Several local tech startups have followed the phenomenal success of mobile game Flappy Bird, winning over millions of users worldwide, but industry insiders have conceded that there remains a tough road ahead for firms based in Vietnam to really thrive internationally.
Hanoi developer Rubycell has had some early success in 2017, with two of its mobile apps for Android featured in the Editors’ Choice list on Google Play.
Both of the apps, Piano+ and Violin, have generated millions of downloads and won positive comments from users.
“Piano+ and Violin are not only entertainment apps, but give users tutorials to help them learn these two musical instruments,” Rubycell deputy chairman Dinh Van Hung told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“With these apps, users can practice playing the guitar or piano anytime and anywhere on their smartphones.”
Piano+ has been downloaded more than 10 million times on Google Play, and Violin over 5 million times, according to Hung.
Rubycell has another app with more than 10 million downloads on Google Play called Guitar+, which is also a musical tutorial app.
Hung said Rubycell makes money from in-app purchases of these apps, while refusing to disclose their specific revenue.
“We target users worldwide for these apps, with a focus on countries where users are willing to pay for in-app purchases such as in the U.S.,” he elaborated.
Dong Nguyen, another Hanoi-based app developer, shot to international fame in 2014 with his addictive Flappy Bird game, providing a shot-in-the-arm to the local mobile app development sector.
Two years later, other Vietnamese tech startups started making waves on the international market, including names like GotIt! and DesignBold.
GotIt!, developed by the Silicon Valley-based firm founded by Vietnamese national Tran Viet Hung, is an app that connects learners with study experts who offer them step-by-step help through their homework. The app climbed to the top ten most downloaded education apps on Apple’s App Store in the U.S. as of early 2016.
DesignBold, winner of the Vietnam Creative Business Cup 2016, provides a web- and app-based design tool to “empower everyone from everywhere to create visual content limited only by their own imagination.”
While GotIt! earned fame on App Store, DesignBold has generated huge revenue internationally, even during its beta launch.
Besides startups, many established Vietnamese tech firms reported encouraging performances in 2016.
Tech giant FPT Group is now present in 20 countries, with more than 400 customers on its portfolio, 50 of which hold a place on the Fortune 500 list.
Another company, VNG, is currently listed as a top developer on Google Play with five apps available in 15 languages used by 70 million people worldwide.
Despite the potential, some investors and startup experts say there are a myriad of challenges facing Vietnamese tech firms.
Less than 5 percent of Vietnamese tech startups succeed in attracting capital investment, and of those funded, less than 10 percent survive, according to industry insiders.
Nguyen Nhat Tuyen, director of game development with VNG, said winning over global users is a painstaking task requiring extensive effort.
VNG is the developer of “Sky Garden: Farm in Paradise,” a mobile farming game that won the People's Choice prize at the 1stInternational Mobile Gaming Awards for Southeast Asia in 2016.
Tuyen said that game developers have to listen to all feedback, even the smallest suggestions or complaints, from users and constantly update and improve their product in order to achieve success.
Besides challenges posed by users, Vietnamese tech firms also face obstacles at home, with a lack of policy support or incentives from regulatory bodies, according to insiders.
One game company, which wished not to be named, said developers still have to obtain multiple minor licenses to be able to launch new games, which is time- and money-intensive.
“This is not to mention the fact that we have to follow a number of different circulars and regulations,” he added.
One VNG representative said that the Vietnamese government still lacks policies that really encourage local companies to develop digital content and increase their competitiveness in the global arena.