Demo Day SK Startup Fellowship 2023 (SKSF 2023) officially took place

The SKSF program is an annual initiative by SK Group, aimed at identifying and supporting early-stage startup talents, particularly those with a strong social impact. This program signifies SK Group’s enduring commitment to investment and collaboration in Vietnam. The launch of SKSF Batch #4 on May 22, 2023, drew nearly 200 applications, underscoring the program’s growing prominence in the Vietnamese startup ecosystem after three successful batches.

With startups spanning various sectors, boasting integrated core technologies, robust research capabilities, and valuable patents, the SKSF participants share a common vision of creating positive societal impacts. These startups are led by founder teams comprising both Vietnamese and international talents, bringing diverse educational backgrounds and startup experiences in both domestic and international markets.

On July 27, 2023, SK Group organized an Orientation Day to unveil the Top 15 startups. Following this, a Judging Panel meticulously evaluated and selected the Top 10 outstanding startups for the acceleration phase. Over the next six months, these chosen startups embarked on a comprehensive journey featuring one-on-one mentoring sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities with investors, venture capitalists (VCs), and corporations in Vietnam.

A noteworthy highlight of SKSF 2023 was the Seoul Workshop, a business trip to Korea held in September. During this trip, the Top 10 startups engaged in face-to-face meetings with senior executives of SK Group at the company’s headquarters. Additionally, they participated in networking events, connecting with prominent Korean startups and having one-on-one meetings with potential investors. The startups also attended an exhibition at the Social Value Connect (SOVAC) 2023, further expanding their connections within the Korean startup ecosystem. Overall, SKSF 2023 facilitated a unique and impactful experience for the selected startups, fostering collaboration and growth opportunities in both the Vietnamese and Korean startup landscapes..

Following the completion of the acceleration phase in SKSF 2023, the Top 10 startups achieved significant breakthroughs and developmental milestones. On November 29, 2023, these standout startups took center stage at Demo Day, marking the culmination of the program. During this event, the Top 10 showcased their progress, aiming to secure a spot among the Top 3 that would receive a substantial grant of US$50,000. The remaining startups were eligible for a commendable grant of US$15,000 each, and it’s worth noting that all grants were offered in the form of cash and without equity requirements.

Demo Day of SK Startup Fellowship 2023, Batch#4

Demo Day drew in more than 100 attendees, including Startup Alumni, Investors, Venture Capitalists (VCs), Entrepreneurs, Corporations, and more. The event served as a platform for discussions on business collaboration and investment opportunities. Opening the Demo Day, Ms. Chaerhan Chun, Senior Vice President and Head of SK Vietnam expressed, “SK Group firmly believes in the power of innovation and collaboration. We understand that startups play a vital role in driving economic growth and societal development. That is why we established the SK Startup Fellowship, to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the necessary resources, mentorship, and opportunities to turn their ideas into successful businesses. In spite of the challenges posed by the current economic downturn, the SK Startup Fellowship 2023 fellows have demonstrated unwavering commitment and adaptability. They have shown us that innovation knows no boundaries and that even in the face of adversity, great ideas can flourish. I am confident that the ideas and solutions presented here today will inspire us all and contribute to a brighter future. Together, let us create a world where innovation knows no bounds.”, setting the tone for an insightful and impactful gathering focused on recognizing and rewarding the achievements of the participating startups in SKSF 2023. 

Ms. Chaerhan Chun, Senior Vice President and Head of SK Vietnam opened Demo Day SKSF 2023

Also at the event, Mr. Tran Duy Dong – Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment emphasized “On behalf of the leaders of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, I highly appreciate the efforts of SK Group in organizing the SK Startup Fellowship Program , which has sponsored more than 1 million USD equity-free grant for 37 Vietnamese startups in the past 3 years. The program has promoted innovation and entrepreneurship in Vietnam, contributing to creating new momentum to connect Vietnamese startups with the Korean startup ecosystem. On the part of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, through the National Innovation Center (NIC), we will accompany the SKSF Program in the coming years. At the same time, we will continue to support start-up and innovative businesses through specific action programs such as providing working locations at the National Innovation Center’s facilities, communications support, consultation, training and other startup acceleration activities. Through this, we also request that SK Group as well as investment funds and investors continue to comment on policies of the government and relevant ministries, in order to improve polices regarding investment, especially in the field of venture capital so that we can have Vietnamese startups with foothold in international markets, thereby also improving the competitiveness of Vietnam economy.”

