Nguyen Huy Duc, who was appointed as CEO of Northstar-backed Topica Edtech Group in January this year, has departed from the firm citing “personal commitments and ambitions”. He confirmed the move with DealStreetAsia.
“As soon as Duc informed us that he would be leaving Topica, Northstar and the other lead investors in Topica (Openspace Ventures and Provident Capital) started leveraging our networks and we quickly identified a number of promising candidates to assume leadership at Topica,” Sidharta Oetama, a managing director at Northstar and chairman of Topica, told us in an email interaction.
He added a new CEO for the Vietnamese company will soon be announced, while the investors are working closely with the rest of Topica’s senior team to ensure a smooth transition.
Duc, who had acted as Topica’s chief financial officer, was named as CEO to replace the company’s co-founder and former CEO Pham Minh Tuan.
In September, we had reported about how Topica’s inefficient management of “invested capital” was said to have led to a leadership rejig understandably under pressure from investors led by Northstar – the largest shareholder in the Vietnamese edtech company.
Northstar invested $50 million into Topica in 2018 in a significant deal in an online education startup in Southeast Asia at that time. The company’s roster of investors also included venture capital firms IDG Ventures, Cyberagent Capital, Patamar Capital and Openspace Ventures.
In conjunction with the team reshuffle, Topica launched a new English learning product for children, Kidtopi, in late 2019. This service has not posted any updates for users on social media since July. Oetama revealed that Topica was re-evaluating the scalability of Kidtopi’s 1-on-1 service model.
Such social interaction has also halted for Topica Uni, a platform offering tertiary education, since late last year. While affirming that Topica Uni is still active, Oetama said the company has cut back on marketing as it plans to launch a new platform early next year.
Sources told DealStreetAsia earlier that Topica had to close its overseas offices in Indonesia and the Philippines while the business remains operational in Thailand.
“The company is evaluating additional overseas markets for potential expansion,” said Oetama.
In December, Topica axed up to 70 per cent of its 1,500-plus employees, according to industry sources. While the company did not confirm the number of jobs terminated, it said in a January 2020 statement that the retrenchment was part of “cost optimisation, product and quality enhancement, and expansion into children’s education”.
As the Hanoi-headquartered firm reassesses its children’s education segment, it is developing a new doubt solving service called StudyNow.
“Based on our experience from other markets, the doubt solving service is an efficient channel for customer acquisition. This should position Topica well for further penetration of the K-12 student market in the future,” Oetama added. “Topica has a number of new and exciting products in research and development, including a unified service platform to be launched soon that will meaningfully enhance its customer’s experience.”
In addition, other online education services of the company include Topica Native, an English learning platform for adults, and Edumall, a marketplace of multi-skill courses.