2017 — Setting the new bar for Vietnam’s startup ecosystem
2017 has been the most exciting year yet for Vietnam, for the startup community that is growing in not just quantity but especially in the quality of knowledge, impact and speed relatively to the global community. Hundreds of millions of dollars were pumped into Vietnamese startups.
Tiki, a long-time big player, founded in 2010, received $54.5 million from China’s JD.com and Korea’s STIC Investment. KyberNetwork, co-founded by a Vietnamese, launched their ICO on 15/9, taking in 200,000 Ethereum, which was valued $56 million at the time. The network is now valued over $333 million, with Vitalik Buterin—who co-founded Ethereum—on the board of advisors, proving Vietnam’s competitive capability in even the most demanding markets.
The government has also recognized this trend and is doing its best to nurture the blooming ecosystem and attract more investment internationally. On June 2017, the Law on Technology Transfer was revised to promote technological advances and the commercialization of said technologies. Contemporaneously, the local governments have also delivered noteworthy initiatives of their own. SpeedUP 2017 is a 11.75 billion VND fund (est. $520,525) started by Ho Chi Minh City Department of Science and Technology, that invests in 14 startups all over Vietnam at a minimum of 350 million VND ($15,505) to a maximum of 1,282 billion VND ($56,792). The Hanoi People’s Committee launched Startupcity.vn, an online portal that stores startup and investor profiles similar to Crunchbase. The portal also publishes news to connect startups with investors, big players and the government.
VIISA came into the picture
In this climate of opportunities, exists VIISA (Vietnam Innovative Startup Accelerator) — a partnership between FPT corporation, Dragon Capital and Hanwha Investment — who has invested up to $30,000 in 18 startups ($15,000 in cash and $15,000 in-kind), creating over 170 jobs, not including VIISA staff.
A keen believer and supporter of Vietnamese startups has entered the arena
The excitement is palpable
VIISA’s 1st Investment Day on 11 April 2017 saw all 7 teams graduate from the program, with $515,000 successfully raised.
“It’s still unreal how far VIISA has come, our name is known throughout the region at this point, all thanks to the hard work of the team, founders, government officials, our partners and mentors. It goes without saying this is just the beginning, we are so excited to play our role in making Vietnam an innovation hub.”
— Dr. Le Hoang Anh —
Chairman of VIISA & Managing Partner of Dragon Capital
To capitalize on the success and valuable lessons from Batch 1, VIISA went ahead to screen another batch of approximately 160 applications, with 12 teams given the green light. Interestingly enough, 4 teams are incorporated outside of Vietnam, and 11 founders of multiple nationalities: Indonesia, France, US, Spain, South Korea, Colombia, Japan and Ukraine.
Keeping up with its discipline of cultivating solutions across many different verticals, Batch 2’s startups zoom in on Media, Artificial Intelligence, Agritech, Edtech, On-demand platforms and Sharing Economy:
Brainstorming time, our favorite time
Working with people from so many backgrounds is not a walk in the park, however. Navigating not just the program but also new challenges stretched VIISA’s limited human resources thin. As 3 teams are based outside of Vietnam, communication wasn’t easy. What VIISA gained during this batch is invaluable, allowing the team learning opportunities and perspectives on startup worldwide.
“I got a lot from VIISA, from the immensely valuable Amazon credits to intense sessions to perfect DentalTap’s pitch. At the same time, I feel like I could have used some more insights on the legal end. All in all, it was a valuable experience.”
— Yaroslav Osetrov —
CEO and Founder of DentalTap
“I must say that CYFEER is happy within the frame of VIISA program. We gain so much from how to form a firm company, how to speak out the strength of us, how to change our biz model fit with the market, how to deal with problems, new knowledge to many other fields and much other support from legal, advice to on-time finance help. CYFEER has grown big and gone far from our starting point, thanks to VIISA team, Adrian, Leo, Phuoc, Minh, Aiden, and Troy.”
— Pham Hung Phong —
CEO and Co-founder of CYFEER
So many game changers
The 2nd Investment Day was held on 25 October 2017 with over 150 invited guests, the majority of which were angel investors or venture capitalists from Mekong Capital, VinaCapital, Dragon Capital, etc
”I am delighted about the diversity of Batch 2 startups. The foreign teams were able to expand their business in Vietnam while helping Vietnamese companies with global insights. This is a step forward for the ecosystem!"
— Mr Sangyeop Kang —
Investment Officer, Hanwha Investment Group
Some highlights post VIISA adventure:
The journey ahead
2018 for VIISA is not looking to be any less challenging. The accelerator is concentrating on Fintech, TravelTech, AI/Chatbot, IoT, Healthcare and Big Data, starting with the 3rd batch of innovative startups. But even more exciting is a pre-accelerator program being launched a month prior to the 3rd batch. The program — VIISA-X — seeks to not just accelerate our future startups in term of knowledge and best practices, but also possibly helps with the local ecosystem, a long-term mission of VIISA.
VIISA is also actively expanding our network of regional partners, starting off 2018 in style by co-organizing Fintech Challenge Vietnam, the nation’s first official fintech competition co-hosted by the State Bank of Vietnam and Mekong Business Initiative. On top of that, the team is also in talks with both local and regional corporations and educational institutions, in order to bring Vietnamese startups beyond the borders, as well as attracting foreign startups to come and set up in Vietnam and explore this hugely potential market.
One cannot sum up the excitement of the VIISA team ahead of 2018 any better than our very own CEO, Mr. Tran Huu Duc:
“After two successful batches, VIISA has definitely left a positive mark on the ecosystem here. For 2018, we are looking at even harder problems to solve, and the impactful startups that come with them. I can’t wait to start!"
Keep an eye out for Vietnam and VIISA in 2018!
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