Mr. Tran Duy Dong – Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment shared at Demo Day SKSF 2023

The esteemed Board of Judges for Demo Day SKSF 2023 comprises leading experts in the Vietnam startup ecosystem, including Mr. Yu Jae Wook – Vice President and Chief Representative of SK Hanoi, Mr. Truong Minh Hung – Senior Investment Director of SK Vietnam, Ms. Truong Ly Hoang Phi – Chairwoman and CEO IBP, Vice President of YBA, Founder of BSSC, Mr. Vinnie Lauria – Founding Partner of Golden Gate Ventures, Ms. Phuong Tran –  Principal at Wavemaker Partners, SEA & Vietnam Venture Capital. Bringing to the table 10 to 20 years of extensive experience in the startup and innovation landscapes of Vietnam and the broader region, the Board of Judges encompasses individuals with diverse perspectives, such as investors, venture capitalists (VCs), and representatives from corporations both in Vietnam and internationally. This panel delivered sharp counter-arguments and valuable suggestions for each business model presented by the Top startups in SKSF Batch #4.

During the competition, each startup had a 5-minute pitch followed by a 5-minute Q&A session in front of the Board of Judges. Despite the challenges, the Top 10 startups of SKSF 2023 presented comprehensive insights into their businesses, highlighting innovative business models and showcasing breakthrough technologies. This approach allowed them to provide convincing answers to the judges and create a vivid picture of their potential.

In this competitive setting, corporations, investors, and investment funds gained valuable insights as they explored opportunities for collaboration, investment, and partnership with the Top 10 startups in their upcoming growth journeys.

Furthermore, Demo Day not only served as a platform for the startups to present their ideas but also provided a deep, multi-dimensional perspective and valuable lessons to both startups and attendees. This was achieved through the insightful sharing of experiences by Mr. Ly Qui Trung, President of LQT Modern Entrepreneur Institute shared: “This is a very special period for businesses, especially startups. On one hand, we must grow quickly and courageously; but on the other hand, we must consider safely, wisely, and delicately like a circus artist walking on a tightrope. We must have balance. If we lean too much to either side, we will fall”, adding another layer of richness to the event.

Mr. Ly Qui Trung, President of LQT Modern Entrepreneur Institute shared the Open Keynote

In addition to the attractive competition of Top startups SKSF 2023, Demo Day also gives startups and attendees insight and valuable lessons through the Open Keynote sharing of Mr. Khoi Nguyen, Founder of Good Story Time also shared an Open Keynote with startups and event attendees about GRIT – the spirit of endless effort and perseverance on the founders’ entrepreneurial journey. Mr. Khoi Nguyen sent a message to founders, facing the “winter capital raising” period, startups must have a GRIT spirit. He emphasized the point that founders must always set an example, persevere, try and grasp every aspect of the startup journey to move the company forward.

Mr. Khoi Nguyen, Founder of Good Story Time with Open Keynote at Demo Day SKSF 2023

The 6-month acceleration journey of Top 10 Startups SKSF 2023

The SKSF program, orchestrated by SK Group, is designed to assist startups in establishing foundations and cultivating networks of partners to foster business growth. Beyond the provision of non-equity grants, SKSF 2023 has delivered invaluable non-financial support, focusing on enhancing the inner strengths of participating startups. This non-financial support encompasses two primary streams of activities conducted throughout the 6-month SKSF 2023 program: training and mentoring.

The Top 10 startups in SKSF 2023 underwent a series of 20 in-depth 1:1 mentoring sessions with 10 mentors. These mentors, boasting years of experience as investors, entrepreneurs, and experts in both the Vietnamese and international markets, provided tailored guidance and insights to the startups. Additionally, networking events were organized, attracting the participation of over 50 investors, investment funds, and major corporations.

