Zone Startups Vietnam – Developing the startup ecosystem
Zone Startups Vietnam is a private accelerator program in an ecosystem consisting of universities, high-tech incubators and the Zone Startups global ecosystem is present in 5 countries around the world, including the US, Canada, India, Japan and Korea. Despite starting out as a successful accelerator program in developed countries, Zone Startups Vietnam has always considered itself a startup, and is constantly in need of improvement to best support creative startups in Vietnam. Through this article, let's join DNES in learning about Zone Startups Vietnam and the startup lessons learned by this incubator.
I. Background of establishment:
Zone Startups was established at the end of 2018. After a long period of market observation focusing on the Vietnamese ecosystem, Zone Startups decided to choose Vietnam as the next destination for its business expansion. Having observed the Vietnamese startup ecosystem and realized that there are already multiple incubators, co-working spaces and cooperation programs implemented in Vietnam; Zone Startup Vietnam decided to establish itself as an accelerator program, with its outstanding feature being partnering with large corporations to accelerate cooperation with startups in Vietnam.
II. Operation model:
Zone Startups Vietnam is a private accelerator, and part of the global Zone Startups network. With a view to stimulating technology growth in the center of Southeast Asia, Zone Startups Vietnam partners with industry leaders to provide opportunities for startups looking for innovative technology solutions. The operation of Zone Startups Vietnam revolves around 4 approaches. Firstly, filtering the right input is extremely important; Therefore, the program always vets all applicants and the acceptance rate falls under the percentage of 1% of applicants. Secondly, along with experienced mentors, Zone Startups Vietnam itself will be directly involved in mentoring and assisting founders, helping startups fine-tune their products, grow customers and expand its scale. Third, Zone Startups Vietnam also owns an investment fund called Zone Startups Ventures. This is an investment fund exclusively designated for companies in the startup accelerator program of Zone Startups Vietnam, providing seeding capital investment, ranging from $50,000 to $350,000 to support the development activities of the startups later on. And the final approach is its long-term commitment, boost company’s possibility in raising funding in the first round (Series A).
1. About main activities:
Zone Startups Vietnam puts an emphasis on developing 3 main activities, including: (1) Startup accelerator program, (2) Innovation consultation, and ( 3) Discovery of ground-breaking technologies.
1.1. Startup Accelerator Program:
This is a program for startups. In this program, Zone Startups will focus on promoting the construction and development of the appropriate programs, mostly for line industries or technology, in order to guide and draw out the right strategies for startups. In addition, the startup accelerator program also creates opportunities for cooperation and business development with startups; connects potential companies for business, based on technology and innovative ideas.
1.2. Innovation consultation:
In this activity, Zone Startups will perform the task of advising startups how to approach innovation in business. Zone Startups supports innovative startups through three phases, including ideation, certification and construction. The first phase focuses on inspiring companies to generate business ideas in an inspiring environment formed by leaders in cutting-edge technology industries. Then companies will be supported to realize such ideas using the best technologies. Finally, after the idea has been realized, Zone Startups will work with the company to implement the needed strategies and initiatives by developing and launching new technology solutions as well as products.
1.3. Discovery of ground-breaking technologies:
Zone Startups Vietnam is an accelerator program oriented to aiming for breakthrough ideas. By unearthing fresh, leaping approaches and technologies, the program helps improve, or even transform startups. Additionally, Zone Startups Vietnam also has early access to startups developing products or solutions possessing the potential to change conventional business operations, as well as escalate their innovation capacity by refining aspects such as: user interface, user experience, market research,..
2. About customers and partners:
Zone Startups Vietnam is a private accelerator program that is well supported by founding partners, including VinaCapital Venture, Uni Brands, TTG Group and Talentnet. Additionally, Zone Startups is also in close cooperation with other partners to promote the development of the startup ecosystem, with the notable ones being he Department of Science and Technology of Ho Chi Minh City; public and private incubators such as BSSC VN (Business Startup Support Center), Vietnam Silicon Valley; other startup accelerator programs such as Viisa, Danang Business Incubator – DNES, SwissEP startup support program and 1:1 support program for startups.
Zone Startups Vietnam predominantly focuses on providing support for startup companies in 3 industries: Software, B2B, Technology, from various fields. For the time being, client companies of Zone Startups Vietnam are mainly majoring in Martech, Proptech, Fintech and Ecommerce.
In the future, Zone Startups Vietnam will perpetuate its focus on supporting companies in Software, B2B and Technology industries from different fields. Additionally, to be commensurate with the scale of the ecosystem at Zone Startups Vietnam, this accelerator program will also support in solving digital transformation for corporations and expand the scale of the program to the Northern region, Hanoi in particular.
After more than 3 years of operation, now, Zone Startup Vietnam has gradually asserted its position in the startup ecosystem, with the 4 following significant achievements.
1. 29 Startups in the investment portfolio:
As a startup accelerator program for startups in seeding stage, Zone Startups has supported 29 startups in Vietnam.
2. 15 investment deals:
During its 3-year operation in Vietnam, Zone Startups Ventures has accumulated 15 deals in a wide range of fields, with the amount of investment up to 350,000 USD. Notably, there are some prominent faces, namely GoStream, Fundiin, ladipage,…
3. Top 3 Startup Support Programs:
Zone Startups Vietnam was honored to be one of three organizations with positive contributions to the startup ecosystem in Ho Chi Minh City in particular and in the country in general.
