May 2020 Newsletter

May 2020 Newsletter

Chào mọi người,

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, và 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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© 2010-2019 500 Startups

April 2020 Newsletter

April 2020 Newsletter

Chào mọi người,

We hope this newsletter finds you in good health, wherever you are in the world.

In Vietnam, authorities took several measures to contain the illness, including suspension of international flights from March 21 and a nationwide shelter-in-place order effective April 1. As a result, Vietnam had a cumulative total of 262 confirmed cases and 0 deaths as of April 13. Meanwhile, to help support businesses and people during the economic slowdown, authorities decided to delay the collection of taxes and rent (est. US$7.6 billion), cut key interest rates, and suspend rice exports to ensure national food security. At the same time, the country began supporting other nations. It obtained WHO approval to produce 10,000 COVID-19 test kits per day for widespread use. On April 3, VinGroup announced that it would begin producing 55,000 ventilators per month to help meet the global shortage. On April 8, Vietnam shipped 450,000 protective suits to the US to assist healthcare professionals in the fight against the virus.

All-in-all, Vietnam’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be impressive. Linh Dao, co-founder of HackerNoon, wrote about what we can learn from Vietnam’s response to COVID-19.

The 500VN team made adjustments in parallel with the authorities, having the team work remotely, shifting our accelerator program online, etc. Still, we continue to support the ecosystem by investing and supporting founders.

  • We closed investments #58 (ecommerce), #59 (enterprise productivity), and #60 (logistics).
  • We shifted more of our team’s attention to supporting our portfolio companies during these difficult times, providing strategic advisory, scenario planning, and executive coaching. We have also been providing guidance to founders at large, for example Eddie’s LinkedIn post with specific tips for founders to help their startups survive the pandemic.
  • We continued to operate Batch 2 of our Saola Accelerator. We provided 7 batch companies with 138 lectures, workshops, and office hour sessions led by 5 experts.
  • Eddie joined other leaders for an open discussion on the landscape, opportunities, and challenges of impact investing in Vietnam.

Coming up in the coming weeks:

  • Binh will join other esteemed US-APAC investors & founders for an exclusive (but free-entry) webinar on “VCs and Startups Adapting to COVID-19” organized by Silicon Valley Bank & Horizon Connect. 
  • We will be among 50+ VCs participating in “Meet Your Match Vietnam”, an initiative to help Vietnam-based startups continue to connect with investors despite COVID-19.

Stay safe out there,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

Jonathan Siddharth, CEO of 500-backed Turing, joined hands with other entrepreneurs and business leaders to share their experiences coping with the business impact of the pandemic when the plague came to Silicon Valley. How to B2B a CEO Podcast. 4/1

500-backed ELSA offered free 3-month English learning courses on its platform to all Vietnamese citizens to meet the surge in demand for quality online education. CafeF. 3/26

Eddie Thai advises founders to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Some specific tips for surviving in these tough times include cutting burn hard, looking for contribution rather than just revenue, and taking another look at your fundraising strategy. DealStreetAsia, Bao Dau Tu. 3/19 

CNBC spotlighted the growth of Buildbox, a game development platform acquired by 500-backed AppOnboard in mid-2019. “Buildbox subscriber growth has climbed 2,850% since February 26”, added Jonathan Zweig, CEO of AppOnBoard. CNBC. 4/8 

Gaming services are booming. Selcuk Atli, founder of 500-backed Bunch, highlighted with BloombergQuint the recent developments of its service. “Over a seven-day period in late March, uses of the app jumped to more than 1 million, from less than 100,000 […] We started feeling a very fundamental need and got adopted by a lot of users overnight,” said Selcuk. BloombergQuint. 4/1

Forbes lists 500-backed Copper Cow Coffee as one of the “five beverage delivery services you never knew you needed” as going out to bars or cafes is no longer an option. Forbes. 3/26

Eddie commented on his perspective into Vietnam’s startup ecosystem amidst the coronavirus outbreak and 500 Startups Vietnam’s plan in 2020. “There continues to be immense long-term potential for Vietnam tech […] However, there are at least a couple of short-term risks to consider”, added Eddie. Vietnam Investment Review. 3/27

Vietnam in the News

As of April 13, Vietnam confirmed a total of 262 cases of coronavirus with no deaths. 144 of the affected patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals (VNExpress, 4/13). The country began a 15-day nationwide social distancing campaign from April 1 in addition to several other measures to contain the pandemic (Reuters, 3/31). Prior to the announcement, Vietnam had won international praise for its response to the coronavirus, with officials acting quickly to quarantine patients and trace contacts (Financial Times, 3/24). 

