Except for a few companies like Xiaomi that crave and leverage media attention, Asian tech companies are generally media shy.
It’s a symptom of multiple factors including fear of being copied, the government and competitors. Many new startups are quieter than before, hiding and hacking away at their revenues while building their teams. This is especially true in Vietnam this year.
In 2014, Vietnam’s startup scene leapt to a heightened euphoria with the viral success of Flappy Bird however, it came crashing down with the weaknesses of VC Corp and the persecution of HaiVL. The year ended on a somber note. But this hasn’t stopped Vietnamese entrepreneurs; they’re just more camera shy now.
Seedcom is a silent outfit building startups at the heart of Vietnam’s startup scene and their most important founder is Dinh Anh Huan, a cofounder of The Gioi Di Dong (Mobile World). The Gioi Di Dong is Vietnam’s version of Best Buy in America, which IPO’ed last year at over USD250 million, making millionaires out of all five partners. After the IPO, Dinh’s focus has increasingly leaned towards Seedcom.
What’s specifically impressive about Seedcom is not its goal of becoming a USD300 million company by 2020, it’s their retail, supply chain, and ecommerce oriented investment portfolio. But in order to grasp that, we’ve got to understand The Gioi Di Dong.
The Gioi Di Dong was one of the most important Vietnamese IPOs in 2014. The success of the company, which started out with both an ecommerce site and a physical mobile phone store, has been scrutinized by every business newspaper and magazine in Vietnam. The Gioi Di Dong did things for customers that no other retailer was willing to do – prime locations with additional parking space for motorbikes and allowing customers to return their phones to storefronts within 30 days of purchase.
“No one else in the market is willing to put the customer first to the extent that we do,” says cofounder Nguyen Duc Tai.
Not only has The Gioi Di Dong been a retail success, but in terms of logistics, they have led the charge, promising as fast as 30 minute delivery time on any online order. And although their ecommerce portal only makes up six percent of their total revenue, that’s still six percent of USD250 million. They’re aiming to hit 15 percent by the end of 2015.
With this brief insight into The Gioi Di Dong, we can now begin to understand where Seedcom is headed. Take a quick peek at Seedcom’s portfolio. The site lists 12 companies, all with some connection to retail:
Concung.com – Store catering to mothers and children with plans to open 400 shops by 2017.
Juno.vn – A shoes, handbags, and women’s accessories online and physical store that also produces its own shoe label.
TheCoffeeHouse.vn – A coffee chain with its own coffee brand.
BaCayChoi.com – A company dedicated to kids and families providing activities and workshops.
Fivetech – Works with multiple fashion brands to manufacture clothing.
Tiki.vn – The Amazon of Vietnam. It started out in books but has expanded into other categories while also opening an ebooks category recently with Miki.
GiaoHangNhanh.vn – This is one of Vietnam’s most resilient and promising ecommerce logistics startups. For some, it might resemble aCommerce, but it’s more likely to get deeper into the retail supply chain given the company it keeps within the Seedcom portfolio.
Haravan.com – It allows companies to regulate their SKUs and keep track of deliveries. All of the companies in the portfolio that require retail management and website development use Haravan.
Eway.vn – Eway is basically a technology company that builds affiliate marketing and digital services solutions on mobile. It’s possible this company provides the avenue for the other companies to go mobile.
Cent – It’s not clear what this company does yet but the Seedcom website says it builds ecommerce solutions and mobile games.
Spiral – It’s also not clear what Spiral does, but Seedcom’s website says it builds modern retailing solutions.
Firefly – The website says it’s a call center service platform, but it really is a Vietnamese version of Zendesk, which will come in especially handy for all of the above B2C businesses.
As you can see, each of the companies above represents some aspect of the retail and ecommerce supply chain. Seedcom is essentially a full stack venture builder, accelerator, and funder. The companies can leverage the expertise of the retail goods from them while at the same time work together in non- competing yet related enterprises. It’s a situation where you have one set of companies that provide B2B solutions for the B2C companies, which in turn are freed up to focus on the customer.
This makes Seedcom venture fund particularly compelling. It feeds on itself. Seedcom’s experienced leadership can pull in the talented 20-somethings and 30-somethings into new ventures. With this combination of expertise and talent inside an interwoven portfolio, their efforts can be calculated and resilient.
Vietnam needs more of this. These are serious entrepreneurs leveraging all of their strengths to build solid companies. It remains to be seen how successful this portfolio will be, but we have already heard through the grapevine that several of these companies are already at multi- million dollar valuations.
* Anh Minh-Do is the editor at TechInAsia.com for Vietnam, focusing on technology startups, trends and companies. Minh is on the board of Starthub.vn – a database and forum for startups dedicated to the growth of Vietnam’s business ecosystem.