While e-commerce and social media may be the flavour of the season, Vietnamese startup ecosystem is also buzzing with startups innovating in areas like fintech, edtech and agritech.
DEALSTREETASIA has handpicked five such startups that have achieved some breakthroughs and could potentially become hot picks for investors. Here is the list of five Vietnamese startups to watch in 2016:-
Umbala pivoting to personal TV broadcasting
Founded in 2015, Umbala hit headlines last year as the “Vietnamese version” of Snapchat when it won the first prize of the Forbes Vietnam Startup Contest. What the startup promotes is letting people create 12-second videos that can last for 12 hours before self-destructing. However, Umbala is pivoting into the “next generation of personal TV broadcasting”, said Thao Nguyen, Umbala co-founder.
“When we moved our business to the Silicon Valley, we got a lot of feedback and decided to pivot to something bigger. Umbala will allow users to watch the latest events and news posted by other local users all around the world. For example, if you are interested in what’s happening in Paris, you can totally watch it on Umbala app,” Nguyen told DEALSTREETASIA.
The startup is launching its new model in universities and cities in the US, initially opened for Stanford, Harvard and UC Berkeley. Nguyen also said Umbala received further funding from 500 Startups and SOSVentures after the Forbes competition.
“We are in talks for a seed funding stage. Seed rounds in the US are normally worth $1 million,” he said.
How.vn may land funding
How.vn is a website that offers videos with useful tips and information on various categories from education, technology to cooking tutorials. Developed by TC Vietnam Co Ltd, a Ho Chi Minh City-based firm which provides online marketing and digital content services, How.vn is running in beta.
It has not a popular name yet compared to other Vietnamese startups. However, what is interesting is a recent rumour that the startup will receive $2 million investment from an Australian communications company to develop an online, video-based education platform. Possibly, there might be more news from How.vn in 2016.
Lozi eyeing bigger regional play
Lozi announced it raised a seven-digit amount of money through a series A round in December, with investors being Golden Gate Ventures and DesignOne Japan Inc. Its founders also expressed the hope to gain a regional play.
Three founders of Lozi, who dropped out of school, were trained through the Vietnam Silicon Valley programme. Tran Minh Son, a founder at the startup, said the Pinterest-like social media for food is different from Foody thanks to its deeper interaction with users.
Currently, Lozi has witnessed over 500,000 app downloads and around 600,000 web-based registered users with some four million views per month. Although the value of the latest funding was not disclosed, sources said the investment of Golden Gate Ventures and DesignOne Japan values Lozi at $2 million. The proceeds will be used for R&D and expansion to other cities in Vietnam and the region within the next two years.
MimosaTek wants to enable tech-based farming
Agritech was among the keywords for startup in Vietnam in 2015. Thanks to the increasing attention to agritech, there have been more startups to penetrate this area and some have got funded. One of them is MimosaTek, arising from the graduation from Topica Founder Institute initiative and winning $15,000 seed funding from a December contest.
An IoT tech for agriculture, MimosaTek helps farmers better manage their crops by providing useful harvesting information and knowledge, as well as predictions to minimize risks.
“The grant was quite substantial, but the first prize of the Go Live! Vietnam Venture Cup has an entirely different meaning to us, because the award was voted by the audience attending the event after the jury picked the top three. The significance is shown through the interest of the crowd to what MimosaTek has done, which means people want to build a tech-based agriculture sector,” said Nguyen Khac Minh Tri, founder and CEO of the startup.
LoanVi targeting unbanked population
There is some startup news coming from Vietnam in the fast-emerging fintech growth area. In 2016, LoanVi.com is one startup from Vietnam that could attract attention.
The online peer-to-peer lending platform is an incubatee that secured $10,000 from the Vietnam Silicon Valley project. Launched in 2015, the startup targets at bridging the gap between 70 per cent unbanked and under-banked Vietnamese population and investors by creating accessible channel for individuals to acquire loan financing and for investors to earn solid fixed-income returns.
It would be interesting to watch how LoanVi manages to work around the scepticism in Vietnamese population with respect to such financial models.