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Vietnamese soccer fans gathering on Nguyen Hue walking street in Saigon to show support to the national U23 team during Asian Cup final. Photos by Zing News.

January was a momentous month for Vietnam and for 500 Startups Vietnam.

The country was swept up in soccer madness as Vietnam’s national under-23 team made it to the Asian Football Championship final for the first time ever. The whole nation dropped everything to cheer on the team as they played against Uzbekistan, deemed the favorite after dominating performances earlier in the tournament.  Despite the tough odds and heavy snowfall, the Vietnamese team (whose players probably had never experienced snow before) didn’t disappoint, keeping the match even until the final moments of extra time. Though they ultimately lost the game 2-1, they won the hearts of the people. Vietnamese city streets were packed with flag-waving & noise-making fans thanking the team for their admirable effort.  One player in particular caught our attention: goalie Bui Tien Dung is an ethnic minority from the less-developed province of Thanh Hoa.  He was for a time unable to pursue his passion, as he felt compelled to do manual labor to support his family.  Eventually he got his chance and kept his team in the championship hunt.  His story is emblematic of many talented Vietnamese youth who shine when given the chance.  We’re looking forward to a bright future.  “Việt Nam Vô Địch!” (“Vietnam unrivaled!”)

Our team had several milestones of our own.  One of our earliest investments, Leflair, announced their $3M Series A fundraise.  Hau Ly was promoted to Manager, less than 1.5 years since joining the team in an entry-level role.  Eddie celebrated his marriage to his girlfriend Lan.  And we hosted our first 500 Startups Vietnam Family Day, a pre-Tet gathering of our founders and investors to reflect on where we’ve all gone and where we’re headed.

In a couple of weeks will be the start of the Year of the Dog.  The Dog is said to be honest, friendly, loyal, smart, straightforward, venerable, and responsible.  As we always strive to be with our founders and the broader ecosystem.

 

Vietnam in the News

 

  • The 10 key events that define Vietnam in 2017. From the APEC summit and corruption crackdown to the clash between local taxi giants and ride-hailing apps Grab and Uber. VnExpress. 12/28
  • Vietnam’s economy grows at fastest rate in a decade. “Full-year GDP growth was slightly above the government target of 6.7 per cent and outstripped the 6.21 per cent posted for 2016.” Channel News Asia. 12/27
  • Vietnam Surges, China Disappoints in Stellar Year for Asian Stocks. Vietnam’s stock market has doubled in size in 2017 thanks to privatization of state-owned enterprises and VN Index’s impressive gain. Bloomberg. 12/28
  • Vietnam’s Economic Growth Will Accelerate In 2018 As Investors Flood The Country. The Asian Development predicts that in 2018, Vietnam will see even stronger growth than 2017 and outperform developing Asia overall. Forbes. 12/27
  • The best-performing Asian indexes in 2017 look set for more gains in the new year. Vietnam “serves as the beacon of for all the frontier markets” as stock index increased 46.9% year-to-date. CNBC. 12/29

Vietnam Tech in the News

 

  • Valuation mismatch, lack of scale & exit options remain key challenges in Vietnam startup space. “Vietnam offers many opportunities to investors, thanks to its tech-savvy population but it may not always be easy to navigate this small country.” DealStreetAsia. 01/09
  • Booming Airbnb service puts pressure on hotels in Vietnam. “There are now over 6,500 active Airbnb listings in Vietnam, with Saigon alone offering 4,000 places to rent.” VnExpress. 12/19
  • Saigon cafés, restaurants facing the heat for accepting Bitcoin payments. In the time when cryptocurrencies are still not recognized by the State Bank of Vietnam as a legal means of payment, businesses face fines up to $8,800 for accepting Bitcoin. VnExpress. 12/20
  • Burning question: Uber and Grab’s legal status. Is it time for Uber and Grab to be regulated as taxi transportation companies in Vietnam? VietnamNet. 12/30
  • The Story of Giang Nguyen, Grab’s First Blind Coder. Overcoming his disability, Giang was one of the eight selected among 400 applicants to join Grab this year. Saigoneer. 12/08
  • Vietnam Sets up Command Center for Cyberspace Defense. Earlier in December 2016, the government also unveiled a “10,000-strong cyber unit to combat wrong views.” Reuters. 01/08
  • How Vietnam’s answer to Whatsapp, Zalo, began with a hack. The local messaging app with more than 70 million users is developed by VNG, one of Southeast Asia’s unicorns. South China Morning Post. 12/13

 

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