Force to reckon with: Vietnam’s start-ups yield int’l feats

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Tech start-ups are riding the growing movement with foreign private investors betting on Vietnam's young brains to come up with more successes.

Amidst the upheaval in the global socio-economic landscape, one nation is emerging as a force to be reckoned with: Vietnam.

The country has come a long way since Flappy Bird. Three years ago, Hanoi-based .GEARS released what has become an international hit, catapulting Vietnam into the limelight as the newest Southeast Asian production hub.

Vietnam counts South Korean giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. amongst its newest customers, while other international tech companies—those that have long had presence in the country—like LG Electronics, Panasonic, and Toshiba, have started moving into research and development.

Tech start-ups are also riding the growing movement with foreign private investors betting on Vietnam's young brains to come up with more successes. In March, Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist 500 Startups announced a "$10 million Vietnam-focused fund."

500 Startups partner Eddie Thai told Reuters the initial plan was to invest in about "10 to 20 companies over a 12-month period," but then they realised that "there's a lot more good companies to invest in."

Majority of Vietnamese start-ups are in the e-commerce sector, which saw its sales grow by as much as 35 per cent to $4 billion in 2015. However, these companies receive little government support aside from legal advice and $10,000 cash.

Still, venture capitalists are interested in Vietnam, particularly in its cheaper workforce coupled with a tech-savvy population with a median age of 30.

Google software engineer Neil Fraser told the news outlet: "Vietnam has the highest-performing computer science students I've ever encountered. The exercises I watched them solve… would be considered challenging problems for a Google hiring interview."

David Svensson, CEO of Vietnam-based start-up Pangara, agrees.

In an interview with e27, the executive said: "Nowadays, there are very strong IT developers and other digital specialists in most fields in larger Vietnamese metro areas like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Even second-tier cities such as Danang have built up great centres of competency as well as tech sub-communities."

And this is why Svensson's group founded Pangara, a platform that could bridge talent in Vietnam to Scandinavian clients. Svensson described Pangara as "a geographically independent freelance platform" that connects Vietnamese IT engineers "with the rapidly growing demand for IT developers in Northern Europe."

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