500 Startups adds $14m to its Vietnam fund amidst a booming startup market

500 Startups Vietnam will bring 500 Startups’ Silicon Valley accelerator curriculum to Vietnam in 2019 with Korean multimedia retailer GS Shop.

Photo from 500 Vietnam's website.

Silicon Valley-based venture capital fund 500 Startups has recently raised US$14 million for 500 Startups Vietnam, its micro-fund focused on Vietnam-based startups or companies targeting the Vietnamese market. Now it wants to nurture more startups by launching its accelerator program in the country in 2019.

In a statement, 500 Startups Vietnam said it has partnered with Korean multimedia retailer GS Shop to launch the Saola Accelerator, a program named after the rare Vietnamese deer Saola, also known as the Asian unicorn, to support Vietnamese startups.

The partnership also calls for GS Shop to match 500 Startups Vietnam’s investment in select batch companies, bringing the potential investment per company to up to US$200,000.

GS Shop and 500 Startups have had a close relationship for years, with investments and collaborations spanning from Korea to the US and the Middle East.

Under the accelerator program, the participating startups will not only receive the financial investment, they will also get access to more than US$500,000 worth of free perks and discounts from twenty 500 Startups partners, including Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft.

The program targets startups that are tech or tech-enabled, Vietnam connected, and have meaningful traction. The companies must also serve the Vietnam market, have a Vietnamese co-founder, or have a substantial portion of the team in Vietnam.

“We’ve learned a lot from working with 1,000 companies in more than 40 growth program batches around the world. We’re excited to bring that experience to Vietnam,” said Marvin Liao, Partner at 500 Startups and head of its flagship accelerator program in San Francisco.

500 Startups’ flagship accelerator has been ranked Top 3  in the US by notable publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. 500 Startups has also been running growth programs in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

“The Saola Accelerator is 500’s latest step in its mission to back talented entrepreneurs anywhere, help them build companies at scale, and develop thriving startup ecosystems around the world,” the venture capital firm said.

Beyond providing capital, the program will include the signature Growth Hell Week plus hands-on support for growth. During GHW, founders aren’t just going to learn some marketing stuff – “they’re going to eat, sleep, and breathe growth”.

The program will conclude with a Demo Day, where the companies will demonstrate their progress to an invite-only audience of regional investors.

“We believe Vietnam’s existing incubators and accelerators have played an important role in nurturing startups in their earliest stages. Our program is aimed at companies ready to break out and become Asian unicorns – saolas,” Eddie Thai, a lead partner of 500 Startups Vietnam, said.

Last month, 500 Startups closed its Vietnam fund at US$14 million, higher than its original hard cap of $10 million, with 19 investors. The fund was launched in 2016.

“When we set the target at US$10 million in 2016, Vietnam was not an obvious tech investment destination. The country was poor, fraught with bureaucracy, and struggling to create a startup ecosystem. We wouldn’t have been here without all the support from the friends, mentors, founders, and partners we met along the way,” the firm said in its December newsletter.

Editor: Ben Jiang