Japan eyes Vietnamese IT startups

14:00 | 25/01/2018

Vietnam’s startup ecosystem is on the radar of Japanese firms wishing to co-operate with Vietnamese startups and calling for capital from Japan’s funds to develop novel ideas.

Several Japanese firms are looking to broker co-operation deals with Vietnamese startups Photo: Le Toan

Hiroyuki Ono, partner of Japan’s ACA Investments Pte Ltd., came to Hanoi last week in search of opportunities to co-operate with local startups and enterprises which ambitiously turn novel ideas into successful businesses.

ACA Investments is specialised in managing investment funds of listed companies in specific industries and offering investment-related services such as advisory services for mergers and acquisitions.

“ACA Investments has invested in four firms in Vietnam and we are looking for more to expand our presence in the country,” Ono said. The four firms are Viet Thanh Technology Corporation (invested in March 2014), Cat Dong Trading and Service JSC (March 2015), BBM Investment JSC (August 2016), and SonKim Land Corporation (January 2017).

Last week, Ono attended Navigate Hanoi, a business-to-business meeting between almost 20 Japanese and Vietnamese technology startups and enterprises.

According to Hironobu Kitagawa, chief representative of the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) in Hanoi, many Japanese startups and firms are coming to Vietnam to look for Vietnamese startups in order to implement their novel ideas. They then call for investment capital from funds, including Japanese ones.

JETRO is connecting technological firms from both countries and wants to introduce Japanese modern technology in Vietnam.

“Japanese firms’ investments in Vietnam have long been focused on the IT industry. Vietnam is full of

potential for startup development, especially in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Co-operation in the startup sector between the two countries will lead to new opportunities,” Kitagawa said.

As an example, Konami Saito, representative of Interspace Vietnam Co., Ltd., said that Interspace, whose total revenue reached about $250 million last year, is seeking opportunities to expand its presence in Vietnam by investing in local startups or tech firms.

Interspace Vietnam is a joint venture established in 2015 by Interspace Japan and MOG Vietnam. Interspace is a leading company in affiliate marketing, with its main marketing platform Accesstrade – one of the largest affiliate platforms in Asia – hitting the market in Japan in 2001.

“We have signed contracts with hundreds of enterprises in need of our services in Vietnam. Vietnam has enormous potential for developing IT, with 45 per cent of its population using the internet, 70 per cent of whom use it to search for inform ation,” Saito said.

In another case, Japan’s Lockon Co., Ltd. is also seeking Vietnamese partners, including startups and operational firms, for its overseas market expansion plan.

“We are looking for new business ideas in Vietnam and want to co-operate with local firms. We currently provide online technology services for many Japanese clients, including Internet advertising and software related to e-commerce,” said a Lockon representative. “We have two products in first position in their respective markets in Japan.”

Many other Japanese firms, like Scuti, also see great potential for investment and business in Vietnam.

“We provide web services that can change lives in Southeast Asia. In order to make a big impact on the ASEAN market, we are organising a tech team in Vietnam,” said a representative of Scuti, established in 2015.

Japan’s investment consultancy firm B&Company Inc. forecast that a wave of Japanese IT firms will hit Vietnam in the wake of more and more Japanese firms rushing into the country for investment and business. B&Company supports many Japanese firms in entering the Vietnamese market, including some operating in the IT industry.

Currently, the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Training and Support Centre for Technology Commercialisation is compiling a scheme for technological transfers and transactions, which will help connect Vietnamese and Japanese tech startups and firms through their innovations and ideas, as well as easing access to equipment and machinery.

By Khoi Nguyen

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