Korean cos keen on Vietnam’s burgeoning startup ecosystem

Following in the footsteps of venture capital (VC) firms and investors from Singapore and the US, Korean players are now making their presence felt in the Vietnam startup space.

Since 2015, Vietnam has seen increasing investor interest from companies like Yello Mobile. The company has invested in two Vietnamese startups CleverAds and price comparison firm Websosanh  through its digital marketing and e-commerce units, Yello Digital Media (YDM) and Yello Shopping Media.

Vietnam is one of the five focus ASEAN economies for YDM; the others being Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

The startup ecosystem

Vietnam’s burgeoning startup space has already seen several new forays during the first three months of this year. The US VC firm 500 Startups has announced the launch of its $10 million micro fund that will provide funding to as many as 150 local startups. A spate of startups from different verticals raised funds, co-working space operator Toong, marketplace for tours Triip.me, on-demand maid service Jupviec.vn and notably fintech firm MoMo. which grabbed $28 million fresh investments from Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered Private Equity.

Aslo read: Korea’s Yello Digital Marketing invests in Vietnam’s marketing platform CleverAds

Vietnam-based price comparison platform Websosanh joins Korea’s YSM through share swap

Korean accelerators are fostering Vietnam-based startups by forming alliance with local incubators. HATCH!, a Hanoi-based startup supporter, recently reached an agreement of partnership with Korea’s Rehoboth Business Incubator.

Exchange programmes in universities and business associations, as well as connecting startups with investment opportunities, are part of their collaboration.

Similarly, in March, Korea’s ninth largest “chaebol” Hanwha Group brought its acceleration programme Dreamplus to Ho Chi Minh City. Earlier, Hanwha had an alliance with Vietnam-based accelerator Egg Group.

Also read: Vietnam: Incubator HATCH! to activate angel platform, team up with overseas accelerators

Launched in 2014, Dreamplus help startups to gain exposure to the regional markets by leveraging the Hanwha network. Several subsidiaries and units within Hanwha Group have invested in or become partners with startups including – the auto repair portal Carffeine (landing $500 million from Hanwha S&C), virtual touch screen developer Bignote, mobile marketing platform Mobidays and iParking, an app allowing drivers to find nearest parking lots.

The Korean conglomerate has also teamed up with Chinese peer-to-peer lending platform Dianrong to expand across Asia.

Within Korea

The startup ecosystem is strong and taking off really quickly in Korea, says Jess Erickson from 500 Startups in her blog post.

The Korean government is planning a 3.7 billion investment into its startups. This will be in addition to the thriving local and international startup investment ecosystem supported by VCs like Kcube Ventures, Bon Angels, SoftBank Korea, Altos Ventures, BlueRun Ventures and 500 Startups (with its 500 Kimchi micro fund). Several Korean accelerators like the SparkLabs and KSTARTUP are already well known in their respective focus areas.

These accelerators are clearly aiming a global reach, as Korea has recently announced its target to become one of the top seven startup accelerating nations by the end of this year.

The Vietnam Factor

South Korea, along with Japan, is Vietnam’s top trade partner. It is also the biggest investor in the country, with investment from Samsung alone amounting $14 billion. In Vietnam, Korean firms are more active in the sectors of technology, finance, retail and property development, with large  corporations like like LG, Shinhan Bank, Posco, Lotte, Daewoo and Kumho having their footprint in the company across these industries.

Korean investment in tech has been prolific, however the major part of it was direct investment of Samsung into factories and R&D centres.

Also read:

Vietnamese fintech app MoMo raises $28m from StanChart PE, Goldman Sachs

500 Startups rolls out $10m regional micro-fund for Vietnam

Gobi Partners cuts first deal in Vietnam, invests $500K in tour startup Triip.me

Vietnamese co-working space startup Toong secures funding

Vietnam’s ‘Uber for maids’ Jupviec.vn bags funding from Cyberagent Ventures

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.