial Times, 3/24). 

The economy has already taken a hit from the pandemic… Growth slowed to 3.8% in the first quarter as the coronavirus outbreak hurts key industries from tourism to manufacturing (Bloomberg, 3/27). Vietnam’s rice traders have halted overseas shipments after a temporary suspension of exports ordered. The country is the world’s third-largest rice exporter, behind India and Thailand (Bloomberg, 3/25). 

…In response, authorities approved a plan to assist companies struggling amid the outbreak with an unprecedented US$7.6 billion tax holiday package (Reuters, 4/9). In another move, Vietnam’s central bank cut key interest rates to help virus-hit firms (Nikkei Asian Review, 3/17) and intervened to calm the foreign currency market (Vietnamnet Global, 3/26). 

Vietnam’s stock market picked up after the government reassured that the pandemic was under control and the securities market operation would be uninterrupted. Vietnam News. 4/1

Vietnam’s diaspora returns with attitude. The country’s financial system has been transformed over the last decade, and the Viet Kieu have played a crucial role in that. Euromoney. 4/6

Vietnam Tech in the News

Online shopping surges on Vietnam social distancing campaign. Online grocery shopping is booming. Ride-hailing firms have caught up with the trend, launching new services that enable people to buy food and groceries without leaving home. VNExpress. 4/5

Shopee remains Vietnam’s most popular ecommerce platform, according to a recent report by iPrice, SimilarWeb, and App Annie. Shopee led in the fourth quarter of 2019 with 33.6 million monthly web visits, followed by Thegioididong (Vietnam’s major mobile phone retail chain), Sendo, Tiki, and Lazada. Kr-Asia. 3/13 

Demand for e-wallet usage rises among Vietnamese consumers. Momo, Moca, and ZaloPay are the three most popular e-wallets in Vietnam’s two main cities, accounting for more than 90% of mobile payments. Of which, Momo is one of the most well-funded firms of its kind in Asia, having raised more than US$133 million since it was founded in 2013. Kr-Asia. 3/26

Fundraising briefing: Vietnam’s health-tech startup eDoctor raises funding from Japanese and South Korean VCs (Forbes Vietnam, 4/1); food recipe portal Cooky raises an undisclosed sum from Foody’s founder; and Chatbot Vietnam raises $500k from Next100 (DealStreetAsia, 4/6). 

Accelerator briefing: Vietnam’s accelerator VIISA picks three startups for batch 7 (e27, 3/30); Vietnam’s Ecomobi joins Facebook Accelerator Singapore season 2 (e27, 3/31).

VinaCapital shuts down Singapore-based robo-advisor Smartly. DealStreetAsia. 3/25.

Virtual Events

VCs and Startups Adapting to COVID-19, 4/16. Join Binh Tran, General Partner of 500 Startups Vietnam, and other esteemed US-APAC investors & founders for an exclusive discussion organized by Silicon Valley Bank & Horizon Connect. The free-entry webinar will address the adjustments startups are making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Registration link.

Meet Your Match Vietnam. 500 Startups Vietnam, as well as 50+ other VCs, will participate in the Meet Your Match Vietnam session, an initiative to match investors to Vietnam-based startups in light of the uncertain coronavirus situation. Shout out to our friends at KK Fund and Topical Founder Institute for the initiative! Registration link.

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March 2020 Newsletter

March 2020 Newsletter

Dear all,

Through the first week of March, it seemed life in Vietnam was beginning to return to normal. The diagnosed case count stood still at 16. Restaurants were getting busy again and folks were even going to events. 180 people came to our event, “The Overthrow of Myspace,” in which Sean Percival, former Vice President of Marketing at Myspace, shared about lessons learned from the failed fight against Facebook.

Now, in mid-March, we are sad to see the spiking of COVID-19 cases around the world. In Vietnam, the count is on the rise again due to some inbound travellers. Still, at 56, the number is quite low compared to many other countries in the world. Authorities have been very aggressive in trying to prevent further spread, including locking down buildings and even neighborhoods where potential cases have been identified; keeping schools closed; shutting down bars, clubs, and cinemas for at least the next 2 weeks; and effective 15 March blocking inbound visitors from 26 countries.

