June 2020 Newsletter

Photo: Micromobility startup Beam raises $26m in Series A funding. 500VN is an early investor of Beam.
Binh & Eddie

June 10, 2020

Dear all,

In Vietnam, COVID-19 seems almost like a distant memory. The first country in the region to emerge from the pandemic after lifting its nationwide shelter-in-place order in late April, Vietnam has remained clear of COVID-19 community infections for 54 straight days as of June 9. The country is aiming to achieve 5% GDP growth in 2020, as boosting post-outbreak economic momentum is now the authorities’ priority. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc called foreign investment a crucial factor for GDP growth. With Asia’s busy investors seeking opportunities beyond China, Vietnam is the new top spot for intra-regional foreign investors targeting ASEAN. 

Vietnam’s National Assembly greenlighted European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) on June 8. Vietnam has already been well-positioned to capture more of the global supply chain as companies look to diversify their manufacturing base away from China. Apple is reportedly producing millions of its popular AirPods wireless earphones in Vietnam. In another development, the benchmark equity index rallied 13%, driving Vietnam to become Asia’s best-performing stock market in May

All in all, a successful COVID-19 containment plan has underlined Vietnam’s status as a leading investment destination in Southeast Asia. Still, a full recovery by 2021 will be dependent partially on COVID stabilization in other parts of the world (given Vietnam’s dependence on tourism, export markets, etc.)

Our team at 500VN was excited to get back to the office:  

  • We closed deal #61 (podcast and ebook app Voiz FM) in late May, meaning we invested in one new startup every 2-3 weeks since the end of February (an action-packed few months, albeit probably not a pace we’ll keep up for the year!)
  • We hosted two startup growth webinars led by Saola’s seasoned entrepreneurs and growth experts. While Sean Percival (former VP of Marketing for MySpace) covered 10 of the most important metrics for startups, serial entrepreneur Rob Neivert unlocked B2B sale techniques to help startups drive faster and higher value closes. 
  • Batch 3 of the Saola Accelerator is filling up. If you’re a startup founder who is eager to grow your business and work with top-notch experts like Sean and Rob, apply today!
  • Check out Binh Tran on Business Unusual with Karen Lam and The Startup Buddy Demo Day as he live-coached business owners and discussed how he is helping founders through the crisis.

Coming up, Eddie will join the judging panel of TechShake’s Pitch Session with 7 Vietnamese startups pitching to a selected audience of investors, corporates, and government agencies. Register here.

Stay safe out there,

Team 500 Startups Vietnam


500 Startups Vietnam in the News

Micromobility startup Beam raises $26 million in Series A funding led by Sequoia India and Hana Ventures, along with other APAC investors. The fresh funding will support Beam’s expansion in its existing markets of South Korea, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Taiwan. 500VN is an early investor of Beam. TechCrunch. 6/1 

Eddie and other investors shared perspectives on Vietnam as an investment destination. “On consumer demand, Vietnamese people have taken COVID-19 largely in stride, viewing it as a temporary effect rather than a new normal. They are very proud of their nationwide response – rightly so – and point to it as further evidence of Vietnam’s strong long-term prospects”, added Eddie. Asian Venture Capital Journal. 5/14

AmCham Taipei spotlights LivMote, a touchless temperature-screening device developed by 500-backed Soda Labs, among Taiwan’s notable AI developments to battle the pandemic. The wall-mounted device combines infrared thermography with a few other ambient sensors and engages machine learning to improve the accuracy of its temperature reads over time. AmCham Taipei. 5/14

Bookkeeping automation startup Bizzi raises seed funding from 500. As more businesses ramp up their digital transformation initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, companies offering automation services are seeing an opportunity. Tech in Asia. 5/19

Podcast platform Voiz FM raises seed funding from 500. Voiz FM was launched in late 2019 by three Vietnamese entrepreneurs with the goal of capitalizing on opportunities in the emerging audio space. e27. 5/29 

Tam Vu, Founder of Earable, opened up about becoming a professor, a scientist, and an entrepreneur. Vietnam News. 6/1


Vietnam in the News

Off the charts: Vietnam has escaped the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, reporting a total of 332 cases and no deaths as of June 9. Its success is in stark contrast to outbreaks in other nations (Financial Times Coronavirus Tracker, 6/9). Officials in Hanoi are winning global praise including credits by the World Health Organization for containing cases and reopening for business at lightning speed. 

