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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