Nonetheless, founders don’t have the luxury of laying low and doing nothing. So we’re not either. We kicked off Batch 2 of our Saola Accelerator. We’ve closed 4 investments in the last few weeks. We welcomed team member #10, a dynamic guy with prior work experience in Copenhagen, Tehran, & Saigon. We are discussing with colleagues and partners around the world to adjust plans and prepare for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

And most of all, we’re continuing to keep a close eye on the situation. Ultimately, health must be everyone’s top priority.  

Stay safe out there,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

P.S. Last month we learned that 500 was the most active VC in the world in 2019 according to PitchBook, and that 500VN was the most active VC in Vietnam in the last decade, according to White Star.

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

500 Startups Vietnam was the most active VC in Vietnam by number of deals in the past decade according to a report by White Star Capital. White Star Capital. 2/20

Tam Vu, assistant professor at University of Colorado Boulder and founder of 500-backed Earable, was named a 2020 Sloan Research Fellow. The annual prestigious award recognizes early-career scientists who are among “the most promising researchers working today”. University of Colorado Boulder. 2/12

Trung Nguyen, founder of 500-backed Axie Infinity, was featured in the “Profiles in Tech” series by Kr-Asia which highlights achievements of the individuals driving South and Southeast Asia’s tech startups. Kr-Asia. 2/20

500-backed ApplyBoard appointed Jo Johnson, brother of British PM, as chairman. ApplyBoard, the fastest-growing technology company in Canada by Deloitte, had Johnson aboard given his political background and his experience in the education sector. CTV News. 2/13

As the year started, our founders have been particularly reflective: Hung Pham, founder of Base.vn, discussed the lessons learnt as an entrepreneur (CafeF, 2/12); Tam Vu, founder of Earable, shared the mission of improving human cognitive functions using an ear-worn device (Soha, 3/2); co-founder and growth lead of Axie Infinity, Jeffrey Zirlin, interviewed with VTC10 as the company’s multi-platform Alpha off to a strong start (VTV10, 2/8)

 

Vietnam in the News

With all 16 infected patients in Vietnam cured as of the end of February, Al Jazeera called Vietnam’s swift responses to coronavirus a miracle (Al Jazeera, 2/29). In mid-March, with an outbreak of additional cases tied to international travel, Vietnam’s government is taking significant measures to limit impacts of the coronavirus. Those measures include suspension of all visas and entry to travelers from the UK and 26 Schengen countries, restrictions on organizing meetings attended by over 1,000 people, and closure of all bars, clubs, cinemas, massage parlors, karaoke shops and online gaming centers, among others. (Vietnam Briefing, 3/15).

Fitch Solutions lowered Vietnam’s growth forecast to 6.3% from 6.8% previously over concerns of the coronavirus outbreak. Hanoi Times. 2/26 

Vietnam is the ‘favorite’ story for investors seeking growth as fund managers are betting on the country’s growth story. Concerns about trade and supply-chain disruptions due to the coronavirus have caused Vietnamese stocks some of the world’s most battered this year, but market watchers are backing a turnaround. Bloomberg. 2/25

Vietnam’s exports jumped in February. Even as the novel coronavirus outbreak hurt the nation’s overall trade activity, exports surged 34% in February compared to a year ago after dropping 14.3% in January, according to the General Statistics Office. Bloomberg. 2/29

Overseas Vietnamese invested nearly $2 billion in Ho Chi Minh City in 2019. The city last year received remittances worth over $5.6 billion, accounting for 30% of the country’s remittances. VietnamPlus. 3/1

Samsung erects a $220 million R&D center in Vietnam. The center located in a complex covering 1.1 hectares in Tay Ho District, Hanoi, will be the first of its kind outside South Korea. Samsung’s R&D staff of 2,220 will increase to 3,000 when the construction completes in 2022. VNExpress. 3/2

 

Vietnam Tech in the News

Vietnam startup investment in 2019 beated Singapore for the first time to rank second in Southeast Asia. Total investment in Vietnam reached $741 million, compared to Singapore’s $693 million and Indonesia’s $2,380 million, according to Singapore-based venture capital firm Cento Ventures. VNExpress. 2/14

The State Bank of Vietnam dropped its plan to cap foreign ownership in e-payment companies to 49%, after consulting with experts and industry participants. Kr-Asia. 2/11

Affirma Capital invests $34 million in Vietnam-based HR platform Sieu Viet. Sieu Viet was founded in 2014 to provide recruitment and job search services. DealStreetAsia. 2/19

SEA’s super app Grab bets on Vietnam with the launch of accelerator. Vietnam is the first country where Grab introduced Grab Ventures Ignite (GVI) for early-stage startups as part of the ‘Grab for Good’ development roadmap. TechinAsia. 2/27. 

