Vietnam’s Topica Edtech rejigs leadership team, gets new CEO

Vietnam-headquartered Topica Edtech Group’s CEO Pham Minh Tuan has stepped down from his position as part of a top management reshuffle.

The online education provider has elevated its CFO Nguyen Huy Duc to the role of CEO, it said.

Tuan will continue to serve as board chairman of Topica.

Prior to joining Topica as its CFO in early 2019, Duc had held senior positions at real estate group REFICO, multinational firm Kusto Group, real estate investment trust Techcom Capital and Deloitte Vietnam.

A Master’s in economics degree holder from Corvinus University (Budapest), Duc is understood to have assumed the CEO role with immediate effect.

The rejig comes at a time when Topica is undergoing a restructuring exercise for cost optimisation, product and quality enhancement and expansion into tutoring for children.

The company has shut down several overseas offices over the past few months and has laid off a significant number of employees to cut down costs. According to a report by Nikkei Asian Review, Topica’s headcount during the third quarter of 2019 stood at 1,500 employees.

When private equity major Northstar Group invested in Topica in 2018, the Hanoi-based company had said it had offices in Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. However, the firm currently has offices only in the first three mentioned markets.

Product range

Topica earlier announced its new product – Kidtopi – raised $3.5 million to develop an online English tutoring platform for children. The product was piloted by Topica in 2019 and has now been launched.

“Kidtopi will be a new key product besides Native and Edumall, which leverages our existing online education technologies and supporting infrastructure, in order to diversify our offerings for different student age groups,” Tuan had said in an earlier statement.

The one-on-one live tutoring platform claims to have developed its exclusive teaching methodology, called MLIPPEA, based on the latest research in cognitive and learning science.

Amongst the company’s other products, Topica Native provides online English speech tutoring courses to adults, while Edumall offers soft skill courses in Thailand and Vietnam.

The company also operates Topica Uni, a platform through which it works with regional universities to offer a bachelor’s degree to students. Topica claims to have registered over 2 million students on its platforms to date.

Apart from being a tutoring platform, the company also runs Topica Founder Institute, one of the first accelerators in Vietnam.

Funding

In 2018, Topica raised $50 million in a Series D round of funding from Northstar Group. Prior to that, the company had raised funding from venture capitalists such as IDG Ventures, Cyberagent Capital, Patamar Capital and Openspace Ventures.

Despite being one of the most funded tech businesses in Vietnam, sources said the firm needed to undertake the ongoing restructuring as “invested capital was used ineffectively.”

As the WeWork debacle has become a wake-up call for global investors, regional VCs are increasingly adopting a cautious approach.

“We try to make sure that the companies we back are seriously executing and not just burning money for the sake of burning money,” said Gary Kheong, executive director at Vertex Ventures for Southeast Asia and India, at the Indonesia PE-VC Summit 2020 in Jakarta recently.

Startups across Asia such as OYO in India and Bukalapak in Indonesia have slashed their workforces to minimise costs and restructure teams across businesses and functions.

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. 
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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.