You can’t talk about Vietnam’s tech startup ecosystem without mentioning the Topica Founder Institute (TFI). Since its inauguration in 2012, TFI has graduated founders that are heading some of Vietnam’s most successful startups today.
Some of the notable founders are: Do Tuan Anh of Appota, who recently obtained Series B funding; Hoang Nguyen of S3co, which is funded by RedGarage Ventures (Coca-cola); Mai Duy Quang who exited with Biaki and is now Co-founder of AZStack, Truong Manh Quan, Founder of 500 Startups incubatee Beeketing; Nguyen Kim Dinh, Founder of UpLevo and Nguyen Ngoc Tuan, Co-founder of Vlance.
Facts and figures
Over the last three years, TFI has graduated more than 34 founders, with a total funding of more than US$10 million and a combined valuation of US$60 million for the top eight startups.
However, the success of these startups pales in comparison to the impact the TFI programme has made on the ecosystem.
To date, more than 150 founders have undergone its stringent programming; and while most dropped out, some have gone on and successfully pivoted. Tran Tuan Anh of Ticketbox is one such successful pivot story: Tuan Anh joined TFI Batch 2 as the Founder of Keewi, a platform to connect networkers and networking, and later pivoted to present day Ticketbox.
Another startup that TFI brought to the ecosystem is MimosaTek: Even after dropping out due to schedule conflicts, it has continued to use the institute’s connections and network in seeking growth and investment.
Not just an accelerator
Even without attending the TFI programme proper, startup founders, new and experienced, are able to join Topica as founders-in-residence — to work on exciting internal startup projects within its edtech ecosystem, getting them battle-hardened when they decide to start up again in two-three years.
What is interesting is the give-back mentality of these founders where, after exits, they come back to the institute. Cao Cong Minh of OnSchool is one of many such alumni who have frequently been involved in various levels of mentorship within the programme, and helped in cultivating and guiding new entrepreneurs.
TFI has brought many would-be entrepreneurs out of the woodwork, shaped the thoughts of these people; making them bonafide entrepreneurs, building and creating exciting products and services. In a short span of three years, it’s been instrumental in building the foundation of a healthy and sustainable startup ecosystem.
Globalising Silicon Valley
The Topica Founder Institute is one of the chapters of a global programme, Founder Institute, whose motto is ‘Globalising Silicon Valley’, in the words of Founder Adeo Ressi. And this enables its graduates and participants to leverage off its 1,850 plus graduate companies and founders. Collectively, the ‘FI Mafia’ can truly move things and effect game-changing disruptions.
Also Read: Your cheat sheet on Vietnam’s startup scene
On December 9, Topica Founder Institute will be graduating its fourth batch. So far, there are already more than 30 VCs from around the region who have confirmed their attendance. In this batch of six graduating founders, four are in advanced stages of negotiation for funding.
The graduates of TFI Batch 4 are Atadi.vn, Adtop.vn, Freelancerviet.vn, Hoayeuthuong.com, Induskey.com and Meete.co
While it is not for everyone; it is nonetheless one key programme that will be around for a long time, as Vietnam’s young tech startup ecosystem continues to evolve and grow. The challenge is in making it stay relevant to shape the landscape and elevate the quality of ideas and the founders behind these ideas.
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