500 Startups, one of the world’s most active venture capital investors, hosted on Thursday an action-packed evening of discussions and presentations to spotlight the dynamic technology landscape in Vietnam and broader Southeast Asia. 230 investors, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and other startup ecosystem supporters & stakeholders attended the event, organized in partnership with AmCham Vietnam.
The evening’s highlight was presentations by 11 “rising star” startups in Southeast Asia
- 6 startups were graduates of the first batch of the “Silicon Valley-inspired, Saigon-based” Saola Accelerator, organized by 500 Startups in partnership with leading Korean retailer GS SHOP and venue sponsor Kafnu Ho Chi Minh City. Herve Vu Roussel, co-founder of Quod AI, said the Saola Accelerator “is one of the best programs out there in Southeast Asia and even the rest of the world.”
- 5 startups joined from beyond the accelerator, including investments by 500 Startups Vietnam’s sister funds, 500 TukTuks – focused on Thailand – and 500 Durians – focused on Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
The presenting startups are pioneering logistics, e-commerce, FinTech, blockchain, AgriTech, and more. Collectively they are doing business in more than 15 markets across the Asia Pacific, North America, and Europe, and have raised more than US$30M of venture financing. Eddie Thai, a General Partner of 500 Startups Vietnam, observed: “These startups show that innovation from Vietnam and broader Southeast Asia can transform lives not only in the region but potentially around the world.”
Before the startup presentations, participants were treated to several talks:
- A panel of experienced venture capitalists provided real perspectives on Vietnam’s technology scene. Panelists included Linh Thai, a Shark Tank Vietnam “shark” and CEO of VinGroup Ventures, Yinglan Tan, Managing Partner of Singapore-based Insignia Ventures Partners, Shuyin Tang, a Partner of impact investor Patamar Capital, and Eddie Thai as moderator. All agreed that this is an exciting time for Vietnam overall but provided more context about trends, opportunities, and challenges.
- Nguyen Nguyen, Founder, and CEO of fast-growing FinTech startup Trusting Social shared about his mission, his biggest challenge, and his pieces of wisdom for other entrepreneurs. After several years in the U.S. earning his Ph.D. and working in finance, Nguyen returned to Vietnam to found what has become the fastest-growing credit scoring platform in Southeast Asia, now scoring nearly a half-billion people. It was one of 500 Startups Vietnam’s earliest investments, and eventually became Sequoia Capital’s first investment in Vietnam.
- AmCham Vietnam announced the launch of an Entrepreneurship and Innovation Committee. Mary Tarnowka, recently appointed as AmCham’s Executive Director after completing a decade-long career in the U.S. Foreign Service culminating with her term as U.S. Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, shared that the Committee will focus on sharing and supporting emerging technologies, disruptive business models, and approaches to innovation. 500’s Eddie Thai will serve as the Committee’s inaugural chair.
Binh Tran, a serial entrepreneur turned General Partner of 500 Startups Vietnam, reiterated the sharing of many of the guest speakers. “There’s more hype about Vietnam’s tech scene now than ever before. To maintain the momentum, it’s important for entrepreneurs and investors alike to separate the signal from the noise, with the help of strong partners.”
Since the initial close in 2017, 500 Startups Vietnam has invested in more than 40 companies in FinTech, EdTech, logistics, and more. The portfolio companies have collectively raised more than US$170 million of additional capital. Batch 2 of the Saola Accelerator is open for applications. Each selected startup will receive US$100K cash investment, training, and hands-on support from world-class experts.