There’s always that time honored cliché in startup communities across the world, “There’s not enough money for startups!”, people cry out. And on the other side, some investors cry out ”I’m not getting enough deal flow!” But I remember what Dave McClure said to an investor at our Meetup in Thailand in June (you can catch the whole video on tape here):
It’s mathematically impossible for there to be no good startups for investors to find. There’s just way too many smart people out there for that not to be possible. You’re just not working hard enough.
Well, these same complaints and cries have been ringing out across Vietnam, and Dave’s advice falls on deaf ears. That is, until you look at the hard data from Topica. According to Pham Minh Tuan, founder and CEO at Topica, the online education platform and virtual incubator up in Hanoi:
There were 13 deals closed in the first half of 2013, compared to 24 in the whole of 2012, and 11 during previous year 2011, suggesting investment activities did not slow down. Deal sizes are getting smaller, although this is arguably part of a global trend: more seed and micro-VC funding, and a series A crunch.
In other words, the investment cycle in Vietnam is still very healthy and most of the complaints from startups are misplaced. They fail to see the bigger picture. Tuan’s presentation, which you can find in full below, outlines a few other key factors worth noting in Vietnam’s surprisingly healthy ecosystem. Among these tidbits are some success stories that Vietnamese startups ought to look up to:
- In 2013, VNG’s founder, Le Hong Minh is estimated to be worth over $45 million today
- Q1 2013 had three small exits including Vietnamworks, Kiemviec.vn, and NganLuong
- In 2011, Vat Gia, Vietnam’s biggest e-commerce site is rumored to be valuated at $75 million
- In 2011, NTT-Docomo bought a 25 percent stake in VMG Media, valuing the company at $75 million
- In 2011, DeNA acquired Punch Entertainment at $37 million
Whether or not these numbers (some based on rumor) are accurate remains to be seen. But the most interesting and compelling fact is that the 13 deals of 2013 are actually more driven by European and American investors rather than Singaporean and Vietnamese ones. That means the tide of foreign investment in Vietnam is slowly shifting, which could be good news. If the pace sustains, we might be looking at a very healthy handful of startups entering 2014.
(Editing by Steven Millward)