Silicon Valley Talent Is Helping Grow Vietnam’s Startup Hub: Bloomberg
On a recent morning, Vinnie Lauria found himself weaving through the clogged, narrow streets of Ho Chi Minh City on a motorbike with his three-year-old son as they navigated the morning rush to school. Had he still been living in Silicon Valley the commute would have been less adventurous, but this was where the action was.
Lauria, an American expat and co-founder of Golden Gate Ventures, relocated to Ho Chi Minh City in 2022 after previous stints in Singapore and San Francisco, joining a growing number of foreigners lured there by a belief that the dense metropolis is a new mecca for startups.
“Southeast Asia is going to be a global growth engine in the next 10 years and Vietnam will be at the center of it,” said Lauria, sporting a pony tail and dressed tech casual in a printed shirt and white shorts.
|Lauria plays a game of foosball with friends in Sentry, a co-working space, in Ho Chi Minh City.Photographer: Maika Elan/Bloomberg|
For many Westerners, the enduring image of Vietnam is of a war-torn, impoverished nation where Nike makes its shoes. These days, coders are moving to the nation’s commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City to launch startups focused on everything from insomnia to microloans. But becoming Asia’s next startup hub will require overhauling existing regulations and navigating some hefty economic headwinds.
The number of startups in the country nearly doubled from the beginning of the pandemic through mid-2022, according a July report by KPMG International Ltd. and HSBC Holdings Plc. Some of the world’s biggest investors, including Sequoia Capital, Warburg Pincus LLC and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., are backing those offering promising solutions.
In 2021, Vietnam drew a record $2.6 billion through 233 private deals, up from the $700 million via 140 deals a year prior, according to a Google, Temasek Holdings Pte. and Bain & Co. report. Local firms are also competing with its Southeast Asian peers, accounting for 13% of the total venture funding flows into the region after Indonesia and Singapore in 2021, according to Do Ventures.
Officials want more. By 2030, they aim to turn Ho Chi Minh City into a magnet for tech funding and target a digital economy that represents 40% of the city’s gross domestic product. Last month, the government ordered city officials to prioritize attracting foreign investment to high tech projects while also offering other incentives to lure global talent and international firms to establish innovation research centers.
It’s already garnered some results. Gaming developer VNG Corp., the nation’s first unicorn, is expected to pursue a US listing in coming months. Money is pouring in, with a salary payment firm and another agricultural platform becoming the latest startups in recent weeks to receive millions in funding rounds.
Industry insiders say Ho Chi Minh City has the makings of the next Silicon Valley-lite: a heavy math and science educational system, a decades-old software outsourcing industry that’s created an abundance of inexpensive and talented engineers and the benefits of Vietnam’s economic expansion, which last year was one of the fastest across Asia.
A decade ago, funders could spend six months mulling an investment, said Vy Le, co-founder of Do Ventures. Now, she said, “If we don’t make a decision within one or two months, other funds will definitely take the deal.” Every month, she meets on average ten overseas funds.
|Vy LePhotographer: Maika Elan/Bloomberg|
The road ahead will be bumpy. A global venture-capital slowdown, combined with a local economy weighed down by a property crisis and slumping factory orders, is adding to the challenges of the budding industry.
There’s also the question about the uncertain “ecosystem” given that the country’s startup sector has only been in existence for a decade or two, the Asian Development Bank said in a 2022 study. “Analysis shows that some policy reforms are needed to create an enabling environment for the creation of innovative enterprises, promote the growth of tech startups, and improve the availability of financing,” it said. ADB added that beneficial government policies like strong intellectual property protections will also be crucial.
Vietnam’s nascent startup sector has been years in the making. In 2013, the launch of Flappy Bird was hailed as a gaming phenomenon that would boost the country’s startup heft. While that game was later pulled, it showed the way to a new generation of firms like mobile payment provider VNPay, which according to ADB became the country’s second unicorn in 2020.
Founders say that there haven’t been more success stories because the government has yet to establish a proper framework for stock options. Cumbersome regulations are also hindering the ability of these firms to go public.
Requirements for tech companies to store user data in the country, whose internet is tightly controlled by the government, have raised concerns from US business groups. Regulatory backlogs have also slowed down visa applications for foreigners and establishing ownership for overseas entities is unwieldy. Vietnam restricts foreign ownership of companies to more than 49% in some sectors.
|Employees of various companies at the Sentry co-working space.Photographer: Maika Elan/Bloomberg|
Still, that hasn’t deterred foreigners like Lauria, whose fund had started backing local startups in 2014 and opened offices both in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi last year. He decided to take the plunge after watching the country’s extraordinary growth per capita triple over the past decade. He thinks online spending could multiply five fold over the next six years.
Startups are also tapping an acceleration of Vietnamese citizens returning home, according to Nguyen Nguyen, who runs a Sequoia-backed artificial intelligence firm that helps people without credit histories obtain loans.
“This is a big homecoming, or reverse brain drain,” said Nguyen, who returned to Vietnam after earning his PhD in economics from Rice University in Texas. About two-thirds of his employees at fintech startup Trusting Social have at least a master’s degree from overseas.
The sector has undergone a “night-and-day” transformation, said VNG’s co-founder Le Hong Minh, whose glass-walled headquarters overlook the Saigon River, an area once known for making textiles. High smartphone and internet adoption, a large young population and fast-growing middle class are now redefining the country.
