17 must-read articles about Vietnamese startups before 2017

I am very much happy that the startup space in Vietnam has seen a lot of improvements throughout 2016. We are going to say ‘Happy new year’ to 2017 with lots of hope and energy, which will be an important momentum of the combination for the ecosystem to burgeon.

In 2016, Vietnamese startups have enjoyed more VC investments, more support from the government and more engagement of established companies. These wrap-ups will be soon featured on DEALSTREETASIA as my closing works of 2016.

We also acknowledge that in such an infancy, Vietnamese startups will face many roadblocks on the horizon.

But in the meantime, let’s take a look-back of 17 go-to stories I have written for the site. (Well, there are surely more, but I pick 17 as to welcome 2017).

These are interviews and opinions about this year’s occurrings within the landscape. Please click on the headlines to read the stories.

1 – M&A more viable exit route as IPO market is tough: Dzung Nguyen, Cyberagent

For Cyberagent Ventures in particular, we have recently exited to corporates who search for regional growth. The exit opportunities are many more in that space.

2 – AI’s the new buzzword in Vietnamese tech space. Will it take off?

Artificial intelligence (AI) can become a game changer for Vietnamese technology startups, say experts, as they are betting big on the potential to deploy chatbots and image recognition to deep learning in the country.

3 – Vietnam’s NextTech Group aims to be Rocket Internet of SE Asia

Go global or go home – that’s our company’s motto. Our international expansion road has been challenging before we get here today. My message to young technopreneurs is to stop being afraid, go out there and be a “been there, done that” person.

4 – Vietnam’s resilient women entrepreneurs are capturing the nation’s attention

All startup founders want to move fast – they are correct. But that should not be an excuse for leaving big holes in your management. Sometimes a detail-oriented women leader becomes a tough manager, leading to better management of the company.

5 – Entrepreneurial hustle, tech talent, potential differentiates Vietnam from region: 500 Startups

For series A onwards, there are some exciting startups. You don’t always read about them in the news or see them at ecosystem events, but they are making progress quietly and raising new funds.

Tech startups in Vietnam grew from a small trickle to a steady stream, and we see that trend continuing.

6 – New angel network aims to bring 1,000 investors to Mekong region every year

That will not happen overnight. But the investors are bullish about this region, thanks to its rapid growth and early stage activities taking place.

7 – Vietnam poses long-term opportunities for nascent fintech industry

Also seen in Topica report, fintech was the third hottest area of investment into startups in Vietnam, after media and e-commerce.

8 – Exits are tricky for investors in Vietnamese startups

Truong thought founders should consider selling the business, because in some cases, it is better than running the venture. Giving projections, he said, the market could see more buyouts as companies are looking at a bigger play.

9 – IFC eyes investments in Vietnam’s tech space

The last one is disruptive technology. That’s where we could see a lot of works happening across ASEAN. We need to see how we are going to play in that space, so that is another important area for us.

10 – Exclusive: Vietnamese telco Viettel to launch venture capital arm

Most of the the global telecom biggies have operate their own venture capital units and Viettel wants to follow that path as it aims to become a global top 20 telecommunications company. (…) The robust local startups scene will be the driver for Viettel to create new ICT products based on its network infrastructure, such as search engines, social networks, e-commerce or e-healthcare.

11 – Tough to find investment-ready startups in Vietnam: Japanese angel Hajime Hotta

Just 10 per cent of the effort is to deliver my ideas, but 90 per cent is to convince the founders to follow my instruction. I have a lot of connections with VCs and serial entrepreneurs so I get immediate sense of what they should do. But to explain the ideas to them is quite difficult, otherwise they might not take it seriously.

12 – America is taking notice of Vietnam startups: Obama

Your success sends a message to global investors about this country’s incredible potential for innovation. Hopefully it also encourages other Vietnamese entrepreneurs to chase that new idea and start the new company, which will continue to fuel an ever-expanding Vietnamese economy.

13 – Vietnam needs to make it easier for startups to raise funds and allow investors to exit

Companies in Vietnam, including startups, currently have access to three fundraising channels — banks, stock market, and bonds. But banks are by far the primary source of funds — stock listings account for less than 30 per cent — which is an indication that there is significant untapped potential for raising funds through equity or debt through bonds.

This would be the right time to implement reforms as Vietnam, home to 90 million people, draws higher interest from venture capitalists who want to invest in startups, particularly those that have customers in the emerging middle class.

14 – Vietnamese startups not enthused by stock exchange proposal

Vietnamese startups – whose average valuation has stayed below $10 million – are too small in size to meet the rigour and requirements of listing at this stage. Apart from low startup valuations, what is also lacking in Vietnam is adequate number of accredited investors and enough interested buyers participating in the stock market.

15 – Vietnamese startups not ready for later stage investment: Mai Duy Quang, Topica

VNG Corporation (the country’s first to declare unicorn status) was established in 2004 and it took 10 years for Vietnam to see that one big startup. The startup ecosystem in Vietnam started just a couple of years back. That is not a long-enough time to have really big startups. Later stage funding is subject to the development of the entire ecosystem.

I think there will be more startups valued at $100 million onward within the next three years and promisingly some unicorns in five years.

16 – Corporates should partner with VCs to help startups grow: FPT’s Truong Gia Binh

Ultimately, you should build a product that is appealing to global users. A lot of Vietnamese startups have the capability to do that. You can find it in Elsa and GotIt (two edtech startups by Vietnamese founders that target any users in the world).

Startups need to be encouraged to build their businesses to sell. Who will buy them then? Larger local companies should act this role. One viable method of doing so is to partner with venture capital firms from the beginning.

17 – Exclusive: Startups set to become new target of M&A activity in Vietnam

The outlook for M&A in startups looks encouraging going forward as economists expect it to be in sync with the otherwise buoyant market. Vietnam’s ranking as target country for M&A has jumped 9 spots from 2014 to become the 15th most attractive market in 2016.

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