Vietnam Digest: UPGen expands in SEA; VinTech Fund backs science projects

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Northstar-backed UPGen plans to open new locations in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in the fourth quarter of this year while Vingroup’s VinTech Fund has invested $3.7 million in 12 applied science projects.

Northstar-backed UPGen expands to Thailand, Malaysia 

Vietnam-based office space company UPGen has launched its Southeast Asia expansion with plans to open new locations in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in the fourth quarter of this year, according to a statement.

The expansion comes on the heels of private equity firm Northstar Group’s investment in UPGen, which was the Vietnamese company’s first financing round. UPGen said it is in the process of raising a Series B round.

Bert Kwan, managing director of Northstar Group, confirmed the investment to DealStreetAsia last week. Both firms did not disclose the financing value. We understand it is about $15 million.

The Northstar funding in UPGen was recently followed by a venture debt from Innoven Capital.

UPGen’s new co-working spaces in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur will span nearly 10,000 sq m, while it is also rolling out another 50,000 sq m of shared offices in its home market.

Commenting on the Thailand and Malaysia markets, UPGen co-founder Nam Do said the countries had unique challenges in providing workplaces to corporates and startups, and his solutions in Vietnam could be exported to other comparable Southeast Asian cites.

UPGen counts top Vietnamese tech companies like Tiki, BE Group and Yeah1, and Standard Chartered as its tenants. The company is also a strategic partner of commercial lender VPBank.

UPGen is not the first Vietnamese co-working space operator to expand overseas. Indochina Capital-backed Toong expanded to less developed markets of Laos and Cambodia in 2018.

VinTech Fund invests $3.7m in 12 applied science projects

VinTech Fund, a technology investment arm of Vietnamese behemoth Vingroup, has invested VND86 billion ($3.7 million) into 12 applied science projects, according to a top executive of the firm.

The first batch of selected projects was shortlisted from 200 applications. These projects will be applied for pilot to Vingroup’s multidisciplinary ecosystem before being commercialized.

Some of these projects include developing a sleep tracker device; manufacturing infrared thermal image sensors for national security and civil defence; making activated carbon for use in cosmetics and medicine, to name a few.

“All project managers who receive this grant are expected to contribute to the training process of universities, technology human resources in Vietnam, especially applied research. This is also one of the goals of VinTech Fund,” Truong Ly Hoang Phi, CEO of VinTech City told local media.

Earlier, Vingroup Innovation Foundation (VINIF) announced VND124 billion ($5.32 million)  investment for 20 science and technology projects.

These are excellent and ground-breaking projects, bringing practical benefits in important areas such as big data, biomedical science, genetics, materials science, smart traffic, IoT, image recognition and natural language processing.