The economy has already taken a hit from the pandemic… Growth slowed to 3.8% in the first quarter as the coronavirus outbreak hurts key industries from tourism to manufacturing (Bloomberg, 3/27). Vietnam’s rice traders have halted overseas shipments after a temporary suspension of exports ordered. The country is the world’s third-largest rice exporter, behind India and Thailand (Bloomberg, 3/25). 

…In response, authorities approved a plan to assist companies struggling amid the outbreak with an unprecedented US$7.6 billion tax holiday package (Reuters, 4/9). In another move, Vietnam’s central bank cut key interest rates to help virus-hit firms (Nikkei Asian Review, 3/17) and intervened to calm the foreign currency market (Vietnamnet Global, 3/26). 

Vietnam’s stock market picked up after the government reassured that the pandemic was under control and the securities market operation would be uninterrupted. Vietnam News. 4/1

Vietnam’s diaspora returns with attitude. The country’s financial system has been transformed over the last decade, and the Viet Kieu have played a crucial role in that. Euromoney. 4/6

Vietnam Tech in the News

Online shopping surges on Vietnam social distancing campaign. Online grocery shopping is booming. Ride-hailing firms have caught up with the trend, launching new services that enable people to buy food and groceries without leaving home. VNExpress. 4/5

Shopee remains Vietnam’s most popular ecommerce platform, according to a recent report by iPrice, SimilarWeb, and App Annie. Shopee led in the fourth quarter of 2019 with 33.6 million monthly web visits, followed by Thegioididong (Vietnam’s major mobile phone retail chain), Sendo, Tiki, and Lazada. Kr-Asia. 3/13 

Demand for e-wallet usage rises among Vietnamese consumers. Momo, Moca, and ZaloPay are the three most popular e-wallets in Vietnam’s two main cities, accounting for more than 90% of mobile payments. Of which, Momo is one of the most well-funded firms of its kind in Asia, having raised more than US$133 million since it was founded in 2013. Kr-Asia. 3/26

Fundraising briefing: Vietnam’s health-tech startup eDoctor raises funding from Japanese and South Korean VCs (Forbes Vietnam, 4/1); food recipe portal Cooky raises an undisclosed sum from Foody’s founder; and Chatbot Vietnam raises $500k from Next100 (DealStreetAsia, 4/6). 

Accelerator briefing: Vietnam’s accelerator VIISA picks three startups for batch 7 (e27, 3/30); Vietnam’s Ecomobi joins Facebook Accelerator Singapore season 2 (e27, 3/31).

VinaCapital shuts down Singapore-based robo-advisor Smartly. DealStreetAsia. 3/25.

Virtual Events

VCs and Startups Adapting to COVID-19, 4/16. Join Binh Tran, General Partner of 500 Startups Vietnam, and other esteemed US-APAC investors & founders for an exclusive discussion organized by Silicon Valley Bank & Horizon Connect. The free-entry webinar will address the adjustments startups are making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Registration link.

Meet Your Match Vietnam. 500 Startups Vietnam, as well as 50+ other VCs, will participate in the Meet Your Match Vietnam session, an initiative to match investors to Vietnam-based startups in light of the uncertain coronavirus situation. Shout out to our friends at KK Fund and Topical Founder Institute for the initiative! Registration link.

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Tầng 6, 814 Mission,
San Francisco, CA 94103, USA

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

March 2020 Newsletter

March 2020 Newsletter

Chào mọi người,

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, 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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San Francisco, CA 94103, USA

© 2010-2019 500 Startups

February 2020 Newsletter

February 2020 Newsletter

Hello readers,

As elsewhere, in Vietnam in recent weeks the spectre of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been looming. Masks and sanitizers are out of stock. The government has closed schools and banned all foreign visitors who have been to China in the 14 days prior. Office buildings, residences, and retailers are posting and broadcasting announcements about prevention best practices. A number of companies have allowed their employees to work from home.

In our opinion, all in all, it’s been an impressively aggressive response, likely contributing to a fairly manageable number of cases (15 as of February 11) despite Vietnam’s proximity to and interconnectedness with China.