Other funding announcements: podcast platform Waves raised $1.2 million seed funding led by Insignia Ventures (e27, 2/24); recruitment platform TopDev raised seven-digit funding from South Korea’s SaraminHR (TechinAsia, 2/18); home service booking app JupViec raised a round from Vietnamese venture builder STI Holdings (DealStreetAsia, 3/2)

Vietnam’s ride-hailing market welcomes 2 new players, Unicar and Zuumviet. Urbanist. 2/11

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© 2010-2019 500 Startups

February 2020 Newsletter

February 2020 Newsletter

Hello readers,

As elsewhere, in Vietnam in recent weeks the spectre of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been looming. Masks and sanitizers are out of stock. The government has closed schools and banned all foreign visitors who have been to China in the 14 days prior. Office buildings, residences, and retailers are posting and broadcasting announcements about prevention best practices. A number of companies have allowed their employees to work from home.

In our opinion, all in all, it’s been an impressively aggressive response, likely contributing to a fairly manageable number of cases (15 as of February 11) despite Vietnam’s proximity to and interconnectedness with China.

Still, the economic impact on Vietnam is likely to be meaningful through at least Q1 as China battles the epidemic, with impacts particularly on tourism, manufacturing, and trade. A number of international VCs have postponed visits to Vietnam, and major tech events have been rescheduled as well.

As for 500VN, we’re operating as usual. (After all, Warren Buffet did say, “When others are fearful, be greedy”!) The Saola Accelerator kicks off in 2 weeks with a number of international and local experts coming in. We’re looking forward to announcing a number of deals next month. And we have portfolio companies raising from Seed to Series C.

In the meantime, take a look at the action-packed newsletter below!

Until next month,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

Binh Tran shared with Vietnam Investment Review (“Bao Dau Tu”) in a special Lunar New Year issue as he reflected on 500’s operations in Vietnam. “Back then in 2014-2015, the ecosystem wasn’t quite ready for an early stage fund but we wanted to capitalize on being a bit early to build a brand that founders trusted. Today, we’re the most active VC in Vietnam and I hope it means that founders trust us and believe in the value we bring”, said Binh. Bao Dau Tu (in Vietnamese). 1/27

Eddie Thai shared his journey with Business Punk Germany in a January issue covering Saigon’s booming startup ecosystem. From representing a new generation in the Vietnamese startup cosmos – the Viet Kieu, to backing talented Vietnamese founders like Trung Nguyen – founder of Saola batch company Axie Infinity, Eddie reaffirmed his bullish view on Vietnam. Business Punk (in German). 1/15

Debbie Wei Mullin, founder of Copper Cow Coffee, was featured in the MIT Alumni Association’s publication Slice. From a solo venture, Debbie has grown Copper Cow Coffee into its current incarnation, with products sold in 5,000 stores across the US and $3 million in funding. Slice of MIT. 2/5 

Vu Van, co-founder of ELSA Speak, shared about recent developments. The AI-powered English speech assistant is expanding across borders, hiring representatives in some of the biggest markets in Asia, like India, Indonesia, and Japan. The app was recently launched in Indonesia, where Vu is optimistic about ELSA taking off. KrAsia. 1/22 

500-backed TrustingSocial aims to revolutionize credit scoring in emerging markets. Founded in 2013, TrustingSocial is on a mission to fill that gap by providing credit scoring and improving access to financial services for consumers in emerging Asian markets, such as India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. KrAsia. 1/14

Former Microsoft Vietnam executive Jeremy Showalter is now the CEO of 500-backed Pique. “I am excited about the growth impact applied AI can have for vertical ecommerce businesses and retail, and after 13 years at Microsoft, including five years in Vietnam, I wanted to focus again on the incredibly dynamic SE Asia region,” said Jeremy. GeekWire. 1/10

Leflair, which sells high-end products, has ceased its Vietnam business operations as part of a business model shift. Co-founder and CEO Loic Gautier commented on the move, stating the startup will retain its cross-border ecommerce business, fulfillment centre in Singapore and the newly-launched Philippine operations. “The change in business model is expected to help Leflair’s operation to become leaner, with the ability to change faster,” said Loic. DealStreetAsia. 2/5

