Vietnam’s Topica Edtech CEO departs, investors plan product restructuring

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.

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.

Product shift

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.

Singapore Reporter/s

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

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

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  • 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. 
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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.