Still, the economic impact on Vietnam is likely to be meaningful through at least Q1 as China battles the epidemic, with impacts particularly on tourism, manufacturing, and trade. A number of international VCs have postponed visits to Vietnam, and major tech events have been rescheduled as well.

As for 500VN, we’re operating as usual. (After all, Warren Buffet did say, “When others are fearful, be greedy”!) The Saola Accelerator kicks off in 2 weeks with a number of international and local experts coming in. We’re looking forward to announcing a number of deals next month. And we have portfolio companies raising from Seed to Series C.

In the meantime, take a look at the action-packed newsletter below!

Hẹn bạn tháng sau,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

Binh Tran shared with Vietnam Investment Review (“Bao Dau Tu”) in a special Lunar New Year issue as he reflected on 500’s operations in Vietnam. “Back then in 2014-2015, the ecosystem wasn’t quite ready for an early stage fund but we wanted to capitalize on being a bit early to build a brand that founders trusted. Today, we’re the most active VC in Vietnam and I hope it means that founders trust us and believe in the value we bring”, said Binh. Bao Dau Tu (in Vietnamese). 1/27

Eddie Thai shared his journey with Business Punk Germany in a January issue covering Saigon’s booming startup ecosystem. From representing a new generation in the Vietnamese startup cosmos – the Viet Kieu, to backing talented Vietnamese founders like Trung Nguyen – founder of Saola batch company Axie Infinity, Eddie reaffirmed his bullish view on Vietnam. Business Punk (in German). 1/15

Debbie Wei Mullin, founder of Copper Cow Coffee, was featured in the MIT Alumni Association’s publication Slice. From a solo venture, Debbie has grown Copper Cow Coffee into its current incarnation, with products sold in 5,000 stores across the US and $3 million in funding. Slice of MIT. 2/5 

Vu Van, co-founder of ELSA Speak, shared about recent developments. The AI-powered English speech assistant is expanding across borders, hiring representatives in some of the biggest markets in Asia, like India, Indonesia, and Japan. The app was recently launched in Indonesia, where Vu is optimistic about ELSA taking off. KrAsia. 1/22 

500-backed TrustingSocial aims to revolutionize credit scoring in emerging markets. Founded in 2013, TrustingSocial is on a mission to fill that gap by providing credit scoring and improving access to financial services for consumers in emerging Asian markets, such as India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. KrAsia. 1/14

Former Microsoft Vietnam executive Jeremy Showalter is now the CEO of 500-backed Pique. “I am excited about the growth impact applied AI can have for vertical ecommerce businesses and retail, and after 13 years at Microsoft, including five years in Vietnam, I wanted to focus again on the incredibly dynamic SE Asia region,” said Jeremy. GeekWire. 1/10

Leflair, which sells high-end products, has ceased its Vietnam business operations as part of a business model shift. Co-founder and CEO Loic Gautier commented on the move, stating the startup will retain its cross-border ecommerce business, fulfillment centre in Singapore and the newly-launched Philippine operations. “The change in business model is expected to help Leflair’s operation to become leaner, with the ability to change faster,” said Loic. DealStreetAsia. 2/5

Vietnam in the News

EU lawmakers ratified a Vietnam trade deal. Under the accord, Vietnam will scrap 99% of its import duties over 10 years and the EU will do the same over seven years, effective around July. The accord also curbs non-tariff barriers and opens up public procurement. This is expected to increase two-way commerce, which was almost 50 billion euros (~US$55B) in 2018.  Bloomberg.  2/12

Vietnam’s two big cities lead the region in dynamic growth. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi rank third and seventh among the most dynamic cities in the world, according to the City Momentum Index recently issued by property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle. VietnamPlus. 2/5 

Vietnam confirms 15th coronavirus (nCoV) infection case… Vietnam officially declared the nCoV outbreak an epidemic on February 1. Most patients who tested positive are in Vinh Phuc province in northern Vietnam. Vietnamnews. 2/11

…The coronavirus outbreak hits Vietnam’s economy: Vietnam suspends all flights to and from mainland China as a strengthening measure against the outbreak (The New York Times, 2/5). While stock investors’ concerns have pushed down the benchmark VN Index (Bloomberg, 2/5), a lack of Chinese tourists travelling during the peak holiday season is expected to affect Vietnam as well as Thailand and the Philippines, triggering knock-on currency depreciation (Financial Times, 1/29).

