Under The Influence: Hiip CEO Phi Nguyen On How Vietnam’s Start-Ups Can Go Regional | Vietcetera
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Under The Influence: Hiip CEO Phi Nguyen On How Vietnam’s Start-Ups Can Go Regional

Phi Nguyen shares the value HIIP adds to the market, their strategies, and his advice for Vietnamese companies looking to go regional.

Source: Co Nguyen for Vietcetera

Influencer marketing has exploded over the last few years to match the increasing competition in the media industry. More firms are offering their expertise to help make the process of working with influencers simpler for brands. 

Finding the right people to work with, managing campaigns, and measuring success (or failure) are all important tasks. But that doesn’t mean they have to make big demands on your time. That’s what Hiip Asia is here to help with. 

As the leading influencer platform in Southeast Asia, Hiip was started in 2015 by CEO Phi Nguyen, his high school friend and Hiip’s CTO Elon Nguyen, and chairman Eric Rosenkranz. Using advanced technology, Hiip connects brands and advertisers with social media influencers: from indie artists to beauty bloggers. 

Having helped over 500 brands and 10,000 influencers build and maintain their professional careers and relationship with consumers in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand, Hiip is on the pursuit to become truly regional. Investors seem impressed. To date, the start-up has raised 6 rounds with participation of Vnet Capital, Japan Strategic Capital, Vulpes Investment Management, 500 startups, Cocoon Capital and Expara Ventures. 

We sat down with Phi Nguyen to hear about the value the AI-empowered influencer marketing service adds to the market, their strategy behind becoming the leading influencer platform in SEA, and his advice for Vietnamese companies looking to go regional.

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Using advanced technology, Hiip connects brands and advertisers with social media influencers: from indie artists to beauty bloggers. | Source: Co Nguyen for Vietcetera

What problem is Hiip looking to solve in the market?

Our influencer marketing platform has two sides: customers, such as brands and advertisers, and influencers – i.e. content creators who have at least 5,000 followers and are dedicated to their work. Hiip’s role is to act as a middleman connecting the two sides: brands get a platform to promote their products or services on while influencers get to monetize their content. 

Whether you are running a coffee shop or a FMCG brand, you can benefit from working with influencers. Submit a brief describing your business goals through our website and the team will respond with a list of suitable influencers, including their bios, fanbase profile, disciplines and spheres of influence.

The algorithm takes into account your brand’s identity as well as campaign goals and timing before making recommendations. After the client decides on the influencer, fees are negotiated and content is finalized and shared. The last step is for us to measure the results of the campaign by looking at how each influencer performed. 

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Hiip’s role is to act as a middleman connecting the two sides: brands get a platform to promote their products or services on while influencers get to monetize their content. | Source: Co Nguyen for Vietcetera

Where does Vietnam stand compared to other SEA markets in terms of growth?

In the eyes of other countries, Vietnam’s economy is still underdeveloped. This makes it extremely difficult for Vietnamese companies, even the established ones, to expand regionally. And sometimes we simply don’t dare to go regional or we don’t know where to begin.

When you look at other SEA markets, Singapore and Malaysia lead in economic development, the Philippines in customer service, and the markets of Indonesia and Thailand are very dynamic, not to mention large. Vietnam’s advantage is its huge talent pool of quality software engineers and developers. We build quickly and keep costs low. Hiip was the first in our industry to go regional and while competition has since increased, we have been able to retain our edge by taking advantage of the technological resources Vietnam has to offer.

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Vietnam’s advantage is its huge talent pool of quality software engineers and developers. We build quickly and keep costs low. | Source: Co Nguyen for Vietcetera

What is your strategy in terms of regional expansion? 

It’s very important to build relationships and network with people in the industry. It was how we won in Vietnam. However, in the context of regional expansion, this advantage actually becomes a disadvantage. When you come to a new country, you’re not familiar with the local players or the market dynamics.

You have to rely a lot on local practices and people. But when the best talent already works for the top companies, why should they choose to join a small-to-medium sized company like ours? And if we can’t attract top talent, how can we hope to compete with large companies run by local founders? 

But then some of these talents take a different path: they become founders. So our strategy is to acquire and merge with them to become a leading regional company in this field. We inject our technology, our regional know-how, and our money. And within a year, we’re able to triple their revenue; that’s what we did in Indonesia.  

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Some of the best talents take a different path: they become founders. So our strategy is to merge with them as they typically have a stronger need for data analytics. | Source: Co Nguyen for Vietcetera

What is your advice for companies looking to expand regionally, or even globally? 

My first advice is to have a strong vision. Not just a nice story to sell and to raise funds, but a real ambition. Secondly, work with people with experience in the field. One of Hiip’s co-founders used to be the CEO of ASIA CEO, one of the world’s top five advertising groups and was able to advise us on regional expansion. Continue searching for the right people until you find them. 

What's next for Hiip?

We started by studying the market, launched in 2015 and became the first influencer marketing platform in Vietnam by 2016. Within the next three years, we became a leader in our industry in Vietnam, expanded to Thailand and acquired the largest female influencer network in Indonesia.

Next is entering the markets of the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. Our goal is to become the leading provider of influencer technology in SEA.

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