Unicorns scarce in Vietnam’s bustling startup scene

By Pham Van   June 12, 2019 | 05:20 am PT
Unicorns scarce in Vietnam’s bustling startup scene
Vietnamese startups raised $889 million in 92 major deals in 2018, according to TFI. Photo by VnExpress.
Vietnam’s bustling startup scene has just one unicorn, defined as a privately-owned startup company worth at least $1 billion.

VNG Corporation, which specializes in digital content, online entertainment, social networking, and other IT fields, is the country’s only startup worth over $1 billion.  

Pham Nam Long, CEO of Abivin, a logistics startup, said one weakness of Vietnamese startups is lack of perseverance. "Vietnamese entrepreneurs often think short-term, they invest and want to see results in one or two years, while building a business can take 7-10 years."

Long said the first two years will be a very difficult period for startups, discouraging many founders and making them uncertain about continuing. Financial depletion is also a big cause of collapse.  

"The success of a startup depends not only on money, but also the experience and support provided by investment funds," he told a venture investment forum in Hanoi early this week.

Vinnie Lauria, the founder of Singpore's Golden Gate Ventures, said startups must have "crazy, different" ideas to succeed. 

With any startup, a "warrior spirit" to come up and run with crazy ideas is the first thing one should have, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam told the forum that startups should not put limitations on themselves on "what is right or wrong", but come up with new, different and even crazy ideas and create conditions for those ideas to be fostered.

A report released in January by Topica Founder Institute (TFI), a startup accelerator program in Vietnam and Thailand, said Vietnamese startups received a combined $889 million through 92 investment deals in 2018.

This was three times the mount this community received in 2017 with the same number of deals, and six times that in 2016, according to TFI.

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