VinGroup bumps airline to focus on auto projects. Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup JSC is abandoning plans to launch Vinpearl Air so it can focus on other businesses including electric vehicle manufacturing. Company Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong said in December that he’s plowing as much as $2 billion of his own fortune to export VinFast EVs to the US and other markets by 2021. Financial Times. 1/14

January Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) surged 179 percent. Vietnam raked in $5.3 billion in FDI in the first 20 days of 2020, a year-on-year surge of 179.5 percent, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment. Vietnam News. 1/30

Vietnam Tech in the News

Vietnam’s biggest mobile company Viettel will roll out 5G services, bypassing Huawei and using technology it has developed itself. State-owned Viettel, which is operated by the country’s Ministry of Defence, will begin deploying the next generation mobile network technology from June and complete nationwide deployment a year later. Financial Times. 1/20

Apple partner Pegatron set up production in Vietnam. Taiwan’s Pegatron Corp. plans to set up production facilities in Vietnam, according to people familiar with the matter, becoming the latest Apple Inc. assembly partner to establish a presence in the Southeast Asian nation as they diversify beyond China. Bloomberg. 1/21 

Forbes Vietnam issued the annual 30 Under 30 list, honoring young talented founders of technology startups including Logivan, MindX Education, and Amanotes. Forbes Vietnam. 2/3

Vietnam legalizes car-hailing services. After years of heated debate, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has signed off on a decree on transportation businesses to legalize car-hailing services. KrAsia. 1/17

Ride-hailing briefing: Grab appoints Nguyen Thai Hai Van as MD in Vietnam (e27, 1/13). South Korea’s Kakao Mobility launches ride-hailing service in Vietnam (Business Korea, 1/20).

Frontier Digital Ventures exits investment in Vietnam-based Propzy. FDV chose to divest its stake due to an upcoming funding round in Propzy that was likely to increase the startup’s losses at the EBITDA level and dilute FDV’s ownership to less than 10%, it added. e27. 2/7

Vietnamese ClassPass clone WeFit replaces CEO, begins restructuring after missing 2019 targets. Founder and CEO Khoi Nguyen was replaced by deputy Dang Nguyen. The company, founded in 2016 and backed by CyberAgent, ESP Capital, and VIISA, had reached 1.2M bookings by 2019. TheLeader. 2/8

Go2Joy raises a $2.5M Series A led by STIC Ventures. Founded in 2017 by Korean Simon Byun, the app helps users book local hotels by the hour. DealStreetAsia. 2/13 

Vietnamese unicorn VNG reduces its stake in Zion, the operator of e-wallet ZaloPay. ZaloPay is one of the most popular e-wallets in the market in terms of the number of customers and transaction volume. DealStreetAsia. 2/5


Startup Contest by Schoolab 2020, HCMC, 2/22. Startup Contest by Schoolab is a one-day hackathon organized by Schoolab Vietnam, in partnership with Saigon Innovation Hub, La French Tech Viet and DIAS-Xchange. Event.

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© 2010-2019 500 Startups

January 2020 Newsletter

January 2020 Newsletter

Happy new year!

December was another busy month for us, as we closed investments #53 (AI enterprise startup Glee Trees), #54 (undisclosed fintech startup), #55 (ecommerce enabler Intrepid), and #56 (undisclosed fintech startup).

It was a strong end to a busy 2019 for us and the broader Vietnam ecosystem. Some highlights for the year:

  • Continued investment interest in Vietnam! Nearly US$500M came from just three mega-rounds — Momo’s $100M led by Warburg Pincus, VNPay’s $300M led by GIC and Softbank Vision Fund, and Tiki’s $75M-plus led by Northstar.
  • We made 19 investments, the same number as in 2018 (when there were 92 deals total in Vietnam according to Topica Founder Institute). 500VN has now invested in a cumulative 56 companies to-date.
  • We hosted the first batch of Saola, our Silicon Valley-inspired, Saigon-based accelerator program, capped by an action-packed demo day.
  • Our portfolio companies continued to make progress, including another “centaur” (e.g. >$100M valuation company) crowned, marking 3 in our portfolio already.

We are hitting the ground running in 2020: Binh moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Eddie joined 500’s global fund managers’ summit in London, and we expanded our investment and accelerator teams. We now have 9 people working hard to discover and support what will hopefully be Vietnam’s most inspirational tech startups.

