HCMC, 11 November 2021

SK Startup Fellowship 2021 (SKSF 2021) DemoDay officially took place

SKSF is an annual program with the goal of discovering early-stage startup talents, and supporting them. The program lays the foundation for SK Group’s long journey of companionship with Vietnamese startups. SKSF Batch#2 seeked startups with social impact, officially launching on the 9th of March 2021. SKSF attracted nearly 200 startups which was 3 times more than Batch#1. On 6th of May 2021, SKSF 2021 announced the Top 13 startups to be entered into the 6-month acceleration journey, helping the startups achieve  breakthrough growth for the next phase. As the most important event, Demo Day marked the final the program, after 6 months of activities.On the 11th of November 2021, Top 12 startups of SKSF 2021 participated in the Demo Day – the final round of competition to choose the Top 4 outstanding startups to win the grant of 50,000 USD per startup. In addition one startup won the consolation prize of 26,000 USD while the remaining startups received 16,000 USD per startup. These are all cash grants and SK Group does not require exchange of shares.

The Demo Day SKSF 2021 event was held as a hybrid event (online and offline) that has connected the Vietnamese bridgehead (HCMC, Hanoi) with the international bridgehead (Australia, South Korea). With the support of technology, the event not only ensures safety amid the complicated situation of the epidemic, but also creates conditions for Top startups connection with  international attendees, despite the geographical distance. Opening speech of Demo Day SKSF 2021, Mr. Woncheol Park – Managing Director SK SouthEast Asia, said “For the second year program, we focused on building strong relationships while providing experiences more tailored to go on fellow startups. The newest 1on1 mentoring program provided customized support as well. The mentors were matched based on the needs of each individual startup and helped them with the strategic building , business planning and relying on their operating systems. This was a really difficult task due to COVID-19 but we were able to do it. Thank to strong support provided by our program partner BSSC and the local expert mentors”

Mr. Woncheol Park – Managing Director SK SouthEast Asia gave an opening speech of Demo Day SKSF 2021

The Board of Judges of The Final Round SKSF 2021 who are the 4 leading experts in the Vietnam Startup Ecosystem: Mr. Henry Nguyen – CEO of TIMO; Ms. Truong Ly Hoang Phi – Chairwoman of the Board and CEO of Investment Business Partners (IBP); Ms. Le Hoang Uyen Vy – General Partner Do Ventures; Mr. Hung Truong – Senior Director SK Vietnam. The Board of Judges has 10 to 20 years of experience in working with the startup & innovation ecosystem in Vietnam and the region, standing from many perspectives such as investors, venture capital fund managers, entrepreneurs of leading corporations in Vietnam and internationally, etc. The Board of Judges brought sharp criticisms and valuable suggestions for each business model of Top startup SKSF Batch #2. Each startup has a 5-minute presentation and a 5-minute Q&A in front of The Board of Judges. At this heated competition, Top Startup SKSF 2021 clearly presented innovative business models, demonstrated breakthrough technologies, and answered intelligently and convincingly.

Pitching and Q&A session of one startup at Demo Day SKSF 2021

In addition to the attractive competition of Top startup SKSF 2021, Demo Day also brought useful knowledge and a deep multidimensional perspective through the sharing of Mr. Le Hong Minh – Founder and General Director of VNG, the first unicorn startup of Vietnam. After that, Demo Day had the lively discussion on the perspective of “Key elements for fast-scaling” from 2 speakers Ms. Tran Phuong Ngoc Thao – Member of the Board of Directors, Director of Digital Transformation at PNJ and Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Giang – Partner of Talent and Culture at Mekong Capital, Ms. Ha Thanh An – Co-Founder & COO Investment Business Partners (IBP) hosted the panel discussion. The experiences of the speakers have brought many valuable lessons to the Top startup SKSF 2021 as well as the Demo Day attendees.

The 6-month journey of “makeover” of Top startups SKSF 2021

SK Group aims to help startups have the best foundation and growth opportunities, so in addition to the financial grant at the end of the program, SKSF 2021 has provided invaluable non-financial support to help startups enhance their inner powers. These non-financial support items are in 2 main axes of activities, training and mentoring along the 6-month journey of the SKSF 2021 program.

