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

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers to the year ahead,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

 

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

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

 

Vietnam in the News

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

 

Vietnam Tech in the News

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

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