The Topica Founder Institute Mafias

On the back of a stellar 2015 for startups in Vietnam, the Topica Founder Institute made a triumphant return to Hanoi with its TFI Batch 5 this year. To date, TFI has graduated a total of 48 founders, including this year’s batch of 14.

The Numbers

While graduating 48 founders may not seem like much, consider the following:

  • Over 1,000 applied to join the program;
  • Less than 200 passed the enrollment test;
  • Less than 2/3 finally made the graduation;
  • Top-15 startups raised more than $15 million;
  • Combined valuation exceeding $80 million; and
  • 10 of 25 startups that were funded in the first half of 2016 are TFI alumni, including 3 from the current batch.

This says a lot in the kind of contribution TFI has made in the development of the Vietnam’s tech startup ecosystem.

The Program

Founders at the Topica Founder Institute program go through a 14-week mentored session, with weekly assignments that test their resolve and will in becoming an entrepreneur.

While the Founder Institute is not for everyone, it is nonetheless one key accelerator program in Vietnam to drive the growth of the young tech startup ecosystem. The challenge is in making it relevant and continue to shape the landscape, and elevate the quality of ideas and the founders behind these ideas.

Class of 2016

When asked about this year’s cohort, the co-director, Dr. Tuan Pham commented, “We have been humbled to work with such a great batch of talented entrepreneurs. It has been amazing to witness the transformation of their startups into solid business models, build products and gain amazing tractions, and presented eloquently from their impressive pitch, all within 4 months.”

Saikit Ng, Executive Director of Captii Ventures, said of this batch of founders, “The 14 grueling weeks and hard work really prepared them to face the roller coaster ahead. It is not at all romantic to be a startup founder, as I’m sure they’ve found out. As mentors, our relationship does not end here; it is a friendship that continues even after the graduation.”

The Network

The Topica Founder Institute is one of the chapters of a global program, “Globalizing Silicon Valley” as aptly coined by Adeo Ressi, founder of Founder Institute, and this enables TFI graduates and participants to leverage off its more than 1,850 graduate companies, founders, mentors and advisors. In a nutshell, the “FI Mafias” can truly move things and effect game-changing disruptions.

Quan Truong, founder of Beeketing, a Batch 3 alumni, nearly dropped out before graduating as one of the top-15 startup. The network that Founder Institute brought to him enabled him to eventually base Beeketing in Silicon Valley. On what the program has done for him, he said, “The mentors, advisors, and the program directors really helped in whipping us into shape. When I went to Silicon Valley the first time, it was the Founder Institute that opened up the channels for me.”

Mr Victor Chua, Investment Director of Gobi Partners, said, “The TFI program has been exceptional in providing genuine support for startup founders in Vietnam, allowing the founders to not just learn from local mentors, but also from thought leaders and players in the region.”

The Graduates

(Top row) Joseph Du — Falilo; Le Phuong — Payhub; Xuan Hoang — Monkey Junior; Khanh Hoa — Wisami; Stuart and Hung — Posome; Thanh Son — Moonwalkers; Tuan Truong — NomNom. (Bottom row) Trong Doan — Cheffing; Hieu — Homily; Kristine Phuong — 2Give; Yen Phuong — Fundy; Tuan Anh — Flextalk; Anh Tuan — Konexy; Red Shirt (Quang) — Co-director TFI

1. 2Give

An offline flower retail store with over $2.2Million in revenuee, expanding and scaling through the online platform.

2. Monkey Junior

A language learning platform aimed at kids below the age of 10. It uses cognitive and contextual methods in getting the young to learn languages. It currently has more than 800,000 downloads, making it the Number 1 app in Vietnam and the Top-10 globally for kids’ learning category.

3. Nom Nom

Nom Nom aims to deliver an integrated platform in customer loyalty program, by combining automated marketing with user data analytics, that helps F&B outlets to enhance the in-store and out-store customer experience.

4. Cheffing

More than just cooking, Cheffing aims to enhance the experience for home chefs. A selection of recipes specially designed by renown chefs and properly portioned for order and delivery to your home.

5. Falilo

Shopping made easy through machine learning. It does the hard work of locating the ideal items you want to get.

6. Homily

Design your dream home the easy way, and save a mint at the same time. The use of a 3D engine allows home designers to visualize and make purchase of furniture and furnishing.

7. Wisami

Wisami wants to do all the tedious work of tax filing and HR matters for you, while you focus on growing the business.

8. Moonwalkers

An IoT play, its technology combines hardware of everyday items and software via mobile to help you attain a better sleep experience through the monitoring of the room environment.

9. Fundy

Looking to do some social good? Fundy is a social crowdfunding platform that optimizes how you raise funds for your next social cause.

10. NauBox

Eat clean, live healthy. Meals in a box, delivered to your home for the busy people.

11. Konexy

What Intel is driving the laptops, Konexy aims to be the heart for all things IoT.

12. Posome

Enhance your relationship with your close friends and loved ones through collaborating on photo and video collages.

13. Flextalk

Flextalk takes the boredom out of language learning by matching people with common interests.

14. PayHub

Payhub is a payment intermediary to connect users and merchants with a variety of rewards such as cashback or redemption of goods and services.

TFI has indeed brought many would-be entrepreneurs out of the woodworks, shape the thoughts of these people, and making them into bona-fide entrepreneurs, building and creating exciting products and services. In a short span of 5 years, it’s been instrumental in building the foundation of a healthy and sustainable startup ecosystem not only in Vietnam, but also now in Thailand.