Female entrepreneurs take Saigon crowdfunding event by storm

By Truong Sanh   April 27, 2017 | 05:54 pm GMT+7

Thousands of dollars and hours of free consultancy were offered to six startups following stellar presentations on Tuesday.

Six Vietnamese startups made strong impressions at a crowdfunding event in Ho Chi Minh City this week, highlighting the role of women in business management and grabbing the attention of experts among the 200-strong audience who later pledged funds and support for their projects.

Crowdfunding is not a new thing, but events to promote startups founded by women like the one in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday are few and far between.

Mouna Aouri, the founder of Woomentum which organized the event, said the lack of women in business management positions is a global matter.

“We want to build a bridge to help women’s startups acquire what they need to develop their businesses. Our message is that you can do everything,” Aouri said to open the CrowdFundHer Live event on Tuesday.

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The CrowdFundHer Live event in Ho Chi Minh City drew nearly 200 people on Tuesday.

Each of the six startups had four minutes to introduce themselves and then eight minutes for a discussion with the panel – Michael Blakey, managing partner of Cocoon Capital and one of the most experienced investors in the U.K. startup scene; Violet Lim, CEO of dating app Lunch Actually; Adrian Tan, director of the Vietnam Innovative Startup Accelerator; and Nguyen Ngoc Dung, vice president of the Vietnam E-Commerce Association.

CricketOne, an agriculture technology business which is about cricket-based protein production, opened the event, followed by DropDeck, Giki!, Fastsell, Phleek and Rudicaf.

Nguyen Hong Ngoc Bich from CricketOne said had taken part in a crowdfunding event before and that experience had helped to prepare for this event.

“Through this project, I want to show that Vietnamese women can be very strong in business,” Bich said.

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Nguyen Thi Ngoc Bich from CricketOne introduces the protein production app.

Among the other apps, DropDeck is a web platform that helps investors source and evaluate startups in the fastest and most informed way. Giki! is a language tool which helps learners memorize difficult English words using techniques from Cambridge’s memory and linguistics experts, and Fastsell is a new option for e-commerce, allowing users to list, discover and buy things from people around them quickly and securely.

Giki! founder Pham Thi Khanh Linh graduated in psychology with a focus on memory studies from the University of Cambridge. The young entrepreneur said Woomentum’s enthusiastic team had given her the energy to ace her presentation.

Phleek is Vietnam’s first personal styling app which analyzes users’ fashion choices before connecting them to their own personal stylist. The team said it needs money to expand the platform beyond Facebook.

Rudicaf is a dating app for a special group of users. Members have to prove they have a university education, a high income and that they are single. They also have to pay a membership of $500-1,000 a year.

The discussions between the startups and the guests offered diverse points of views about the problems they would face and how to attract investors as well as users. Michael Blakey said each investor covered a different sector and had a different interest.

“You can listen to all the comments and advice, but you need to focus on the one who shares your vision. Don’t ever get distracted from your goal and the things you have set as the most important in your project,” he said.

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Guests at the event share their experiences.

Participants at the event were invited to support the startups with money or by sharing with them experience or expertise.

Dung from the e-commerce association said he would spend two to three hours with each startup to provide legal advice. Lim said she would welcome any of them in Singapore.

The startups made a big impression on the audience. Do Thi Bich Van from Ho Chi Minh City said the apps perfectly reflect new technology trends. “Their ideas are not new, but challenges always linger. The puzzle that every startup needs to solve is to find qualified people to work closely together to execute the idea.”

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The startups receive grants and other support at the event.

As the event closed, grants were pledged to the startups. Fastsell received VND50 million ($2,200) from Mat Bao Corporation, which also granted VND20 million to Rbothudicaf and Phleek, and VND10 million a piece to the remaining three. Vietnam Innovative Startup Accelerator granted $5,000 to both CricketOne and DropDeck.

Dreamplex, which hosted the event, offered Fastsell and DropDeck one month free use of its office, and two months to Giki!, while Phleek received two hours of legal consultancy from Baker McKenzie.

Woomentum gave Rudicaf $2,000 and $1,000 to the other apps.

Woomentum has organized four similar events in Singapore which drew major organizations such as Bloomberg, Google and the Hub Singapore. The events attracted more than 600 participants and raised $143,000 for 23 startups.

Hoang Ngoc Anh, cofounder of the platform in Vietnam, was in charge of the Ho Chi Minh City event, which also received support from Vietnam Catering, Cello Coffee, First Aviation Corner and organizations units.