For 2020, we’re aiming to close another 20+ investments this year, help our founders reach new heights, and run two more batches of our successful Saola Accelerator.

tl;dr there’s a lot to come!

Hẹn bạn tháng sau,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

TechCrunch featured 500-backed Bunch as one of 10 notable young startups in 2019. Bunch allows users to play mobile games with friends over audio or video chat. “On its face, it might seem like a lightweight idea […]. But in a society where people are increasingly “apart together” — and study after study shows that social ties boost our longevity — the app has wide appeal from not just an entertainment but a wellness standpoint,” TechCrunch commented. TechCrunch. 12/20

Eddie Thai shared with The Edge Markets Malaysia on investing in Vietnam’s growth. “Despite the recent influx of venture capital interest, it is still fairly early in Vietnam’s startup scene with a lot of upside potential. And this is happening in the midst of a broader rising tide in the country. The minister of planning and investment has recognized this as a ‘once in a millennium opportunity’ for the economy,” said Eddie. The Edge Markets. 12/19

SEA startup funding ends decade on a high, but warning signs emerge. Shared with Tech in Asia, Binh Tran observed that the region’s startups are enjoying fundraising conditions that don’t seem sustainable. “The size of SEA’s internet economy is about 5% the size of the US’. However, we’re seeing companies raising on early-stage valuations similar to Silicon Valley’s,” he added. Tech in Asia. 12/31

Ecommerce B2B firm Intrepid Group secured series A funding led by Kairous Capital, Sun SEA Capital, and 500 Startups. Founded by Lazada co-founder and senior management team members, Intrepid Group offers brands a one-stop solution with localized access to key markets in Southeast Asia. Tech in Asia. 12/11

Singapore-based Glee Trees closed an investment round from 500 Startups to take its robotic process automation technology regional. With the new fund, Glee Trees will be improving its proprietary cognitive automation solutions, intensifying its primary reach in China, and expanding into Vietnam and Indonesia. e27. 12/18

Hung Phan, co-founder and CEO of Saola batch company Papaya, shared with Vietnam National Television about 500 Startups’ support. “500 Startups provides not only funding but also the global network of experts and fellow founders whom I’ve learnt tremendously from,” said Hung. VTV (in Vietnamese). 12/3

500-backed Cricket One won the national Blue Venture Award to represent Vietnam in the global final of The Venture 2020 in Canada. CafeBiz (in Vietnamese). 1/2


Vietnam in the News

Vietnam’s top 10 economic events in 2019. While 2019 was a challenging year for the world economy, Vietnam picked up growth momentum from the previous year to end 2019 with high notes. Hanoi Times. 12/31

Vietnam’s 2019 trade surplus hit a four-year record. Vietnam is estimated to have a trade surplus of $9.9 billion in 2019, widening from a $7.2 billion in 2018. The nation’s trade turnover surpassed the $500 billion mark for the first time in 2019. Reuters, Vietnam News. 12/27

Vietnam’s 2019 number of new businesses and registered capital recorded the highest level to date. 138,100 businesses were established in Vietnam in 2019, the highest ever, with the government’s initiatives to increase the quantity and quality of enterprises bearing fruit. VNExpress. 12/30

Vietnam’s top 10 landmarks on the stock market in 2019 included a new Law on Securities, an overhaul plan for stock market, a booming bond market, a rise of domestic exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and more. Vietnam Plus. 12/29

Two of Vietnam’s most important companies plan to merge some of their units to create a retail giant in the country. The retail and agriculture units of Vingroup JSC, Vietnam’s biggest-listed firm by market value, will merge with Masan Consumer Holdings — a subsidiary of the leading consumer retailer Masan Group Corp. Saigon Times. 12/3

Vietnam’s richest man bets $2 billion to sell cars to Americans. Pham Nhat Vuong, founder and chairman of Vingroup JSC, is now in charge of the new automaker VinFast. The company plans to crack the US electric car market in 2021 with Vuong investing as much as $2 billion of his own fortune to reach that goal. Bloomberg. 12/10

A Denham Capital venture, Nexif Energy, acquired 94% of equity in Song Giang Hydropower JSC, which owns two hydropower projects in Vietnam with a combined 49 megawatts of capacity. Vietnam Investment Review. 12/17

Trade War latest: Vietnam to punish firms for trade fraud in China-product probe (12/29); Christmas lights, tangled in Trade War, show Vietnam’s struggle (12/ 26). Bloomberg.