A distinctive feature of SKSF 2023 that brought significant value to the Top 10 was the business trip to South Korea. This unique opportunity facilitated deeper connections with SK Group and the broader Korean ecosystem. The immersion in the Korean business landscape added a layer of experiential learning, contributing to the startups’ growth by expanding their networks and fostering collaboration with key players in the Korean market. Sharing about the progress of the Top 10 startups after the 6-month journey, Nguyen Thi Dieu Hang – CEO of BSSC and vice President of YBA said “Overall, this year’s Top 10 covers various industries and is in a promising development phase. However, startups are facing challenges during this economic crisis, so it’s crucial for them to focus on optimizing resources, managing costs, controlling cash flow, and exploring new markets by reaching out to new customer segments to boost revenue. Startups need to prioritize business activities with the goal of overcoming difficulties, ensuring self-sustainability and growth, and avoiding excessive dependence on investment capital.” Mr. Nguyen Duc May, Co-Founder of Foodmap looked back at the 6-month acceleration journey at SKSF 2023 and said “During the 6 months of participating in the program, we have learned a lot and we will try to apply it to our business. I believe that the mentors and SKSF program will continue to support us in our entrepreneurial journey.”

One startup presents at Demo Day SKSF 2023

At the conclusion of the 6-month SKSF program in 2023, the participating startups have demonstrated remarkable growth and achievements. OLLI Technology secured a position in the esteemed Top 10 of Startup Wheel 2023, unveiling the innovative content assistant Maika AI and forging strategic cooperation agreements with FPT Smarthome and Toshiba Vietnam. EcoTruck received recognition in the Top 10 Brands in Asia-Pacific 2023 by the Asia Industrial Information Association (AIPA) and formed a partnership with Viet Duc for the distribution of lubricant and coolant products. Aplus Home earned a place in the Top 50 of Startup Wheel 2023, while BUYO Bioplastics secured the second position in the She Loves Tech Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia 2023 program. OnMic, FoodMap Asia, IC2 Digital Health, Kamereo, Rostek, and Wecare have successfully developed robust business platforms, showcasing impressive progress.

These achievements underscore the focused commitment of the Top SKSF 2023 startups to sustainable development, leveraging their internal strengths to adapt to market conditions. Additionally, these startups have demonstrated intelligent and effective strategies in collaborating with major partners and accessing external support resources. After the 6-month program, the Top startups of SKSF 2023 have established a strong technological foundation and growth model, positioning themselves to expand their market presence and seek strategic partnerships.

Through Demo Day, SK Group continues to provide opportunities for the Top 10 startups of SKSF 2023 and alumni startups to connect with investment funds and large corporations, exploring potential avenues for business partnerships. This ongoing support reflects SK Group’s commitment to fostering the growth and success of these startups beyond the duration of the SKSF program.

Who are the Top 3 startups of SKSF 2023, Bach#4?

After the presentations of the Top 10, the Board of Judges SKSF 2023 selected the Top 3 startups to award the highest prize of SKSF 2023. Ms. Truong Ly Hoang Phi – Member of The Board of Judges for Demo Day SKSF 2023 shared “I’ve seen the top startups of SKSF have an increase in quality year by year. Participating startups are also clearly aware of SKSF’s contribution to their entrepreneurial journey. And that is also what makes SKSF develop into the 4th year and is developing in the right direction and sustainably, which is supporting potential startup companies in the early stages and helping them grow in a crowded turbulent market currently. And I think that is also the goal pursued by the SK Group, the SKSF program and SKSF’s program partner BSSC. I think the sustainable growth of startup companies is an important foundation to affirm the quality of SKSF’s Top 10 to Top 3 over the years.”

Ms. Chaerhan Chun, Senior Vice President and Head of SK Vietnam presents the gifts to thank The Board of Judges SKSF 2023

Top 3 startup SKSF 2023 received the highest award of the program which is a grant of US$50,000/startup:

KAMEREO is a B2B commerce for F&B businesses in Vietnam. We build a better supply chain from upstream to downstream so that we supply food ingredients better and cheaper.

EcoTruck is a tech-based logistics company in Vietnam. EcoTruck is focusing on B2B trucking (both first mile and middle mile) and has built the first and the biggest ecosystem of supporting services for trucking suppliers.

FoodMap Asia is a bridge connecting producers and consumers to help optimize agricultural supply chains and enhance the value of Vietnamese agricultural products.