Vietnam in the News

EU lawmakers ratified a Vietnam trade deal. Under the accord, Vietnam will scrap 99% of its import duties over 10 years and the EU will do the same over seven years, effective around July. The accord also curbs non-tariff barriers and opens up public procurement. This is expected to increase two-way commerce, which was almost 50 billion euros (~US$55B) in 2018.  Bloomberg.  2/12

Vietnam’s two big cities lead the region in dynamic growth. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi rank third and seventh among the most dynamic cities in the world, according to the City Momentum Index recently issued by property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle. VietnamPlus. 2/5 

Vietnam confirms 15th coronavirus (nCoV) infection case… Vietnam officially declared the nCoV outbreak an epidemic on February 1. Most patients who tested positive are in Vinh Phuc province in northern Vietnam. Vietnamnews. 2/11

…The coronavirus outbreak hits Vietnam’s economy: Vietnam suspends all flights to and from mainland China as a strengthening measure against the outbreak (The New York Times, 2/5). While stock investors’ concerns have pushed down the benchmark VN Index (Bloomberg, 2/5), a lack of Chinese tourists travelling during the peak holiday season is expected to affect Vietnam as well as Thailand and the Philippines, triggering knock-on currency depreciation (Financial Times, 1/29).

VinGroup bumps airline to focus on auto projects. Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup JSC is abandoning plans to launch Vinpearl Air so it can focus on other businesses including electric vehicle manufacturing. Company Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong said in December that he’s plowing as much as $2 billion of his own fortune to export VinFast EVs to the US and other markets by 2021. Financial Times. 1/14

January Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) surged 179 percent. Vietnam raked in $5.3 billion in FDI in the first 20 days of 2020, a year-on-year surge of 179.5 percent, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment. Vietnam News. 1/30

Vietnam Tech in the News

Vietnam’s biggest mobile company Viettel will roll out 5G services, bypassing Huawei and using technology it has developed itself. State-owned Viettel, which is operated by the country’s Ministry of Defence, will begin deploying the next generation mobile network technology from June and complete nationwide deployment a year later. Financial Times. 1/20

Apple partner Pegatron set up production in Vietnam. Taiwan’s Pegatron Corp. plans to set up production facilities in Vietnam, according to people familiar with the matter, becoming the latest Apple Inc. assembly partner to establish a presence in the Southeast Asian nation as they diversify beyond China. Bloomberg. 1/21 

Forbes Vietnam issued the annual 30 Under 30 list, honoring young talented founders of technology startups including Logivan, MindX Education, and Amanotes. Forbes Vietnam. 2/3

Vietnam legalizes car-hailing services. After years of heated debate, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has signed off on a decree on transportation businesses to legalize car-hailing services. KrAsia. 1/17

Ride-hailing briefing: Grab appoints Nguyen Thai Hai Van as MD in Vietnam (e27, 1/13). South Korea’s Kakao Mobility launches ride-hailing service in Vietnam (Business Korea, 1/20).

Frontier Digital Ventures exits investment in Vietnam-based Propzy. FDV chose to divest its stake due to an upcoming funding round in Propzy that was likely to increase the startup’s losses at the EBITDA level and dilute FDV’s ownership to less than 10%, it added. e27. 2/7

Vietnamese ClassPass clone WeFit replaces CEO, begins restructuring after missing 2019 targets. Founder and CEO Khoi Nguyen was replaced by deputy Dang Nguyen. The company, founded in 2016 and backed by CyberAgent, ESP Capital, and VIISA, had reached 1.2M bookings by 2019. TheLeader. 2/8

Go2Joy raises a $2.5M Series A led by STIC Ventures. Founded in 2017 by Korean Simon Byun, the app helps users book local hotels by the hour. DealStreetAsia. 2/13 

Vietnamese unicorn VNG reduces its stake in Zion, the operator of e-wallet ZaloPay. ZaloPay is one of the most popular e-wallets in the market in terms of the number of customers and transaction volume. DealStreetAsia. 2/5

Events

Startup Contest by Schoolab 2020, HCMC, 2/22. Startup Contest by Schoolab is a one-day hackathon organized by Schoolab Vietnam, in partnership with Saigon Innovation Hub, La French Tech Viet and DIAS-Xchange. Event.

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

© 2010-2019 500 Startups