Vietnam Tech in the News

Southeast Asia’s new star: The rise of Vietnam’s tech scene in 2019. From funding to ride-hailing, fintech and headaches over regulating big tech companies were among the developments that defined Vietnam’s tech scene in 2019. Kr-Asia. 12/24

Vietnam’s startups bagged $750 million funding in the first 10 months of 2019. Fintech was the hottest sector for investments followed by logistics and ecommerce. DealStreetAsia. 12/5

China’s Ant Financial took stake in Vietnam’s eMonkey. The strategic investment will allow Ant Financial to gain entry to Vietnam’s booming market of nearly 100 million people. Reuters. 12/19

Despite the potential, competition in the ecommerce space is increasingly fierce. South Korean conglomerate Lotte is shutting down its Vietnam-focused online marketplace Lotte’s announcement came roughly a week after Vietnamese behemoth Vingroup announced its plan to shut down its ecommerce website and merge it with its fintech arm VinID. Nikkei Asian Review. 12/26

Equinix, Inc., a Nasdaq-listed interconnection and data center company, signed a strategic partnership with Vietnam’s telco provider FPT to allow Vietnamese companies to go global. Channel Asia. 12/12

Vietnam’s B2B ecommerce startup Telio snapped up $25 million in series A round. The round was led by Tiger Global, with participation from Sequoia India, GGV Capital, and RTP Global. Tech in Asia. 12/19

Vietnam’s online bus ticket and car booking platform VeXeRe raised funding from Woowa Brothers, Ncore Ventures, and Access Ventures. e27. 12/26 

Vietnam’s fintech startup Interloan received $500,000 in prize from Phoenix Holdings after it won Fintech Challenge Vietnam 2019. e27. 12/9

NextTech Group’s venture capital fund Next100 invested $432,000 in digital transformation platform Saigon Times. 12/11

Vietnamese recruitment platform TopCV bagged six-digit investment from Korean VC Nextrans. DealStreetAsia. 12/12



Echelon Roadshow 2020, HCMC, 2/20. Echelon Roadshow is heading to HCMC featuring startups from TOP100 — the programme organised by e27 that empowers insights, connections, talent, and funding opportunities for early-stage tech startups in Asia. Event.

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November/December 2019 Newsletter

November/December 2019 Newsletter

Chào mọi người,

This is a content-packed double-header. Scroll down for lots of interesting news items, from several funding announcements by our portfolio companies to larger rounds raised by older companies including Sendo and Scommerce.

December marks not just the end of another year but the end of another decade. So we are particularly reflective this month. In a talk kicking off VNExpress’s 4th annual Startup Viet Summit, Eddie shared a perspective on Vietnam’s startup ecosystem. He felt that compared to the “desert” that was 2013, it now feels like a lush forest by comparison, as seen by many measures including internet usage, ecommerce activity, government support, VC activity, and so on. How much has happened in the past 6 years makes him (and all of us, really) optimistic about the potential for 2025. Google & Temasek already projected that Vietnam’s digital economy could reach $40B by then. Eddie thinks it could be even more but, regardless, outlines several high-level evolutions needed to get there.

At the same event, we were pleased to announce that we’ve closed our 50th investment. We actually hit the milestone back in September (we’re now at 52), but thought Startup Viet Summit was a good time to finally share. Some observations:

  • There are still a lot of service providers, copycats, and micro-businesses in Vietnam — these account for the vast majority of companies that come across our radar — but we are seeing a rising number of good-quality founders
  • The founders we back have international origins (2/3 Vietnamese or overseas Vietnamese, and 1/3 from elsewhere in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.)
  • They also have international aspirations: 25% are focused on Vietnam or broader ASEAN, 75% target beyond
  • Our companies overall are doing better than we could have imagined, having reported raising more than $180M in downstream capital and achieving a combined valuation of nearly $1B

Towards contributing to another great 6 years of ecosystem development and investing in our next 50 (or 500) startups, we’ve been quite busy with events. We held founder chats in Hanoi (with two #500strong companies, NextSmarty and OpenCommerce) and Saigon (with another one, ELSA). We joined judging panels for WISE Women Accelerator Demo Day và SURF – Danang Startup and Innovation Festival. And more!

