Vietnam’s young invest in ideas blooming in Ho Chi Minh City

Entrepreneur Le Thanh, managing director of ShoeX, at his co-working space in Ho Chi Minh City. (AFP)
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Updated 13 July 2020

Vietnam’s young invest in ideas blooming in Ho Chi Minh City

  • The gold rush comes in spite of cumbersome regulations for foreigners

HO CHI MINH CITY: A tech-savvy population, a fast-growing economy, and the perks of being first in an emerging market — Vietnamese entrepreneur Le Thanh saw the potential in booming Ho Chi Minh City for his startup transforming coffee grounds into masks.

The 35-year-old chemistry graduate worked for two multinationals before stepping out on his own three years ago to launch ShoeX — a sustainable footwear company which nimbly pivoted to masks as the coronavirus pandemic struck. 

When he entered the workforce, Thanh was drawn to the higher salaries and no-nonsense working culture at foreign companies he assumed were a cut above local firms, tangled up in rules imposed by his country’s staid communist rulers.

“But now I see there are more openings in a place where things are a bit murky,” Thanh told AFP from his buzzing Ho Chi Minh City co-working space. He is not alone in believing Vietnam — and especially its southern commercial center — is poised to become an innovation hub thanks to its young, educated and digitally active population.

Vietnamese e-commerce and e-payment companies have been “flooded” with private equity in the past couple of years, said Eddie Thai, a Ho Chi Minh City-based partner at venture capital firm 500 Startups. Their rise has been stellar.

Vietnam-based startups made up 18 percent — or $741 million — of the capital invested in Southeast Asia in 2019, up from four percent in 2018, according to a report by Cento Ventures.

Although Indonesia remains the leader, the amount pumped into Vietnam startups pushed ahead of Singapore for the first time in 2019, the venture capital firm said.

The gold rush comes in spite of cumbersome regulations for foreigners, Thai told AFP, making it difficult to invest and repatriate capital.

Last year, popular e-wallet platform VNPay reportedly snagged the largest deal in Southeast Asia, attracting $300 million from Softbank’s Vision Fund and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC.

And although Thai said investment had paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, Vietnam is well-placed to bounce back.

Its economy unexpectedly grew in the second quarter and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts a 2.7 percent expansion for the year despite the global downturn.

The country also has a huge pool of software engineers who cost substantially less than their Indian or Chinese peers.

And unlike the tech talent in wealthy startup hubs such as San Francisco or London, they understand what consumers in the emerging world want, Thai says.


Apple, Google drop Fortnite from app stores over payments

Updated 14 August 2020

Apple, Google drop Fortnite from app stores over payments

  • Google said Fortnite will remain available on Android, just not through its app store
  • Apple and Google both take a 30% cut from in-app revenue purchases in games

NEW YORK: Apple and Google dropped the popular game Fortnite from their app stores after the game’s developer introduced a direct payment plan that bypasses their platforms.
Apple and Google both take a 30% cut from in-app revenue purchases in games, which has long been a sore spot with developers.
Fortnite is free, but users can pay for in game accoutrements like weapons and skins. Its developer, Epic Games, said in a blog post Thursday that it was introducing Epic Direct payments, a direct payment plan for Apple’s iOS and Google Play. Epic said the system is the same payment system it already uses to process payments on PC and Mac computers and Android phones.
Apple and Google said the service violates their guidelines.
“Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services,” Apple said in statement.
Google said Fortnite will remain available on Android, just not through its app store. Android users can download the app from other app stores, although that’s generally not an option for iPhone users.
Epic Games did not immediately return a request for comment. Epic’s Fortnite Twitter account said the company would debut a new short film called “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite,” a seeming parody of Apple’s iconic “1984” commercial that introduced the Macintosh computer. It has also filed a complaint against Apple in the US District Court in Northern California for dropping Fortnite.