November/December 2019 Newsletter

Eddie sharing about what is needed for Vietnam’s startup ecosystem progress in the next 6 years to be as much as the past 6 years. (Photo credit: VNExpress)
Binh & Eddie

December 04, 2019

Dear all,

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 and 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! http://sxr.bd8.myftpupload.com/saola-accelerator/. And here’s a recap video of our Saola Batch 1 Demo Day: https://youtu.be/TQm48Sz3Zn8.

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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