On a trip to Vietnam five years ago, President Obama remarked on the launch of 500 Startups’ Vietnam fund. The timing was right for us. The country was setting itself on a path to entrepreneurial innovation: a fast-growing economy, internet infrastructure, high mobile usage and abundant high tech talent. Founders needed access to capital, but more than that, they needed the right support to foster a thriving ecosystem.
As an active global investor, 500 was more than ready to provide that support. We had already completed three investments in 2015 in the country, and the Vietnam fund mentioned by former President Obama in 2016 was subsequently oversubscribed. Thanks to 500 Vietnam partners Eddie Thai and Binh Tran, the fund went on to invest in 76 companies to date. They include awesome companies, such as ELSA (edtech company later backed by Google’s AI-focused fund), Trusting Social (fintech company later backed by Sequoia) and Axie Infinity (NFT gaming pioneer later backed by Libertus Capital and Mark Cuban).
Vietnam’s startup ecosystem has continued to evolve, competing valiantly with its neighbors, including Indonesia and Singapore, and attracting downstream capital. A DealStreetAsia survey of private equity investors active in Southeast Asia ranked Vietnam as the region’s top investment market for 2021, ahead of Indonesia and Singapore.
500’s strategy in the region will reflect this evolution. Going forward, our Southeast Asia funds will oversee new Vietnam investments. 500 Partners Khailee Ng, Vishal Harnal, Nattavudh “Moo” Pungcharoengpong and Krating Poonpol will continue to seek and invest in innovative companies in Vietnam, as they have in all of the region, including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. This team has overseen over 300 investments in Southeast Asia, as early backers in some of its largest companies, including Grab, Bukalapak, and Carousell. They will be on the lookout for regional champions from Vietnam as well.
With an eye on Vietnam’s evolving ecosystem, Eddie and Binh are moving on to launch an independent fund outside of 500 that includes later stage investments. They will continue to steward the Vietnam I fund and support its portfolio companies, and will also be available as a resource for all things Vietnam. 500 is supportive of their initiative, which provides founders with additional capital and connections. As Eddie would say, this is “pho-nomenal!”
As we continue on our mission to uplift people and economies around the world through entrepreneurship, we’re excited for this next chapter of growth in Southeast Asia.
Stay tuned for more!
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