Vietnam’s NextTech Group aims to be Rocket Internet of SE Asia

NextTech Group for Technopreneurs, the Vietnamese company that has invested in Indonesia’s first cross-border shopping platform WeShop – aims to build the Rocket Internet of Southeast Asia, a top executive with the firm said.

“There is actually no one deploying that model in Southeast Asia, and we are going to unlock that untapped opportunity,” Nguyen Hoa Binh, chairman of NextTech, told DEALSTREETASIA in an interaction.

According to the technopreneur, this expansion is mutually beneficial for both his company and the regional ecosystem. The venture building model helps early stage startups grow with the builder’s existing resources and networks, which will see a new generation of seasoned founders who have the ability to start new ventures, he explained.

NextTech, formerly Peacesoft, is a pioneer in the Vietnamese e-commerce space, having founded services from online selling, payment to fulfillment service. In order to create more value as a venture builder, Binh said that NextTech was  investing in education and would also look at the agri-tech sector.

It will be soon launching Teky, a platform that trains kids as young as six years old about programming, to reinforce Vietnam’s advantage is being a tech talent pool.

“This is a unique business in Vietnam and in the region. Our philosophy is to invest in something new and differentiates us from other, which will help us grow rapidly,” Binh said.

Finding a niche that positions a new business has been NextTech’s strategy for expansion, and this development comes even as the e-commerce industry is fighting several challenges including massive cash burn: “The Indonesia e-commerce market is facing a bubble due to the craziness of deal flow and the exaggerated expectation of companies and investors,” Binh said.

Meanwhile in Vietnam, a lot of e-commerce players had to shut shops after money dried out. NextTech’s maiden investor was IDG Ventures, which funded its e-commerce site ChoDienTu.vn in 2005. Peace soft then saw investment from Softbank in 2008, and started to expand to other Southeast Asian countries in 2013.

The company currently maintains a presence in Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and the US. According to Binh, NextTech plans for an overseas IPO after 2020.

The company said to rebrand itself to get rid of the $900 million e-commerce market and tap into a bigger play, the digitalised commerce space with total retail sales of $110 billion per year.

NextTech has rolled out Peacesoft as a subsidiary, deploying e-commerce sites, payment gateway Nganluong.vn and marketplace for shippers ShipChung; card payment facilitator Softpay, cross-border shopping company WeShop, fulfillment system BoxMe, over-the-counter distribution platform Alego, PayTM-like Vimo and consumer finance ManhThuongQuan, among others.

“Go global or go home – that’s our company’s motto. Our international expansion road has been challenging before we get here today. My message to young technopreneurs is to stop being afraid, go out there and be a “been there, done that” person,” said Binh.

Softpay, which recently acquired mPOS, and WeShop are two units under the umbrella of NextTech that have regional operations, while the Vietnamese company is planning expansion to Indonesia for BoxMe.

Binh was positive that he will not repeat the unfortunate path of Rocket Internet in e-commerce in Southeast Asia.

He elaborates: “Rocket Internet was too fortunate to get funding easily, which has led to the failure as you already know. We were founded in a tougher market, which made us cautious and calculate every step of the way, and persistent with the philosophy of generating profits for any businesses. By doing so, we also succeed in training the founders to sell and make money.”

“We started a venture builder because we saw a lot of opportunities in this region and we need to grab them,” he added.

While applauding the ongoing venture capital investment and acceleration activities, Binh said, considering the fledging startup scene in Vietnam, he wanted to do what he was most capable of and what was still missing in the ecosystem.

“In Vietnam particularly, there was only IDG Ventures when I first started out. There are now more options of VCs, accelerators, angel investors and NextTech as a venture builder. Each model is a relevant investor for each group of startups. So whoever the investor is, there are more choices for startups.”

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