“The new Vietnam is well beyond what people outside of Vietnam understand,” said Binh Tran, co-founder of Ascend Vietnam Ventures, who returned from the Bay Area with his family in 2020. “This is a very accessible market and language is not a big barrier…you will find a lot of young hungry talent eager to join your startup.”
Over 57,000 ransomware attacks hit Vietnam in 2022
Vietnam suffered 57,389 ransomware attacks in 2022, the third-highest in Southeast Asia following Indonesia and Thailand.
The region recorded a total of 340,904 ransomware attacks targeting businesses last year, General Manager of Kaspersky for Southeast Asia Yeo Siang Tiong told a press briefing in Ho Chi Minh City on March 14.
Ransomware is a type of malware that locks a computer and mobile device or encrypts electronic files. To obtain the “decryption” key or retrieve data, a ransom is sought by the cybercriminals behind the attack.
Digital kidnappers are targeting enterprises in Southeast Asia, Mr. Yeo said, and the trend is forecast to continue increasing this year and see more complicated attacks.
Medigo’s app makes prescription deliveries available 24/7 in Vietnam
Now Ho Chi Minh City-based Medigo is planning to grow its telehealth ecosystem with $2 million in new funding by East Ventures, with participation from Pavilion Capital and Touchstone Partners.
The new capital will allow Medigo to expand its remote doctor consultations, medicine delivery services and home testing services, including blood tests, urine tests and pregnancy tests.
Medigo’s app connects users to nearby licenses pharmacies and delivers medicine within 20 minutes. It currently has 1,000 pharmacy partners in Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s three biggest cities, and will began expanding to Tier 2 cities, like Binh Duong, Vung Tau and Hai Phong, this year.
The startup’s CEO and co-fouder Ha Le began working on the app after he had trouble finding fever reducers for his daughter in the middle of the night. “When I was in university as a software engineer, I never thought that working in the healthcare space would be the center of my daily life, but now, it is my life’s mission,” he told TechCrunch.
Medigo has plenty of competitors, including Doctor Anywhere, Jio Health, Edoctor, Long Chau, Pharmacity and Rightnow. Le said Medigo differentiates by working with pharmacies that are open around the clock so it is able to operate 24/7 consistently. It also plans to connect different providers, so users can have more choices on the same platform.
In a statement about the investment, East Ventures managing partner Koh Wai Kit said, “Digital technologies can improve the accessibility and affordability of good quality healthcare. We are excited by Medigo’s mission to revolutionize pharmacies and healthcare services in Vietnam.”
Revenue from cybersecurity sector up 33% in Q1
The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) recently reported positive results for the cybersecurity sector in the first quarter of 2023.
Specifically, the sector posted revenue of 252.8 billion VND (10.6 million USD) during the period, an increase of 33.5% year-on-year, resulting in a growth of 33.1% to 20.22 billion VND.
It contributed 21.8 billion VND to the State budget, up 50.6% over the same period last year.
According to the ministry, there are 103 cybersecurity enterprises operating in the industry during the period, a rise of 12% on-year, creating 3,492 jobs, up 10.6%. And the rate of domestic to foreign earnings reduced by 10.1% to 45.1%.
By the end of February, the total number of issued public digital certificates jumped 23.18% to nearly 5.87 million. Of which, the active ones rose 17.89% to approximately 1.9 million in February alone.
Its digital certificate status maintaining fees contributed an accumulated value of 10.79 billion VND to the State budget since the beginning of the year.
In the second quarter of 2023, MIC plans to create strategies to fulfil information security platforms for users both in Vietnam and foreign countries.
It also cooperates with the Committee on Science, Technology and Environment to complete the Law on Electronic Transactions and implement other tasks according to the guidance document No 652 in 2023.
Disassembled homemade gun detected at Da Nang airport
Vietnam welcomes first Chinese tourists since start of pandemic via northern border gate
Ancient Mang Thit brick village: A nostalgic destination in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta
Hungary to grant scholarships to 3 Vietnamese football talents
Dawn school trial for drowsy teens draws outcry in Indonesia
Việt Nam shocks Australia in U20 Asian Cup opening game
Booking.com names Vietnam’s top 10 friendliest destinations
Fire at Indonesia’s Pertamina fuel storage station kills 17
Phan Anh Tuấn introduces Vietnamese culture at Bangkok Design Week 2023
Film week to celebrate 80th anniversary of Party’s first platform on culture
First Vietnamese representative at a Winter Olympic
Da Nang museums attracting domestic visitors with free entry policy
Nom, nom, Việt Nam – Episode 76: Fried cheese sticks
In Sa Pa, ethnic children forced to peddle on streets in bitterly cold night
Nom, nom, Việt Nam – Episode 74: Huế beef noodle soup
Travel2 weeks ago
Vietnam welcomes 1.8 million foreign visitors in first two months
Business2 weeks ago
Electricity firm Nhon Trach 2 reports revised 28-fold profit increase
International1 week ago
Shetland sanctuary fights to save seals as pollution takes toll
Your Vietnam1 week ago
California Fitness brings transformation challenge back to Việt Nam
Travel2 weeks ago
Vietnam Tourism Marketing Strategy to 2030 issued
Entertainment-Sports1 week ago
The Local Game:I love to say I told you so
Entertainment-Sports2 weeks ago
Diva Hồng Nhung hosts concert commemorating songwriter Sơn
Business1 week ago
Vietnam’s Premier Tells Central Bank to Review Property Loans