THE ASCENT vol. 7: Startup hiring mindset - Family v. Sports team

Top: founders & representatives from local banks & other FIs at AVV's fintech social.
Bottom: Binh & Dug Song, Chief Strategy Officer, Cisco Security at 42 Geeks.

Hello everyone,

Amidst a global recession, experts remain optimistic about Vietnam’s trajectory – the IMF has raised its economic growth forecast for Vietnam from 6% to 7%, expecting the country to “buck Asia’s weakening growth trend. The domestic retail market continues to recover, with total sales in July growing over 42% y-o-y. Vietnam is also actively reinforcing its positioning in the global value chain, observing a trade surplus in the first 8 months of this year and welcoming more major tech manufacturers setting up production here. However, the government and local businesses alike must remain vigilant in the face of currency volatility, weaker global demand for goods, and labor shortages across multiple key factors.

In the last couple of months, the tech scene in Vietnam continues to be lively with a lot of activities across various sectors and stages, from ride-hailing to edtech, and from pre-seed to exit (see highlights in Vietnam Tech in the News.) As such, our team has been kept busy as well. Our investment manager, Sohun Bae, spoke about hiring mindsets and best practices for startups in a webinar series (more on this in this volume’s Spotlight section.) We also organized and participated in an array of events and activities to share learnings and build founder-focused communities, including a social for fintech startups and financial institutions, a series of talks and events in HCMC for a group of international investors, and continued training and mentoring for women founders. Check out AVV in Action for more info on these past activities and learn where to catch us in the coming months.

Until next time,

The Ascent

Vietnam Tech in the News

1. Vietnam attracts more tech giants. After iPads and Airpods, Apple is now looking to produce more flagship products like Apple Watches and Macbooks in Vietnam. Per Nikkei Asia’s reporting, Apple is not the only one, as Google, Dell, and Amazon have also set up production here. The interest goes beyond manufacturing because many firms also designate Vietnam as an R&D destination, including Samsung, Qualcomm, Grab, and LG.

2. Local ride hailer tops up to compete with Grab. Be Group recently secured a loan facility of at least $60M from Deutsche Bank to continue deepening its presence in Vietnam. The loan could be extended to up to $100M and is intended to help Be expand businesses including ride-hailing, food deliveries, and digital banking. With Vietnam’s ride-hailing market growing at 28% CAGR in the next 5 years, the battle between locals like Be and regional players like Grab and Gojek will continue to be fierce.

3. Edtech on the rise. Over the last few weeks, we have seen some exciting movements in the edtech space. Vuihoc, a K12 online education platform just closed a $2M pre-Series A round led by Ant Group-backed BAce Capital, while another digital learning player, Edupia, raised a $14M Series A led by Jungle Ventures. Virtual Internships, a 500VN portfolio company, also announced a $14.3M Series A led by Hambro Perks with participation from Sequoia, AVV, and others. Early-stage deals aside, English language & life skills tutoring platform Schola was acquired by Indian edtech firm BrightChamps (this is also a win for 500 Startups Vietnam as it marks the fund’s 8th cash exit.)

Similar to other markets, Vietnam saw a significant jump in online education demand in the last couple of years induced by COVID. As normalcy is resumed, we look forward to seeing how local edtech startups continue to innovate and remain an integral part of the learning and teaching experience in Vietnam and beyond.

4. Early-stage funding news in other sectors. In fintech, EWA startup Nano Technologies raised a $6.4M pre-Series A round led by Openspace, and Tititada, a new investment app, bagged $1.5M in a pre-seed round led by Golden Gate. In healthtech, telemedicine app Medici raised an $8.5M Series A led by Jungle Ventures.

5. LP view: Ho Chi Minh City, a major startup hub in SEA. Curious how LPs perceive investment opportunities in Southeast Asia in general and in Vietnam in particular? Check out this DealStreetAsia interview with Dave Richards, Managing Partner of US-based fund-of-funds Capria Ventures. In the article, Dave shares his perspectives on how Ho Chi Minh City “is emerging as the third major startup hub in SE Asia after Jakarta and Singapore.” Disclaimer: Capria Ventures is an LP of our AVV Alpha seed fund.