Top 3 SKSF 2023

BUYO Bioplastics received the Honorary award with the Grant 25,000 USD. The remaining startups received US$15,000/startup: OnMic, IC2 Digital Health, Rostek, Wecare, OLLI Technology, Beta PropTech.

Top 10 SK Startup Fellowship 2023

Demo Day has wrapped up the SK Startup Fellowship 2023. The program is a memorable milestone for the Top 10 in their growth journeys as they received valuable support from SKSF. 

Besides the non-equity grants, Top 10 SKSF also obtained knowledge from in-depth training sessions, mentors’ sharp product thinking and practical business mindsets, practical experience shared among alumni; strategic vision with international business development orientation from SK Group, and networks of valuable relationships in Vietnam, Korea and regional startup ecosystems from Program Partner BSSC and Partners such as Partner như Do Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures, Jungle Ventures, Nextrans, ThinkZone, Vinacapital Ventures, Wavemaker Partners. The SKSF 2023 program is temporarily ended, but SK Group and its partners continue to support startup alumni in their growth journeys after the program.

The organizer: SK Group – the second-largest conglomerate in Korea. With nearly 70 years of establishment history, SK has more than 100 subsidiaries that operate across over 40 countries and territories, with a variety of industries such as Energy, Telecommunications, Semiconductors and Materials, Biotechnology, and other services. SK Group recorded revenue of US$139 billion in 2021 and was ranked in the Top 100 Global Enterprises of Fortune 500. Since 2018, SK Group has officially entered the Vietnamese market through major investments such as approximately US$1 billion investment in Vingroup, more than US$1.2 billion investment in Masan Group and its member companies, etc. In 2020, SK Group launched the SK Startup Fellowship program, demonstrating its commitment to long-term investment in the Vietnamese market. SK Startup Fellowship (SKSF) has provided over $1 million in non-equity convertible grants to 37 Vietnamese startups continuously for 3 years from 2020 to 2023.

Program Partner: BSSC is one of the most prestigious and largest startup support organizations in Vietnam. BSSC’s ecosystem has more than 15,000 Startups/SMEs, 25,000 Entrepreneurs, 100 Mentors and Experts, 200 Angel Investors, and Venture Capital Funds. As the Program Partner of the SK Startup Fellowship from 2021 to 2023,  BSSC is committed to contributing quality resources to the program.

Top Startup Fellowship 2023, Batch#4

No.Startup NameShort Introduction
1Beta PropTechAPlus Home is pioneering in building a Plus-living ecosystem by applying technology to build an optimal living solution at a reasonable price for young people. This is a new generation of prop-tech that combines financing models, property development, and management on a modern technology platform.
2BUYO Bioplastics Company Ltd.BUYO provides a 100% nature-based and biodegradable bioplastic solution, using our advanced proprietary technology to convert bio-waste and plant-based materials into plastics.
3EcoTruckEcoTruck is a tech-based logistics company in Vietnam. EcoTruck is focusing on B2B trucking (both first mile and middle mile) and has built the first and the biggest ecosystem of supporting services for trucking suppliers.
4Foodmap AsiaFoodMap is a bridge connecting producers and consumers to help optimize agricultural supply chains and enhance the value of Vietnamese agricultural products.
6IC2 Digital Health JSCIC2 Digital Health JSC is a healthcare company that specializes in telehealth platform services for insurance and public customers.
8KAMEREOKamereo is a B2B commerce for F&B businesses in Vietnam. We build a better supply chain from upstream to downstream so that we supply food ingredients better and cheaper.
10OLLI TechnologyOLLI Technology builds an ecosystem of AI interactive platforms including AI platform, devices, and content. Our product, in the form of an AI virtual character, can proactively interact with children using natural conversation and keep them engaged in entertaining content and active learning experience.
11OnMicOnMic, a social audio content universe, offers a wide range of premium audio content while allowing almost everyone to become a content creator.
12RostekRostek specializes in Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE), digital transformation consulting, products and services. By leveraging these core areas, we empower our customers to enhance their operational capabilities, increase productivity, and gain a competitive edge in today’s market.
14WecareWecare is an industrial supply chain solution transforming industrial B2B Procurement with Technology. We help manufacturers manage their supply chain, and incoming materials much easier.