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Startups are excited about accessing the hottest economy of Southeast Asia: Q&A with Quest Ventures’ Michelle Ng

Written by Georg Ackermann Published on 

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Vietnam, with its young and tech-savvy population, is part of Enterprise Singapore’s Global Innovation Alliance network.

“Vietnam’s startup scene is now moving into the globalization stage.” Quest Ventures’ managing partner James Tan told the audience at Enterprise Singapore’s first SG Innovation Community Day that companies of the young and dynamic country are now looking for global scale. Quest Ventures partnered with Enterprise Singapore in the “Global Innovation Alliance” to connect Southeast Asian startups with the ecosystem in Vietnam.

At the event, Tan introduced Quest’s Vietnam Global Innovation (VGI) program for post-seed and Series A-stage startups. Michelle Ng, Senior Associate of Quest Ventures, is shedding some more light on the initiative responding to KrASIA’s questions.

KrASIA (Kr): You just kicked off your acceleration program for post-seed and Series A-stage startups in the Vietnamese market. What excites Quest Ventures about Vietnam? Why should the startups be excited?

Michelle Ng (MN): Vietnam is one of the most dynamic emerging economies in Southeast Asia. Its robust economy is supported by strong domestic demand and an export-oriented manufacturing sector. It has a population of 100 million with 70% below the age of 35. It has an emerging middle class that stands at 13% and is expected to reach 26% within ten years.

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A tech-savvy population coupled with a propensity to spend provides many opportunities and challenges to solve for tech startups expanding in the region. Startups are excited about accessing the hottest economy of Southeast Asia, one of the fastest growing digital economies, with opportunities for startups in the e-commerce, software outsourcing, AI, fintech, and healthtech space.

Kr: Who can apply?

MN: Quest Ventures is looking for all tech startups and SMEs which (1) have an MVP, with existing customers and partners; (2) are at seed stage and beyond in terms of funding raised; (3) are strong in MAU, GMV, or revenue traction and (4) have the potential to address market needs in Vietnam and the region.

Kr: Please guide us through the program that the selected startups will run through. What can they expect and what are pitfalls they should prepare for?

MN: Quest Ventures supports startups through a wide network of mentors and domain experts. Startups will also have access to high quality and comprehensive online training module topics, and—if global health situation allows—an in-market immersion in Vietnam to maximize exposure and establish long-term partnerships between startups and ecosystem players. In our experience managing market access programs, the most common pitfall is a lack of understanding of the market, followed by a lack of support network. The VGI changes these dynamics and places startups on better footing to begin their exploration of the market.

Kr: Many e-commerce startups have been very successful during the pandemic. Aside from e-commerce, do you see any other sectors that might offer promising products for the Vietnamese market and why?

MN: We see excitement in sectors such as logistics and supply chain. These are also closely linked to the digital economy which we focus on. Examples include PostCo that Quest Ventures introduced to the Vietnam market. They have partnered with Sendo, one of the big four marketplaces in Vietnam, and even during COVID-19, are on track to outperform.

Kr: At the event you mentioned that you were still looking for strong partners out of Singapore for this program. Who can be a partner? How can they help and what are the benefits?

MN: Quest Ventures is looking for corporations and individuals who are key in driving entrepreneurship and innovation in Vietnam. They can help by working with our highly innovative startups to bring them into Vietnam through mutually beneficial partnerships. Benefits to them would be to be plugged into the Southeast Asian startup ecosystem and innovation.

KrASIA is a media partner of the SG Innovation Community Day.

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