4. Build a vast, open ecosystem:
In April 2021, Zone Startups Vietnam organized a startup accelerator program called EM-Power. This program is exclusively designated for female entrepreneurs, with more than 100 applications, through which 24 companies with female founders or co-founders were selected. By July 2021, Zone Startups Vietnam had been honored by TechInAsia as the Top 3 active investment funds in the Vietnam market. But that’s not its whole story of success. In November 2021, Zone Startups Vietnam signed an agreement of operation with REE – one of the 6 largest corporations in Vietnam's ecosystem – for the model that scouts companies supporting the digital transformation process for corporations. Zone Startups Vietnam also continues to expand its ecosystem by connecting and fostering other ecosystems with Universities, through its cooperation with the Business School, University of Hong Kong.
There are 4 obstacles worth mentioning in the process of operating Zone Startups. Firstly, since most founders are yet to grasp the difference between startup and entrepreneurship, Zone Startups is obliged to help founders form and understand the path on which they have to embark. The second obstacle is changing the perception of large corporations towards the young startup ecosystem in Vietnam. Next, the founding team must build the business model of Zone Startups Vietnam sustainably; through which startups' growth can be supported. The last thing is that Zone Startups Vietnam must constantly maintain its focus on the expansion of the scale of the ecosystem, the company, the investors and the mentors in the program.
V. The role of Zone Startups in the startup process:
With its current success, investors believe that Zone Startups – a well-acclaimed international promotion program in supporting startups – will strongly promote the development of Vietnam's startup ecosystem. (according to Mr. Cong Phan, Investor, Zone Startups Vietnam).
At Zone Startups, every support service for startups is improved by its staff on a daily basis. As a result, companies that come to Zone Startups can receive thorough support packages to develop their businesses. Support packages consist of 7 categories: advice from experts, global perception, planned meetings, investor relations, network building, therapy for founders and professional analysis.
First, businesses approaching Zone Startups are all guided and supported continuously by experienced investors in establishing and developing companies.
Second, Zone Startups provides connections and advice on your business' international expansion, including establishment and penetration into other markets.
Third, thanks to Zone Startups' connection, companies will regularly contact Zone Startups' venture partners to regulate the business and discuss opportunities and challenges.
Fourth, Zone Startups also actively introduces startups to potential investors, which can back business development in the aspects of finance, human resources, logistics, international expansion strategy and other supports.
Fifth, Zone Startups always tries to build a network to introduce potential startup projects to mentors; through which founders can be supported in strategic planning and decision making.
Sixth, startups approaching Zone Startups can access the network, resources and community to grow their business and be provided with a trusted voice for founders to firmly believe their startup path.
Finally, Zone Startups Vietnam supports the reviewing and analyzing process of economic indicators (KPIs) and provides tactical advice on expanding and increasing business evaluation.
In fact, many startups have joined the ecosystem of Zone Startups Vietnam and greatly benefited from the support of this program. Notably, there is Woay.vn – a platform designing minigames to increase sales. According to Mr.Ho Tien Loc – Founder of Woay.vn – Woay has been participating in the Zone Startups ecosystem for more than 1 year, along with active support from Zone Startups in all aspects. The first is facilities, including workspaces and server systems for a technology company. Next, Zone Startups Vietnam has been helping Woay to enrich the essential knowledge to possess the needed capacity to tweak its business model and foster optimal development. Moreover, connecting Woay with partners and customers to increase sales figures is also actively supported by Zone Startups. For Woay, Zone Startups Vietnam has become a partner, who always accompanies Woay on its startup journey. In addition to Woay, Bluebolt is also a startup avidly supported by Zone Startups, notably the support in raising capital and connecting with investment funds. (according to Mr. Le Hoang Dat – CEO of Bluebolt).
In the startup ecosystem, Zone Startups Vietnam has excelled at its two tasks, which is connecting resources and providing support services for startups (according to MSc. Tran Tri Dung – Program Manager), Swiss Entrepreneurship Program (SwissEP). In regards to the first task, Zone Startups stands out for its capacity to connect and lead startups to substantial capital sources and cooperation with large corporations. Additionally, as a startup support organization, Zone Startups nurtures startups in a highly comprehensive, practical accelerator program and generates many opportunities for startups. For Zone Startups to be able to supply maximal support for startups, it all boils down to its shareholders with great potential in finance, technology and a devoted executive team, constantly making the best effort to produce the finest service to startups.
IV. Lessons learned:
After more than 3 years of operation, Zone Startups always considers itself a start-up business, constantly needs to renovate itself. In order to do that, Zone Startups has – and is concluding lessons for itself, from which its business can be fine-tuned and turned into a typical lesson for other incubators. The lesson that Zone Startups Vietnam wishes to share with other accelerators is the significance of cooperation and connection with departments, incubators, and investment funds to encourage the expansion of the ecosystem. Zone Startups, along with further entwining with the Vietnamese startup ecosystem.
Despite its mere 3-year operation, the achievements achieved by Zone Startups are far from insignificant. This is a testimony to the tireless efforts by its staff, as well as the support and consensus towards the goal of developing Vietnam's startup ecosystem from the cooperating agencies and partners. With the startup journey that Zone Startups is taking, and the invaluable lessons learned that Zone Startups shares, hopefully you, the readers, will have a better grasp of the scale and operation approaches of an Accelerator Program; through which your business can be further perfected and advanced to collectively strengthen Vietnam's startup ecosystem.