500 Startups, the U.S.-led VC firm, is continuing its push into Southeast Asia after it hired two partners in Vietnam, a signal that it may be about to launch a local fund for startups the country. There are plenty of reasons why Vietnam is attractive for investors right now. With a population of 90 million, more than half of whom are aged under 30, it is a mobile first market with huge potential for technology and internet businesses. (A recent New York Times story looked at the rise of entrepreneurs and startups there.)
500 Startups is best known for its Silicon Valley accelerator program but has been active in Asia — and other parts of the world — for a few years, and it recently extended its ‘500 Durians’ fund for Southeast Asia by a further $5 million. In Vietnam, it has hired Binh Tran, formerly CTO and co-founder of Klout, and Eddie Thai, a local startup advisor who spent time working with Fortune 500 companies in the U.S., to act as its eyes and ears.
Khailee Ng, 500 Startup’s Southeast Asia-based Managing Partner, offered no comment when we asked if 500 Startups is planning a dedicated fund in Vietnam, but it almost certainly is given the launch of its $10 million fund for Thailand — ‘500 Tuktuks’ — earlier this year. That Thai microfund began with the hiring of two local venture partners, too.