Notable Startups: 2016 Phandeeyar Graduates
VNG is the first Vietnamese startup to attain ‘unicorn’ status – the coveted $1 billion valuation. By this standard, it is arguably the most successful startup story in Vietnam to date.
It was founded in 2004, when the 5 so-called “game addicts with little money and experience” set out to start a pioneer company in the Vietnamese online gaming market which was still in its infancy at the time. In 6 short months they secured a contract with Chinese software giant Kingsoft, “opening an era of online RPG in Vietnam”. Since then it has expanded its product range to include social networks, e-commerce in addition to online entertainment content.
In May 2017, Bloomberg reported that VNG Corp is making plans to list on the NASDAQ stock exchange, the second largest in the world after the New York Stock Exchange. This makes VNG the first Vietnamese company to file for an IPO overseas. Anh-Minh Do, a director at Vertex Ventures Holdings in Singapore, expects this to fuel the increasing interest in the Vietnamese tech sector, “It will help attract a lot of attention and investment to Vietnam”.
Myanmar has a long-standing tradition of reading comic books – it is almost the definition of Burmese popular culture. However, they are increasingly inaccessible outside of the larger cities such as Yangon and the capital city Naypyidaw.
White Merak leverages the uptake of technology among the population to develop an app that allows people to read their favourite comic books on their devices. They publish in-house content in addition to licensing the platform to other comic-providers. In this way, White Merak encourages local talent and gives them a channel to make a business out of their art. The differentiating factor for White Merak is the “Magicomix” feature, integrating animations with the reading experience.
Earlier in 2017, they raised a 6 figure investment from local angels. This will be used to expand services in addition to improving their technology, distribution and payment systems. CEO and founder of White Merak, Aung Ye Kyaw’s states that the company’s aim is “to become the number one entertainment platform in Myanmar”.
ChateSat was born out of the growing number of tech freelancers in Myanmar, many of whom struggle to find contract work. It is an online marketplace where companies can connect with these freelancers. ChateSat focuses on localisation, tackling the problems faced specifically by freelancers and businesses in Myanmar. Additionally, global platforms such as Upwork are simply unsuitable for locals due to language barriers and market conditions.
The key pain points when it comes to freelancing work are transparency and confidence in the freelancers. Job-providers are often dissatisfied that they’ve paid freelancers who cannot complete their projects. ChateSat was developed with the intention to solve these issues. As CEO and co-founder Honey Mya Win states,
“Existing platforms utilise middlemen to arrange the jobs, and they charge high fees for their services. ChateSat doesn’t charge a finder’s fee, and it is transparent with parties on both sides of the freelance equation”.
GoP taps into the tourism industry in Myanmar, solving the enduring issue of complex and time-consuming travel planning. Through the platform, it consolidates the key players in the travel industry – knowledgeable locals, tour companies, tour guides and flight providers. GoP ensures high quality service, reliable bookings and instant confirmation.
The advantage of creating a platform is that it benefits both the demand and supply side of the transaction equation. On the supply side, it provides the independents, and smaller businesses a channel to access the tourism market in one place. Similarly, those looking to travel are given a larger and more diverse pool of options to choose from. Looking beyond the domestic market, it can potentially increase the attractiveness of Myanmar as a travel destination for foreigners as well.
GoP now operates in 4 locations – Bangkok, Vietnam, Bali and Singapore, all of which are popular travel destinations in the South East Asian region. In 2017, it also won the top prize in the Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST) awards, receiving $10,000 in grants and access to prominent travel companies in the area.
Like many Burmese startups, the company’s product is designed specifically for the Burmese people aiming to solve issues and improve efficiencies that are unique to Myanmar. Ezstay is no different. Ezstay is far easier for Burmese people in terms of usability and navigation than Airbnb. Language and payment options are specifically tailored. The website is written in the Unicode for the Burmese language and various payment methods are accepted. Since most locals do not have access to a Visa or MasterCard, Ezstay needs to partner with the local payments services to ensure accessibility for as much of the population as possible.