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.

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