Vietnam’s video messaging app Umbala wins $4,600, plans global expansion

Video sharing platform Umbala, featured as one of the best new apps across Germany, Switzerland and Australia markets by Apple Store’s editor choice, won the VND100 million ($4,600) first prize of the Forbes Vietnam Startup Contest on Tuesday.

The three promising startups included housing rental platform Visla.vn, juice delivering service Living Juice and Umbala.

They were selected to the final pitching session, judged by Pham Hop Pho, vice president of IDG Ventures Vietnam, Pham Anh Khoa, founder of Yola Institute, Pham Minh Tuan, director of the edtech group Topica, and Michell Phan, a Vietnamese – American entrepreneur and Youtube sensation, as the honorary judge.

IDG Ventures Vietnam will consider an investment in these three nascent startups and could put in up to $100,000.

The winning team, Umbala, was founded in August 2014 and has established a company in the US. This video messaging app allows users to create videos that capture motions with special effects like light, blur, fast and slow motion, reverse and loop, which were previously only available in expensive cameras.

The leader of Hotdeal.vn  said that IDG Ventures Vietnam should invest in Umbala, as this team has the ability to compete with the US version Snapchat, and to expand further.

Thao Nguyen, Umbala founder, told DEALSTREETASIA that initially he used his own money – $50,000 –  to evolve the app, pivoting through four versions: Umbala Alpha, Umbala Private Beta 1, Umbala Private Beta 2 and Umbala Public Beta – which was available on Apple Appstore in April.

“Umbala has also received $100,000 from Google’s Cloud Server, an early seed funding from an US angel investment and a micro venture capital investment also from the US,” Thao said. “We are looking for another $500,000 seed funding round,” he added.

The company was founded by a strong team of four IT engineers. Thao started his own business as young  as 20, forming CNC Software, which then had 100 staff and an annual revenue of some $1 million. He then exited the business to build up CNC Mobile, which was provided a seed funding by Japan’s Cyberagent Ventures. One of the latter startup’s products, uBox, attracted 480,000 users after only two months of launching, an unexpected speed for a startup tech product.

However, as the funding was fully allocated, while the development of uBox required a great deal of money, Thao carried out more researches to release the Umbala app, which he calls “something disrupting the world”.

Other co-founders, Thuc Vu, Thach Nguyen and Hung Pham, have strong expertise in IT through the experience they acquired from working for large tech companies like Google and Amazon.

Thao plans to move the team to Silicon Valley, the home to the world’s largest tech corporations and thousands of startups. Next month, Umbala will be launched in the US market. The next targets will be Europe (UK, Germany, France, Switzerland), Asian territories like Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia, and the world. “Our goal is to make Umbala a new personal communication platform for teens and young people all over the universe,” he said.

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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.

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.