April 2020 Newsletter

Binh & Eddie

April 12, 2020

Dear all,

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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