A final note, Saola Accelerator Batch 2 is filling up fast. If you’re a tech startup founder that’s ready to hit your next stage of growth, or if you know someone else who is, check out how we can help! And here’s a recap video of our Saola Batch 1 Demo Day:

Until next month, year, and decade,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam

500 Startups Vietnam in the News

500-backed ApplyBoard topped Technology Fast 50 winners by Deloitte, recognizing the fastest growing tech companies in Canada. The Kitchener-Waterloo based SaaS platform helps international students apply to study at higher education institutions. Deloitte pegged its three-year growth rate at 12,525 percent. Deloitte. 11/8

Eddie kicked off Startup Viet Summit 2019 with a “look back” and “look ahead” at Vietnam’s startup ecosystem. Compared to the “desert” that was 2013, it now feels like a lush forest by comparison, as seen by many measures including internet usage, ecommerce activity, government support, VC activity, and so on. VietnamPlus. 12/2

500-backed Trusting Social won first prize of Fintech Vietnam Challenge 2019, organized by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) and the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) funded by the Australian government and Asian Development Bank (ADB). Vietnam Finance (in Vietnamese). 11/8

500-backed Bunch raised $3.85 million from Supercell, Tencent, and Riot Games. With this new money, Bunch finds itself under the arm of a handful of some of the biggest mobile game publishers in the world. This new funding also brings Bunch’s total financing since launch to $8.5 million. TechCrunch. 11/20

Hau Ly, Saola Accelerator Program Manager, shared about the Silicon Valley-inspired Saigon-based program. “In batch 1, the 6 startups participated in 60 training sessions and workshops, and spent over 100 office hours with 8 growth experts on a variety of growth-focused content… We are recruiting for batch 2 of the program”, said Hau. CafeF (in Vietnamese). 11/22

AI-powered adtech platform ADBRO closed financing round from 500 Startups, eyeing APAC expansion. Founded in 2017 during YC School program, ADBRO serves the marketing tech sector by providing computer vision enhanced ads that are placed over contextually relevant images across publishers in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. e27. 11/27  

Hong Kong-based nanotechnology startup Volt14 Solutions bagged SGD 1.3 million (USD 995,000) in a seed funding round led by 500 Startups, HKSTP Ventures, and Entrepreneur First. Kr-Asia. 11/19

500 Startups co-led seed round in Vietnamese cricket protein producer Cricket One. The food technology startup provides environmentally friendly, high in protein food sources — cricket. It is managing over 25 million crickets per month, with the flagship Cricket One product being sold to bakeries and chip makers in Europe and the US. e27, TechinAsia, DealStreetAsia. 10/14

TradingFoe, the first Nordic B2B e-commerce platform that enables cross border trading between Asian and Nordic markets, announced the close of an investment round from 500 Startups. “We believe that this is only the beginning of our exciting journey… to make cross border trade easier and cheaper for importers and exporters around the world”, said the company. Finansavisen (in Norwegian). 10/4

Saola batch company Sky Mavis, the maker of highly rated blockchain game Axie Infinity, raised $1.5 million funding. The round led by game developer and publisher Animoca Brands with participation from 500 Startups and blockchain-focused firms Hashed, Pangea Blockchain Fund, and ConsenSys. TechinAsia, DealStreetAsia, Forbes Vietnam, Vietnamnet. 11/8

Trung Nguyen, Vietnamese lead founder of Sky Mavis/Axie Infinity, shared the startup journey and vision to bring blockchain technology to mass adoption. CafeBiz (in Vietnamese). 10/31

Debbie Wei Mullin, founder of 500-backed Copper Cow Coffee, shared four lessons she has learned from graduating 500 Startups and raising $3 million for her Vietnamese coffee brand: Create a differentiated product in a broad category, de-risk your business for investors, close seed round as quickly as possible, and hire early and hire often. MarketFit @ Rho. 11/19

Herve Vu Roussel, co-founder of Saola batch company Quod AI, shared how Quod AI applies deep learning and natural language processing to solve code collaboration problems. Kr-Asia. 11/14 


Vietnam in the News

Vietnamese exports surpass economic output. The knock-on effect of the US-China trade war would make the nation of 96 million by far the largest country in the handful of ‘super-exporters’ where outbound goods and services exceed GDP. Financial Times. 10/22