6. Vietnam continues to rank 1st in cryptocurrency adoption. For the second consecutive year, the 2022 Global Crypto Adoption Index by Chainalysis puts Vietnam in the top spot globally for crypto adoption, noting that “Vietnam shows extremely high purchasing power and population-adjusted adoption across centralized, DeFi, and P2P cryptocurrency tools.”


Startup hiring mindset: Family v. Sports team

AVV Investment Manager Sohun Bae speaking in a hiring webinar

“Family” is a commonly used comparison for early-stage founders and organization leaders when referring to their teams. While it is endearing and fosters a sense of closeness, this mindset can also set founders up for behaviors that might lead to failure. In a webinar on hiring, our Investment Manager Sohun Bae reiterates an alternative mindset of treating a startup team more like a sports team, an idea made popular by Netflix.

From his own experience building teams at world-class tech companies like Google and Bytedance (Tiktok), Sohun emphasizes the importance of having this alternative thinking lens. While families are synonymous with unconditional love, sports teams are created and organized to win championships. This fundamental difference naturally leads to performance-oriented behaviors and decision-making that lead the team to realize its full potential. The sports team mindset would allow founders and other organization leaders to prioritize hiring (arguably the most important People function,) make tough but right decisions for the company’s growth, and build more structure around their hiring practices to objectively assess candidates.

If you’re looking to build a winning team, check out our write-up and the full webinar below.


AVV in Action

1. AVV fintech social. As part of our effort to build a community for founders, in late August, our portfolio success team piloted a social dinner for fintech startup founders and banks as well as other financial institutions. We were delighted to see that the event was able to create an open space for like-minded fintech innovators and decision-makers to connect and discuss potential collaborations. The event was very well received, and we plan to continue facilitating events like this for our portfolio companies and partners.

Telling the Vietnam tech story to international audiences. We were the Saigon hosts for 42 Geeks, an invite-only four-city tour of SE Asia where investors, entrepreneurs, and executives learned about the tech ecosystem and investment opportunities. Over 40 members of the group came to us, and we put together panels and events to showcase the best of the city. Our GP Binh Tran also spoke at a meetup by Overseas Vietnamese, where he, alongside speakers from McKinsey and Vietcetera, shared perspectives about technology trends and opportunities here with 200+ guests from around the world.

Photos from 42 Geeks: left - Binh with Dug Song, Chief Strategy Officer, Cisco Security; right - Web3 in Vietnam panel

3. Continued support of woman founders. Our work to provide women founders with training, mentorship, and community support continues after the SHINE Women in Tech gala in June. In late July, we organized Negotiations training and a social brunch for select SHINE women founders and executives. AVV, represented by Sr. Investment Manager Thao Nguyen, also returned as a mentor in Cocoon Capital’s Female Founders Mentoring Hours (7th edition.) If you want to team up with us to champion enterprising women in Vietnam, do reach out!

"Shiny" founders with Eddie, Hau & Mimi from AVV at social brunch.

4. Our priority sectors. With our new seed fund AVV Alpha, we have been exploring a broad range of tech opportunities including but not limited to those in financial inclusion, education, blockchain, and future of work. If you are an early-stage startup founder looking for funding and interested in chatting with AVV, check out this Technode Global feature to learn more about our investment appetite and contact us to get the conversation going.

5. Beyond GameFi, what’s next for Vietnam’s tech ecosystem. On Sep 22, at the Tech in Asia Conference 2022, our GP Binh Tran spoke about the future of Vietnam's tech ecosystem beyond GameFi. After the panel, Binh shared, "After years of Zoom calls, I think we all needed more in-person connecting. Thankfully Singapore delivered as it is absolutely buzzing these next few days, hosting SuperReturn, Tech in Asia, Token2049, DealStreetAsia, and F1. Thank you Tech in Asia and fellow speakers for the opportunity to share my observations and hopes for the growing tech ecosystem in Vietnam."

6. Interested in catching up with us? We are participating in several startup events in Vietnam and the region in the coming weeks. Check out some of them below and feel free to reach out for a chat –

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