Top 13 SKSF 2021 has finished 78 intensive 1:1 mentoring sessions from 19 mentors who are investors, entrepreneurs, and experts in the Vietnamese and international markets (Korea, Malaysia). In the midst of COVID, many startups experience a change in their growth journey. To comment on the “makeover” in the 6-month journey to join SKSF 2021 of the Top startup SKSF 2021, mentor Nguyen Thi Dieu Hang – CEO of BSSC, Vice President of HCMC Young Business Association (YBA) shared “Top startup SKSF 2021 have three characteristics: core technology, social impact, and the ability to scale up to international markets. SK Group is one of the large corporations, actively participating in supporting the Vietnam startup ecosystem in particular and the region in general. Programs like SKSF give startups many opportunities and motivation to continue on the path that the startup has chosen.” Mr. Le Hoang Thach – CEO of WeWe Technology JSC (Voiz FM) looks back on the 6-month mentoring journey of SKSF 2021 “The Mentoring Program of SKSF 2021 is very special with the companionship of 2 mentors: a Vietnamese mentor with management experience for domestic market and an SK Group mentor with a perspective of international market. During the 6-month journey of mentoring, Voiz FM has accumulated a lot of knowledge, skills and changed multidimensional perspectives, sharpened thinking in approaching, analyzing and evaluating problems to come up with correct business decisions. We not only applied them to manage our company with a typical Vietnamese environment, but also prepared for future plans to reach out to the international market.”

Who are Top 4 excellent startups of SKSF 2021, Bach#2?

After the competition of startups, the Board of Judges selected Top 4 excellent startups to award the top prizes of SKSF 2021. Ms.Truong Ly Hoang Phi, member of The Board of Judges SKSF 2021, shared “Top startup SKSF this year has the equal capacity. They have clear products and business models. Some startups know what they need. And all startups have strong teams to complement each other and It is also one of the things that makes The Board of Judges difficult to choose the Top 4. To talk about the Top 4 this year, I’m quite satisfied with the results. I see that most of them have made impressive initial steps, in addition to preparing to be able to scale up strongly in the near future. About the remaining Top 8, they are all excellent. I think each program has its own criteria, the fact that they are in the Top startup of this year’s program is an affirmation that their business models are very potential. In addition, I think with the potential of SK Group, it is always ready to connect the alumni network so that they can support each other in the near future.”

The top 4 SKSF 2021 named the startups that received the highest award of the program as a grant of 50,000 USD/startup:

  • VAIS (Vietnam Artificial Intelligence Solutions): VAIS builds core AI engines which help computers to understand human speech and natural languages. On top of the core engines, VAIS makes products that improve human productivity and creativity.
  • WeWe Technology JSC (Voiz FM): WeWe Technology JSC is the owner of Voiz FM, the leading pay-for-knowledge audio platform in Vietnam. Currently, we’re anchoring in audiobooks while still expanding our portfolio into other formats, such as podcast, pod-course, pod-series, sleep aid.
  • GIMO: Aimed at serving millions of underbanked Vietnamese working people, Gimo offers Earned Waged Access (EWA) service that is transparent and provides users with instant access to their earned income ahead of a scheduled payday.
  • Umbalena: an educational application to nurture the love of reading and enhance the reading culture of Vietnamese children from 2 to 6 years old.

The consolation prize is a grant of USD 26,000 that belongs to VIFO: a SaaS platform to connect and provide full-scale solutions for all insurance stakeholders at once.

The remaining startups receiving grants of 16,000 USD per startup include: Otrafy, Palexy, Veritas, Med247, Nam Tuoi Cuoi (Smiling Mushroom), CyHome, Phenikaa Maas.

Honor Top 4 SKSF 2021 and Consolation Prize at Demo Day

Mr. Nguyen Anh Quan Co-Founder & CEO of GIMO shared his feelings right after Demo Day “All Top13 SKSF 2021 are very talented, so the competition taking place at Demo Day is really competitive. Personally, I think GIMO was lucky to be in the Top 4 so my feelings right now are exciting!”

Demo Day closes the 6-month acceleration journey of Top startup SKSF 2021 with the values that startups receive even higher than grant awards: knowledge from intensive training sessions; real combat experience shared among alumni; the sharp product thinking and business acumen from mentors; strategic vision and global thinking in business orientation; valuable relationships in the Startup Ecosystem of Vietnam and the region.