Asia Pacific’s rapid digital transformation fosters a significant shift in the business landscape and an emergence of new sector verticals. These new verticals we call “startups” are changing the ways the region does business and opening up new doors for investments.
In Vietnam, where the number of startups has jumped from 1,600 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to now more than 3,000 — four of which are now unicorns — innovations abound, and the growth prospects are endless. Venture capital deals surged to $1.1 billion in 2021, up from only $301 million the year before.
A joint report by KPMG and HSBC highlighted 10 “emerging giants” in Vietnam that will make a lasting impact on the regional and global landscape over the next decade. Thanks to a large and young population willing to test and adopt new technologies, supportive government policies, and a surge in foreign funding, Vietnam is a thriving environment for potential unicorns.
Real Estate Technology
Propzy is a real estate service company operating on a modern technology platform. With a mission to standardize the process and provide optimal solutions to make real estate transactions safe and effective.
By combining a real estate marketplace on the front end with logistics, documentation, and transaction services on the backend, Propzy has created a strong value proposition for consumers and has established a clear competitive advantage in Vietnam.
Founder and CEO John Le has led the startup to success, with more than $37 million worth of investments — which he claims is the highest capital in Vietnam in the field of proptech. Propzy closed a $25-million Series A round led by Gaw Capital and SoftBank Ventures Asia in 2020 alone. Other investors include FEBE Ventures, Insignia Ventures Partners, and Next Billion Ventures.
But while Propzy started as a tech-enabled direct brokerage service in 2015, it has been making significant changes to its business model in recent months. Le told DealStreetAsia that Propzy is shifting its focus on PropzyHome, a townhouse supply platform involved in selecting land to re-design and sell to customers, and PropzySTAY, which provides home rental solutions.
Vietnam-based blockchain gaming studio Sipher is seemingly closely following the footsteps of Sky Mavis, developer of Axie Infinity. Sipher, founded in March 2021 by Nguyen Trung Tin, successfully raised US$6.8 million in the seed round to speed up the development of its World of Sipheria game. It was the second-largest investment for a Vietnamese blockchain gaming startup.
The startup aims to unify blockchain technology for decentralized financial technology, art, storytelling, and multiplayer games, developing an ecosystem where users can play for fun but also get rewarded.
With the application of blockchain technology, Sipher brings a free economy to gamers and, at the same time, gives the community ownership of in-game assets. Sipher wants to become a trusted brand, its founder told Vietnam Economic News.
“First and foremost, games must be entertaining. They need to be community-based, increase enthusiasm and interest and connect people for a common purpose. Classic games have done this very well, and future games will aim to do the same. Those factors make games the most powerful tool for sharing great moments together.”
Sendo was founded in September 2012, originally an e-commerce project of FPT Online JSC. It has then evolved into one of the leading e-commerce platforms in Vietnam and played as the largest C2C marketplace in local Tier 2 cities, serving millions of customers and hundreds of thousand merchants nationwide.
Having invested much in R&D, AI, and Big data to continuously upgrade the technical platform and enhance the customer shopping experience, Sendo has built an ecosystem for buyers, merchants, and third-party logistics providers.
Leveraging e-commerce technology and tapping into the momentum of the sharing economy, Sendo’s C2C marketplace model empowers both the customer by offering various options and Vietnam’s SMEs through the connectivity of its trading platform.
The Sendo platform currently hosts more than 10 million products — from fashion to housewares and tech — from more than 200,000 vendors. Sendo’s product delivery network spreads across 64 cities where users can choose to make payments through credit cards, ATM cards, or a bank transfer.
The Ho Chi Minh City-based firm has raised about $56.7 million through convertible loans since 2020, according to DealStreetAsia.
Jio Health is a pioneer in the field of medical technology with a new-age healthcare ecosystem. With its vertically integrated consumer healthcare value chain, Jio Health can provide quality, affordable care wherever consumers shop, work, live and click. Their 300+ care providers, engineers, and operators currently operate an online healthcare app (available on iOS and Android platforms) and a physical facility in Saigon.
Beyond virtual care, Jio Health's ecosystem consists of Smart Clinics, on-demand home care, and an extensive and growing network of 300+ Jio-branded neighborhood pharmacies.
The health tech startup provides on-demand access to healthcare services such as primary care, chronic disease management, pediatrics, and ancillary care services. And they intend to grow the list of services they’re offering.
The health tech startup bagged a whopping $20 million in Series B funding in March. Heritas Capital, Fuchsia Ventures, Kasikorn Bank Group, and Monk’s Hill Ventures are some venture capital firms currently backing Jio Health.
Online teaching platform Clevai was founded in 2020 when the world was grappling with the unexpected havoc caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It uses an AI platform to help students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 to learn.
The system can analyze each student's learning history, providing appropriate and personalized resources that equip students with “21st-century skills” such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and self-study skills.
Clevai competes with several other edtech startups that have sprouted during the pandemic as demand for online education increased. The startup raised $2.1 million in pre-Series A funding round led by Altara Ventures in September 2021. The fresh capital was used to enhance its live streaming infrastructure and personalized AI-based learning experiences.
The startup, which has mentors from Harvard, Oxford, and Google, hopes to sign up more than 20,000 students.
