Last week we unveiled the first batch of graduates of our Silicon Valley-inspired, Saigon-based accelerator, Saola. Founders took the stage to an audience of more than 200 investors, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and other ecosystem partners.
Saola Batch 1 companies in A-Z order:
+ Axie Infinity – a digital pet game on the blockchain with a die-hard community, $2.5M in game item sales and marketplace transactions, and the backing of leading blockchain investors like Hashed and Consensus
+ Dibee – a digital payment solution for corporate auto fleets that counts marquee names like DHL, Avis, and DB Schenker among its clients and boasts a 100% client retention rate
+ NextSmarty – an AI recommendation engine to convert website visitors into customers with former CMO and COO of Microsoft Vietnam as incoming CEO and backers like Tina Ju, managing partner of Kleiner Perkins China
+ Papaya – an employee healthcare & wellness benefits platform for corporations in Vietnam and beyond, which has already partnered with a top insurance provider and an insurance broker
+ Quod AI – an AI platform that helps software engineers be more productive by explaining source code in plain English, developed by a 3X CTO and a mathematical physicist who previously developed AI models for NASA
+ Schola – a 1-to-1 online English learning platform for non-native children founded by Facebook and Garena alums and seeing a 70% course completion rate
In addition to these companies, our Demo Day hosted rising stars from 500’s portfolio across the region, including Beam (a micromobility company seeing 30% week-on-week growth and backed by Sequoia, Founders Fund, and Zhen Fund), Finaxar (providing SMEs working capital in as little as 24 hours), Jala (a shrimp IoT and data management solution serving customers in 4 of the world’s top 5 shrimp-producing countries), Portier (the “No Download” travel assistant that has seen +300% ARR in 4 months), and a fifth undisclosed company.
We’re proud of all of the founders, and grateful to folks who came out and supported them.
Batch 2 of our Saola Accelerator Program is open for applications. It’s still ~4 months from starting, but we’ve already filled 3 of the 10 spots. Are you a founder ready for growth? Or do you know one? Check out bit.ly/500apply now!
A short video about Saola Accelerator:
Until next month,
Team 500 Startups Vietnam
500 Startups Vietnam in the News
Regional investors and entrepreneurs converge in Vietnam for a Southeast Asia showcase by 500 Startups. Eleven “rising star” startups pitched their ideas to a room of more than 200 investors and entrepreneurs as part of the 500 Startups Demo Day to highlight the promising startup ecosystem in Vietnam and broader Southeast Asia. Vietnam Economic Times, Vietnam News, CafeBiz, Vietnam Insider. 9/6
500 Startups sees healthy early-stage pipeline in Vietnam. “As long as there are smart entrepreneurial people, and many challenges to solve in Vietnam as well as other markets in the region, we should be able to keep investing at a healthy pace,” Eddie told DealStreetAsia. DealStreetAsia. 9/8
500 Startups sees the biggest potential for Vietnamese startups lie in developing technology solutions that solve emerging-market problems. Eddie expects disruption, but also evolution, in sectors that include financial services, education and training, transportation and logistics and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) productivity. The Business Times. 8/7
Saola Accelerator growth expert Mike Villar wants to put the romance back into advertising. “Relationships escalate one step at a time. Selling without a story is like asking someone to marry you on a first date,” he told a dozen Saola founders. Jumpstartmag. 8/5
Vietnam in the news
Vietnam investors shrug off U.S. trade risk for growth. Robust economic growth and the government’s planned sale of stakes in state-controlled companies will offset dips in equity prices triggered by trade frictions. Bloomberg. 8/16
Women-led businesses on the rise in Vietnam. A recent Grant Thornton’s report titled ‘Women in Business 2019,’ revealed that women hold 36 percent of senior management positions in Vietnamese businesses, ranking second highest in the region after the Philippines’ 37.5 percent. The ASEAN Post. 8/28
Vietnam announced revised plans to privatize state-owned companies. 93 companies including Mobifone, Agribank, and VN Post are slated for partial or complete privatization by the end of 2020. Bloomberg. 8/16
PE investors scout for deals in Vietnam’s renewable energy sector. Renewable energy emerged as one of the most preferred sectors for investments in the country in 2019 as it took the third slot after fintech and education. Nikkei Asian Review. 8/26
Airlines boom as travellers opt to fly over overloaded infrastructure. Even as airports are getting degraded and cramped, more and more new players like Vietravel Airlines, Vinpearl Air, and KiteAir are entering the aviation market. Vietnam Investment Review. 8/30
Vietnam tech in the news
Vietnam’s e-commerce player Tiki acquires 500 Startups portfolio company Ticketbox. The acquisition is part of Tiki’s aim to become an ‘all-in-one’ e-commerce platform. DealstreetAsia. 8/20
Google to shift Pixel smartphone production from China to Vietnam. The push reflects the twin pressures of higher Chinese labor costs and the spiraling tariffs resulting from the trade war between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. internet giant intends to eventually move production of most of its American-bound hardware outside of China. Nikkei Asian Review. 8/28
Vietnam says Facebook steps up local content restrictions. “Facebook now meets 70 to 75% of the Vietnamese government’s requests, compared to around 30% earlier,” information minister Nguyen Manh Hung said at a parliament meeting in Hanoi. Reuters. 8/16
Singapore hotel booking platform RedDoorz raises $70 million to build Vietnam tech hub. The company will use the funds to build its second technology hub in Vietnam besides expanding to new markets, investing in technology and user experience, and boost hotel staff training. VnExpress. 8/27
Vietnamese POS startup KiotViet gets $6 million from Jungle Ventures and Traveloka. Established in 2014 as a cloud-based POS system, KiotViet now provides omnichannel business and management software solutions catered to microbusinesses and small and medium-sized enterprises. TechinAsia. 8/15
Vietnam prefers its mobile networks to be free of Huawei. Vietnam’s smaller carriers appear to be shying away from Huawei, as well. MobiFone Corp. is using Samsung Electronics Co. equipment while Vietnam Telecom Services Company, or Vinaphone, entered into a partnership with Nokia to deploy its 5G network, according to local media. Bloomberg. 8/26
Vietnam’s new social app Lotus aims to raise $52 million to take on Facebook. VCCorp has ultimately chosen Lotus as the brand name for this latest social app, which is expected to make a soft launch next month. DealstreetAsia. 8/25
Ride-hailing giant Grab to invest $500 million in Vietnam over the next 5 years. The company will expand its transport, food and payments networks in the country. CNBC. 8/27
Seedstars Ho Chi Minh City 2019, HCMC, 9/19
Seedstars World promotes, connects and invests in emerging market startups through its exclusive startup competition in over 50 countries. The winning startup at Seedstars Ho Chi Minh City 2019 will get a free trip to the Seedstars Regional Summit. Event.
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