After becoming the first in the region to emerge from the pandemic, boosting post-outbreak economic momentum is the authorities’ priority. The country is pressing to achieve up to 5% GDP growth in 2020 (Bloomberg, 5/22). The State Bank of Vietnam made its second policy rates cut in less than two months to support the economy (VNExpress, 5/13). The government is also enacting policies such as a $679 million corporate tax cut plan and a $2.6 billion aid package for 20 million workers

Robust FDI flows are crucial for GDP growth in 2020 and beyond. As Asia’s busy investors seek opportunities beyond China, Vietnam is the new top spot for intra-regional foreign investors (Financial Times, 5/11). In a recent business conference, representatives of South Korea, Japan, Europe, and the US expressed support for Hanoi’s plan to attract FDI and build robust supply chains in the country (Nikkei, 5/11). 

Vietnam’s National Assembly approved a free trade agreement with the European Union on June 8, which will cut or eliminate 99% of tariffs on goods traded between the Southeast Asian country and the bloc (New York Times, 6/8). The European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), expected to take effect in July, has already been ratified by the EU, making Vietnam the second Southeast Asian nation to have such a trade treaty with the European bloc after Singapore.

Vietnam has been well-positioned to capture more of the global supply chain as companies look to diversify their manufacturing base away from China. Apple is now reportedly producing millions of its popular AirPods wireless earphones in Vietnam (Nikkei, 5/8). Many Apple suppliers, such as iPhone builders Foxconn and Pegatron, and iPad maker Compal Electronics, are all expanding production in north Vietnam. The US tech giant’s move followed suit of others such as Samsung, LG, and Intel, who have already set up large operations in the country. 

On the street: Vietnam is Asia’s best-performing stock market in May. The benchmark equity index has rallied 13% in May, driven mainly by local investors as foreign funds pulled money from risk assets, Bloomberg reported May 27.


Vietnam Tech in the News

The big picture 

Unsurprisingly, many of the headlines have been dominated by coronavirus as its impact hit the economy. However, Vietnam’s tech scene is not all doom and gloom: Big deals are still happening and it seems that capital flow is back on track. 

In yet another large deal, JD.com-backed Tiki and SoftBank Ventures Asia-backed Sendo are said to have agreed on a merger. Tiki is understood to have raised around $130 million in its latest funding round.

FPT, a leading Vietnamese IT company, began construction of the country’s largest data center in HCMC, Nikkei reported May 28. The company is expecting data demand to increase as FDI sparks economic growth. Vietnam’s policy on data protection and plan to commercialize 5G services in the second half of the year are both pluses for data centers.

On the funding trail

Propzy, a Vietnamese offline-to-online real estate platform, raises $25 million Series A led by Gaw Capital and SoftBank Ventures Asia. Founded in 2016, Propzy’s technology covers almost every stage of a real estate transaction (TechCrunch, 6/9).

Sales and management platform Sapo Technology announced it had closed a Series A round led by South Korea’s Smilegate Investment (Nikkei, 5/16). Real estate marketplace Hoozing also later got Smilegate backing (Tech in Asia, 5/21). 

Meanwhile on the seed front, several funding rounds were announced. JobsGo, WindSoft, and EcomEasy secured investments from the newly-established VC firm Viet Valley Ventures (Deal Street Asia, 5/13); HR tech startup BravoHR raised an undisclosed sum from Zone Startups Vietnam and 1005 Ventures (e27, 5/14); skill-sharing marketplace Vibeji raised $70K from Reapra (e27, 5/20); and fintech startup Nano got FEBE Ventures backing (Deal Street Asia, 5/27).


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