500 Startups launches $10m fund for Vietnam

When 500 Startups founding partner Dave McClure excitably tweeted this week that he was on a flight to Vietnam, we knew something was up.

Today, the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm announced it set up a US$10 million microfund for Vietnam, a country it’s very bullish about.

The move wasn’t a surprise though; talks about it surfaced last year.

The microfund will aim to make 100 to 150 investments in Vietnamese startups, 500 Startups says on its site.

“We believe there are many interesting near-term investment opportunities in B2B and enterprise SaaS, fintech, and ecommerce, but ultimately we are ‘vertical agnostic, returns religious,’” the company notes.

Vietnam, home to the smash-hit game Flappy Bird, is one of the world’s – and also Apple’s – fastest-growing markets that’s underserved by seed-stage VC firms. With a population of 90 million, the country has more people than California, New York, and Florida combined, and more than 40 million of them are on the internet. These are the reasons cited by 500 Startups on why it has set its sights on it.

Investing in the brightest

The fund for Vietnam will be led by venture partners Binh Tran and Eddie Thai. Both have Vietnamese roots, but have spent significant time in the US.

Binh is a San Francisco-based technologist and four-time founder with 20-plus years of experience. His most recent win was Klout, a startup that pioneered influencer marketing and was acquired in 2014 at a US$200 million valuation.

Eddie, who studied at Yale and Harvard, has 6-plus years of experience in strategy and finance, working for companies – from startups to Fortune 500 corporations – in a wide range of industries.

500 Startups already invested in several Vietnam-connected companies, including those with Vietnamese founders such as beauty startup Ipsy, social photography app Lightbox, and social intelligence platform DataRank. Others include those operating out of Vietnam like language pronunciation training app Elsa, ticketing platform Ticketbox, and hyper local social networking app Tappy (acquired by Weeby).

“Vietnam is a vibrant and growing country, with many talented entrepreneurs and engineers. 500 Startups plans to work together with Vietnamese investors and the local tech community to build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem,” concludes Dave. “Eddie and Binh are experienced operators who combine Silicon Valley know-how with Vietnamese hustle, and they are going to invest aggressively in the best and brightest founders all over the country.”

This article by Judith Balea originally appeared on Tech in Asia, a Burn Media publishing partner.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr.



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