FPT seed fund has $3m for startups

FPT, Vietnam’s biggest tech corporation, has launched FPT Ventures, a seed fund for entrepreneurs.

At the top of Vietnam’s tech startup industry is FPT. In its annual report last year, FPT announced that it hit USD1.65 billion in revenue in 2013. That’s considerably more than any other tech company in Vietnam, partly because FPT does everything from software outsourcing and infrastructure to telecommunications and education. It’s also 27 years old, which means this megalithic giant has considerable history and influence on Vietnam’s technology direction.

Therefore last month’s announcement that FPT would be starting its own venture capital arm – FPT Ventures – is a huge step for the corporate giant and has potential ripple effect for Vietnam’s startup community. The new fund would be over USD3 million per year of investment dollars earmarked for seed and series A investments in startups.

Investments would target companies with valuations below USD1 million and fund at a minimum of USD50,000 – that’s potentially 60 seed-stage startups per year. FPT is working with Silicon Valley investors for the initiative but has yet to specify who. It would act as an investor and accelerator by providing cash, resources, as well as their technical and management expertise, however FPT needs the startups to commit at least five years to building a bigger company. But FPT guarantees that it will finalize every investment decision within four months of the submission date.

FPT Ventures has already made select investments internally, testing investment with its own people who wanted to leverage FPT resources to build new startups.

These include:

Sendo.vn – An ecommerce marketplace

Ants.vn – A data platform for advertisers

• FPT Play – An online and mobile video streaming service

Nhacso.net – A premium music portal

• Viec Nha – A mobile platform to call plumbers and maids to your house (Uber- style)

Gostudybooking.com – A platform for people who want to study abroad

• FShare – A Dropbox-like platform that leverages FPT’s server infrastructure.

The startups are representative of the breadth of FPT’s business licenses and technical expertise. They operate as separate, independent entities from FPT’s main corporate branches, which means they have separate profit and loss statements and management structures. The main thing is they use FPT’s existing architecture to help scale.

Projects like Nhacso, Sendo.vn, and FPT Play have been in operation for over a year now, which has given FPT Ventures insight into acceleration and incubation. With the FPT Ventures initiative, the team will now be looking outward into the ecosystem for potential investments. So, if there are any Vietnamese startups looking for investment, you might want to start knocking on FPT’s door.

Beyond these broad categories, FPT is also looking very seriously at digital solutions across a swath of industries including healthcare, transportation, mobile, SME, voice recognition, and more. The leadership at FPT, specifically chairman and founder Truong Gia Binh, has long been harping on themes related to software and internet of things, and that FPT needs to be at the forefront of these trends as they shift the landscape in Vietnam.

CTO of FPT Group, Nguyen Lam Phuong, one of the key people leading the FPT Ventures initiative, is keen on pushing FPT out of its corporate malaise. In last month’s press conference he mentioned that FPT should look to other corporates like Barclays for inspiration on how to transition from corporate to startup investor.

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