500 Startups, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm founded by Dave McClure, has invested in eight Vietnamese companies as it targets the nation’s tech-savvy population.
E-commerce, messaging and online ticketing startups were among the first to get funding, Binh Tran, a partner at 500 Startups, said in an interview. After setting up its Vietnam operations in August, the firm expects to make as many as 150 startup bets in the country.
Armed with investments ranging from $10,000 to $250,000, the Silicon Valley seed investor is targeting an accelerating economy, growing middle class and low costs . Vietnam, which gave rise to the Flappy Bird gaming phenomenon in 2014, has half its 90 million population online and boasts a mobile phone penetration rate of more than 100 percent
“You have great coders here,” Tran, a co-founder of Klout Inc., said in an interview in Ho Chi Minh City. “They are really strong in math and science. What makes Vietnam exciting for me is that foundation. We have developers here as strong as Singapore does, at a third of the cost.”
Vietnam is forecasting economic expansion of 6.7 percent next year, which would be the fastest pace in nine years, and is creating about 1,000 new startups a year, according to Eddie Thai, another partner of 500 Startups who is based in Ho Chi Minh City.
Dong Nguyen, developer of Flappy Bird Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg.
500 Startups has about $200 million of assets under management. The Mountain View, California-based company is looking to raise $200 million for its fourth global fund after closing its third one in September with $85 million, according to its website.
The firm has invested in 1,200 companies across 50 countries since 2010.
The focus on Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s biggest metropolises, comes as 500 Startups is doubling the size of its fund targeting Southeast Asia technology startups to $20 million. Tran declined to comment on whether 500 Startups will establish a specific Vietnam fund.
The firm wants to invest in sectors such as e-commerce, e-learning and logistics, said Thai. There are as many as 3,000 startups in Vietnam, and many Silicon Valley investors firms have ignored the country to focus on China and India, he said.
“There is a huge opportunity for tech to transform how Vietnamese live, work and play,” Thai said.
500 Startups is entering a market where DFJ VinaCapital has been the highest-profile Silicon Valley venture capitalist. The $30 million fund, established in 2007, is managed jointly by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a Menlo Park, California-based firm, and VinaCapital Investment Management LTD.
“If Southeast Asia, and in particular, Vietnam, were overlooked before, they are not going to be overlooked much longer,” Thai said.