In a market dominated by fast fashion players, Coolmate — a young Vietnamese clothing brand — offers an antidote to on-trend shopping. The brand has found its niche in offering high-quality essentials for men's wardrobes: Out-of-season designs that travel between occasions while allowing the wearer to express himself subtly.
Operating under the D2C (direct-to-consumer) model through its self-developed e-commerce store, Coolmate has been progressing by leaps and bounds towards its goal of sustained growth. Even during the pandemic, the brand’s monthly growth rate has remained at 20-30%, with its two operations centers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City shipping orders within the city limits in under 24 hours.
Coolmate raised $2 million in a Series A funding round earlier this year, banking on its proven profitability and scalability. It recently released its Marvel t-shirt collection, marking its official partnership with Walt Disney.
The startup expects to reach $65 million in sales by 2025 and step by step toward an IPO.
EveHR is an online platform that gives companies the right tools to increase employee retention and engagement by providing a secure and customizable solution via web and mobile applications for employees and the HR dashboard for managers to monitor engagement in real-time.
Although Vietnam is abundant in talents, it has the highest turnover rate in Asia, with over 20% across all industries and up to 41.5% during the pandemic. This is what EveHR aims to change.
“Upgrading the employee experience benefits companies, workers, and customers. It’s a win-win-win relationship,” Nga Nguyen, senior customer success manager at EveHR, told Vietcetera.
EveHR focuses on two core modules — Flexible benefits and recognition. EveHR helps improve motivation and engagement by sending meaningful recognition messages with instant rewards. EveHR also provides flexibility for employees in choosing their benefit options.
Through an app, two colleagues, for example, can easily give each other recognition points with compliments, thank you notes, or encouragement anytime, anywhere. The accumulated points will then be converted into e-vouchers, which can be used instantly at certain brands and services like shopping, entertainment, or F&B, depending on each employee’s preferences.
EveHR is part of Fram^ Group — a premium IT development company and a venture builder. Fram^ is the first Vietnamese company listed on NASDAQ Nordic.
AgTech, Supply Chain Tech
Established in 2017 by Trung Hoang Nguyen, Lozi has taken on giant rivals in Vietnam’s delivery sector, such as GoTo and Grab, with its fast and convenient service —they deliver in just one hour, guaranteed.
Riding on the country’s booming e-commerce industry, Lozi connects millions of buyers and sellers to cater to the growing demand for online shopping. Made by Vietnamese for Vietnamese, Loship, the company’s delivery platform, offers a wide range of services, including food delivery (Loship), grocery delivery (Lomart), ride-hailing (Loxe), medicine delivery (Lomed), laundry service (Lozat), package delivery (Lo-send), flower delivery (Lohoa), cosmetics & beauty products delivery (LoBeauty) and B2B supply delivery (Losupply).
According to its LinkedIn profile, Loship now has a fleet of more than 70,000 drivers and 200,000 merchants serving almost two million customers across Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, and Can Tho. Forbes Asia recognized its fast growth last year, naming it one of 100 ‘To Watch’ businesses.
The company announced a $12 million investment in a pre-Series C round of equity financing co-led by BAce Capital in August 2021. The new capital was intended to deepen its presence in key markets, expand the business into new regions, and fuel its latest growth - the B2B delivery offering for small food and beverage businesses and mom-and-pop shops.
Vui (‘joy’ in English) is the flagship product of Nano Technologies, a fintech startup co-founded by Dzung Dang. Vui was designed as a personal finance tool for low-income, unbanked workers living paycheck to paycheck.
Companies look for long-term solutions for runaway turnover with rising wages and increased competition for top talent. Many begin their relationship with Vui by signing up for a trial before deciding if they want to integrate the app into their payroll and split the cost with the employees or cover it in full (by default, the monthly fee of VND 100,000 is covered by the worker).
Vui now serves over 20,000 employees from GS25, Annam Gourmet, LanChi Mart, and TTF.
Nano’s earned wage access features can be used by employers of all sizes in all sectors to offer flexible payments to their employees, but its focus is currently on retail, food, and beverage, and manufacturing, especially for textiles, garments, and shoes, a report by Tech Crunch reads.
Real Estate Technology
Homebase, a real estate technology company, was launched in 2019 to make homeownership accessible across Southeast Asia. Homebase was founded with the mission of making homeownership accessible across Southeast Asia.
Homebase acts as co-investor of a property, with clients putting in a 20% deposit. The clients pay back a fixed amount to Homebase every month or can decide to buy out the company’s entire share. Clients have full usage rights to the home, so they can live in it or rent it.
It uses data science and valuation algorithms to determine that the property it buys together with the client makes sense financially, and the Homebase portal allows it to automate and significantly speed up the home buying process.
With an innovative solution to the region’s complex real estate market, Homebase is considered one of the fastest growing companies in Southeast Asia, disrupting a traditional trillion-dollar industry, and backed by some of the world’s leading VCs and prominent angel investors.
Homebase’s recent $30-million investment in equity and debt from Y Combinator, Goodwater Capital, and other investors was aimed to fund the development of its proprietary technology, launch additional partnerships with real estate developers and agents, and increase its talent base.