After its much-talked-about listing on the local Unlisted Public Company Market (UPCoM) last week, VNG is now galloping toward an official IPO in the US — a bold move that deservedly put it in Nikkei Asia’s 10 Asian companies to watch in 2023.
Borrowing from its Chinese investor, the Tencent-backed startup has become one of Southeast Asia’s rising tech stars, offering services from gaming, messaging, and mobile payments to AI products and cloud computing, the Japan-based business media outlet wrote.
The tech company, founded in 2004 by Australian-educated Le Hong Minh, started out as an online game publisher and was then called VinaGame. Two years later, it began to develop web products, including Zing, that covered information, connection, and entertainment to users in its home country.
It was the birth of Zalo in 2012 that catapulted VNG to the top, at a time when Vietnam’s tech startup ecosystem was still too small to gain international recognition. Zalo is now the country’s most-used messaging app, even overtaking Facebook Messenger in 2020. With over 74 million active users in its home market, the app is VNG’s biggest success story.
By 2014, VNG became Vietnam’s first startup unicorn – a label used for startups with at least $1 billion valuation. VNG’s feat helped put the spotlight on the country and its potential to become a regional startup hub.
“We are proud about the fact that we openly competed with the best in the world,” Minh told Bloomberg in December. “We were able to build a dominant product because of our product strength and ability to understand users.”
Before 2022 ended, VNG opened its new data center in Ho Chi Minh City, which will provide uptime infrastructure for all digital service platforms, secure data storage, and proprietary cloud solutions and complement the company’s existing cloud services.
The company’s cash cow business has expanded to other Asian markets, where it competes with the likes of Sea, a Singapore-based consumer internet company. With users in more than 130 countries, VNG is setting its sights on reaching 320 million customers globally this year.
After defending its position in Vietnam from other tech giants and growing its presence regionally, “VNG wants to accelerate its international expansion — which a US market debut would facilitate,” Nikkei Asia wrote.
The media outlet’s list of 10 Asian companies to watch this year also included China’s electric vehicle maker BYD, commercial aircraft corporation COMAC and social media platform Xiaohongshu, Indonesia's integrated energy company Indika, Japan’s chipmaker Rohm and motor manufacturer Nidec, Hong Kong’s digital wealth management platform Aqumon, India’s largest vaccine maker Serum Institute, and Taiwan’s semiconductor company UMC.
Having survived back-to-back-to-back setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, turbulent territorial disputes, and global economic inflation, these companies — all of them already the most-watched enterprises in their home countries — are bound to shake up global markets in 2023.