On Thursday, September 5, eleven “rising star” startups pitched their ideas to a room full of investors and entrepreneurs as part of the 500 Startups Demo Day, organized by venture capital fund 500 Startups Vietnam to highlight the promising startup environment in Vietnam and broader Southeast Asia. The event also featured a panel discussion and remarks by industry leaders on the development of Vietnam’s technology and startup ecosystem.
The startups presenting at the event included six graduates of Saola Accelerator, a program to support and mentor startups sponsored by 500 Startups in partnership with Korean retailer GS SHOP, and five other promising startups from the Southeast Asian region. These startups are involved in a variety of sectors, from agritech and micro-mobility to healthcare and digital payment. Each team was given 5 minutes to present its pitch to the room and had the opportunity to meet with interested investors and partners at a later networking event.
“These startups show that innovation from Vietnam and broader Southeast Asia can transform lives not only in the region but potentially around the world,” Eddie Thai, General Partner at 500 Startups Vietnam, observed. According to official statement from the event, these startups have collectively raised more than $30 million of venture financing and currently span more than 15 markets across Asia Pacific, North America, and Europe.
Prior to the presentations, a panel was held to discuss the potential for investment in Vietnam’s new technology scene. Panelists included Linh Thai (VinGroup Ventures), Yinglan Tan (Insignia Ventures Partners), Shuyin Tang (Patamar Capital), and Eddie Thai as moderator. According to the panelists, Vietnam’s potential has increased dramatically in the last 5-10 years; before that, Ms Tang said, “it was the dark ages.” This rapid rise has provided entrepreneurs and investors with tremendous opportunities, but also comes with many challenges. Ms Linh Thai, for example, argued that Vietnam has a “winner takes all” culture and is therefore prone to monopolies, and cautioned against investors inadvertently stifling competition in a quest to stimulate explosive growth.
Other highlights of the evening included remarks from Hoonsang Kim (GS SHOP), and Mary Tarnowka (American Chamber of Commerce – AmCham Vietnam), who announced the launch of an Entrepreneurship and Innovation Committee to help emerging startups engage with AmCham members and established businesses. Nguyen Nguyen, CEO of the startup Trusting Social, also shared his experiences growing a startup in Vietnam.
Since 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.