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500 Startups announces $10mn Vietnam fund

Thursday, March 10, 2016, 19:36 GMT+7

500 Startups will invest a total of US$10 million in Vietnam’s startup ecosystem, the U.S.-based startup incubator announced on Tuesday.

The latest regional round of micro-funding will earmark 100-150 investments in Vietnam-connected startups, including in teams addressing local market needs and groups that are tackling the overseas market, according to the announcement.

The checks will typically be up to $100,000, but may be as high as $250,000.

500 Startups is the $100 million Silicon Valley venture capital fund best known for its incubator program for young companies.

In addition to financing, portfolio companies get access to 500 Startups’ international network of 3,000 mentors and founders, $1.5 million of credits with partners like Amazon and Facebook, and other support to help them scale their business.

The fund said it believes there are many interesting near-term investment opportunities in business-to-business and enterprise software-as-a-service (SAAS), financial technology, and e-commerce.

“500 Startups plans to work together with Vietnamese investors and the local tech community to build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem,” 500 Startups founding partner Dave McClure said in a statement.

The fund will be led by venture partners Binh Tran and Eddie Thai, who joined 500 Startups last year to lead the firm’s Vietnam efforts, according to the announcement.

McClure said Vietnam is a vibrant and growing country, with many talented entrepreneurs and engineers, adding that Eddie and Binh are “experienced operators who combine Silicon Valley know-how with Vietnamese hustle, and they are going to invest aggressively in the best and brightest founders all over the country.”

Why Vietnam?

500 Startups also listed several reasons as to why Vietnam has been chosen for this $10 million micro-fund.

“Vietnam has more people than California, New York, and Florida combined, and more than 40 million of them are on the Internet,” the announcement reads.

“It is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and has been Apple’s fastest growing market in the world.”

Vietnam was recently ranked number three in U.S. News’s “Best Countries to Invest In” list thanks to developments like the agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, inexpensive labor costs, and growing consumer spending, according to 500 Startups.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and other notable tech leaders have visited Vietnam in the last few months alone, it added.

500 Startups said it hopes to become the most active Silicon Valley seed stage venture capital firm in Vietnam and to build on the pioneering efforts of IDG Ventures Vietnam, DFJ VinaCapital and others to develop the Vietnamese startup ecosystem. 

“We will be working with Anh-Minh Do, one of Vietnam’s most prominent ecosystem developers [who is] notably plugged into the startup scene in Vietnam as the former Vietnam Editor for Tech in Asia,” the company said.

500 Startups has already invested in several Vietnam-connected companies, including Ipsy, the beauty startup co-founded by Michelle Phan that closed a $100 million Series B last year; Lightbox, a social photography app acquired by Facebook; and DataRank, a social intelligence platform acquired by Simply Measured.

Binh Tran is a San Francisco-based technologist with more than 20 years of experience. His most recent win was Klout, which pioneered influencer marketing and was acquired in 2014 at a $200 million valuation. He was ranked in Business Insider’s “Silicon Valley 100” list in 2013 and “26 Up-and-Coming Tech Entrepreneurs You Need to Watch” in 2012.

Eddie Thai is a Vietnam-based businessman with more than six years of experience in strategy and finance for companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 corporations across tech, media, telecommunications, and others. He was recognized in the Forbes Vietnam 30 Under 30 List in 2015 and invited to the World Economic Forum’s Davos conference in 2016. He received degrees from Harvard and Yale.

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