Vietnam welcomes ASEAN chair status. Vietnam will officially undertake its role on January 1, 2020, the third time it has held the responsibility after 1998 and 2010. The country has chosen ‘Cohesive and Responsive’ as the theme for ASEAN Year 2020. Vietnam Investment Review. 11/4

World Bank: Vietnam is set to be among the world’s top 10 remittance recipients in 2019, with an inflow projected to meet $16.7 billion. Remittance to Vietnam has been increasing steadily, growing from over $1.3 billion in 2000. Vietnamnet. 10/24

Hana Bank completed $875 million purchase of 15% stake in BIDV, Vietnam’s oldest and largest lender by total assets. The deal marks the first strategic investment project by a Korean bank in Vietnam, said Ji Sung Kyu, CEO of KEB Hana Bank. DealStreetAsia. 11/12

Vietnam’s Tan Hiep Phat seeks $3 billion to become the next Red Bull. Seven years after turning down a $2.5 billion offer from Coca-Cola Co., Vietnam’s biggest homegrown beverage company is seeking a strategic partner that can invest $3 billion to help make it the next Red Bull. Bloomberg. 10/15

Vietcombank became the first Vietnamese bank to open a representative office in the US. Located in Manhattan, New York, the office is the first of its kind opened by a Vietnamese commercial bank in the US. VietnamPlus. 11/5

Hong Kong ranked first among the 117 nations and territories investing in Vietnam. Total foreign direct investment (FDI) disbursement in the eleven months of 2019 witnessed an on-year increase of 7.2 percent, reaching $17.69 billion. Hong Kong ranked first with $6.69 billion, South Korea and Singapore shared the second position with $5.73 billion. Vietnam Insider. 11/30


Vietnam Tech in the News

Vietnam-based marketplace Sendo closed $61 million Series C funding. A spin-off of Vietnam’s largest IT services company FPT Corporation, Sendo focuses on the largely untapped tier-2 cities, home to 70 million Vietnamese consumers. This is one of the largest deals for Vietnam’s tech scene in 2019, with VNPAY and Scommerce bagging record amounts earlier this year. Kr-Asia. 11/20

Logistics startup Scommerce received investment from Singapore state investment firm Temasek. Headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, Scommerce will use the funding to accelerate nationwide expansion of its two units, Giaohangnhanh (GHN) and AhaMove. e27. 10/29

Lozi secured 8-digit funding led by South Korea’s Smilegate Investment. The startup operates a C2C ecommerce portal and its own fleet for on-demand delivery service LoShip. TechinAsia. 11/1

Vietnam’s rental market platform Luxstay secured funding from private investors and M-TP Entertainment chaired by the highest-paid Vietnamese celebrity Son Tung M-TP. The deal followed 3 private investors or ‘sharks’ agreement on spending $2 million each on Luxstay via Shark Tank Vietnam programme in July 2019. Forbes Vietnam. 11/29

The number of 5G subscribers in Vietnam could exceed 6 million by 2025. According to a Cisco’s report, Vietnam and Singapore are expected to lead the way in Southeast Asia by launching 5G technology in the region in 2020-2021. Vietnamnet. 10/29

US-based ecommerce giant Amazon launched global selling programme in Vietnam. The move is meant to better support Vietnamese small- and medium-sized enterprises in their cross border e-commerce and business expansion activities. Kr-Asia. 10/17

Facebook is set to produce Oculus VR headsets in Vietnam, joining other tech giants moving their production to the country. Dantri International. 11/5 

Edtech startup MindX raised $500,000 in its first funding round led by ESP Capital. Founded in 2015, MindX, formerly TechKids, is a school chain for imparting new technology skills. VN Economic Times. 10/8

FEBE Ventures launches $25 million Vietnam early-stage fund. The fund, which will invest in early stage startup companies, is the latest venture capital firm to join the thriving tech investment arena in Vietnam. DealStreetAsia. 11/28



TECHFEST Vietnam 2019, Quang Ninh, 12/4. TECHFEST is the biggest annual event for Vietnam’s innovative startup community, organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology in coordination with other Government Ministries, Agencies and socio-political organizations. Event.

Connecting and Promoting Resources for Development of Innovative Startup Enterprises, HCMC, 12/10. The event, co-organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology and VCT10 NETVIET Channel, aims to create a platform for stakeholders to discuss the development of innovative startup ecosystem. Event.

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