Singaporean startup innovations push through across Vietnamese landscape

August 11, 2021 | 14:00
The city-state of Singapore is forging an even stronger connection with Vietnam in entrepreneurship as more Singaporean startups and venture capital funds ramp up a Vietnamese presence.
Singaporean startup innovations push through across Vietnamese landscape
Singaporean startup innovations push through across Vietnamese landscape

Antler is one of the newest venture capital funds from Singapore to make its foray into Vietnam this year. The fund is targeting to launch its first programme in Ho Chi Minh City before the end of the year, with a view to creating 8-10 companies in this first cohort. The fund will increase the figure successively as it grows its footprint in the country.

Partner at Antler Vietnam, Erik Jonsson, told VIR, “Vietnam boasts very alluring demographics with a young and technically apt population and a large addressable market, as well as an economy that goes from strength to strength with many attractive industries for Singaporean startups and funds to target.”

One example is Antler’s portfolio company Homebase, founded by two young and talented entrepreneurs out of Singapore that chose Vietnam as their launch market. Many Singaporean startups will take the same path as Homebase and apply their education and expertise in the exciting marketplace that is Vietnam.

“Whilst Singapore is a very developed market, Vietnam offers many greenfield opportunities and a scale that few other geographies in the region can match,” Jonsson added. “Vietnam is forging its status as a regional tech hub and we will see more and more inflow of capital from Singaporean funds that want to take part of the growth story, from early-stage investments to large tickets. Singaporean startups and funds can both help the Vietnamese ecosystem develop further by helping bring it to a higher international standard with regards to the talent pool, technology, and governance.”

Like Antler, many Singaporean funds have been increasing presence in the country over the past few years including the likes of BEENEXT Capital Management, Openspace Ventures, Wavemaker Partners, Golden Gate Ventures, and Quest Ventures. Prominent Singaporean startups operating in Vietnam also include Shopee, Grab, and ShopBack. While Shopee and Grab have secured a stronger footprint in the country, ShopBack has just celebrated one year of operations in the country.

Startups are attracted by the sheer market potential of Vietnam’s young population and the rising incomes of the middle class. In the latest PwC report on Vietnam Digital Readiness, more than 80 per cent of Vietnamese surveyed desire to be digitally savvy and are receptive to the impact of technology in their job prospects. More than half are upgrading their technical skills to stay relevant or to become more proficient in adopting technologies. The respondents were largely young adults and graduates who reflected that it is the responsibility of the individuals to reskill and upskill.

“This comes as no surprise that Vietnam has one of the highest IT literacy in the Southeast Asian region, priming it to be a good hunting ground to hire tech talents. The combination of such factors elevates Vietnam as a rising choice of market expansion plans for businesses, right behind Indonesia,” said Lim Boon Chow, a representative of NINJA Accelerator – a global startup innovation initiative sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The Vietnamese government since 2018 has incentivised the investment landscape through policies and legally recognised “Startup Investing Activities”. Funding procedures have been simplified thanks to Decree No.38/2018/ND-CP and Decree No.31/2021/ND-CP, and the same procedures apply to both foreign and domestic investors.

Meanwhile, Singapore and Vietnam have launched several initiatives to bolster the development of Vietnam’s startup ecosystem. Enterprise Singapore expanded the Global Innovation Alliance network to Ho Chi Minh City in mid-2019. It provides an entry point for Singaporean startups and smaller enterprises to connect with the local innovation and business community in Vietnam.

Vietnamese startups can leverage Singapore’s established innovation ecosystem and connect with multinational corporations and leading Asian enterprises based in Singapore to scale their businesses further.

Meanwhile, Chow noted that a 3-month NINJA Accelerator startup programme had its inaugural launch in August last year.

The programme was a collaborative effort with NTUitive Pte., Ltd., the Innovation and Enterprise Company of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Vietnamese partners like Saigon Innovation Hub; Information Technology Park; and Saigon Hi-tech Park Incubation Center. The initiative aims to groom local Vietnamese startups from formation to validation and to raise funds for growth and regional expansion.

Xperx AI, the winning startup in the proramme, reached $2.7 million in the virtual NTUit.io Investment Game. The startup acceleration model of NINJA Accelerator will continue to be expanded in Vietnam through a partnership network, including creative innovation ecosystem, startup incubator, and training units within the country.

Chow said that Singapore and Vietnam startups can benefit from one another through their connection with talent, ideas, technologies, and market access channels.

“With Vietnam’s rapidly-growing startup ecosystem, we see room for Singapore’s tech companies and startups to tap into this vibrant ecosystem to co-innovate and offer their solutions,” Chow stated.

By Olivia Bui

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional