VNG: Three seemingly “crazy” dreams of a Vietnamese technology unicorn

The Phuong| 29/12/2020 16:30
Theo dõi ICTVietnam trên

A startup with only 5 members in an Internet cafe, after 10 years, valued at 1 billion USD and becomes Vietnam's first technology unicorn; After 16 years, the company is valued at more than 2 billion USD with 11 offices in 5 countries. A journey, seen by many as “crazy”, and “impossible”, but a true story in Vietnam, written by VNG.


In the early years of the 20th century, when the Internet was just introduced to Vietnam, the young man Le Hong Minh, the current CEO of VNG, quickly saw the power and potential of a "new world." Therefore, in 2004, despite of having a dream job at VinaCapital - a leading financial group, Minh decided to quit his job and together with his friends, founded VinaGame, the predecessor of the now VNG.


VNG: Three seemingly “crazy” dreams of a Vietnamese technology unicorn - Ảnh 1.

Walkingthetalk,attheendof2004,theycompletedthefirst"utopia"project:successfullysignedacontractwiththegamegiantKingsofttobringhomethelegendarygame"LegendofSwordsman".Immediately,VinaGamecreatedcrazinessforgamesanddominatedtheonlinegamemarketinthecountrywithrecord numbers:120,000registered accountsafteronly48hoursoflaunchingonthewebsite;peakedat20,000concurrentplayerswithinjust1month.ThissuccessisamomentumforVNGtocontinuedreamingofthenext"crazy"dreams.


After quickly conquering the domestic game market, VNG continued to set out a mission that is even crazier and more impossible than the first ambition, that is: to reach 41 million users by 2014, also known as "1441" mission.

Back in 2009, Vietnam Internet had only 20 million users and VNG only had around 8 million customers. The 41 million customers target was really "daring", because it corresponds to the goal of growing userbase of more than 5 times within just 5 years.

But somehow, perhaps it is also because of luck, the crazy and daring people at VNG achieved the set target.

Firstly, VinaGame officially changed its name to VNG, expanding the market to all Internet services instead of just doing online game business. And then the Zalo, a free messaging application developed by Vietnamese engineers was born in late 2012, after some failed attempts. This time everything went smoothly. Zalo held the No. 1 position on the Vietnam App Store ranking after only a short time. And by the end of 2014, Zalo reached the 20 million user milestone, becoming the "popular" communication application with the number of users growing steadily.

Along with Zalo, VNG also resonated with Zing MP3 - the online music portal, and Adtima - the online advertising platform, etc.

The success of new "phenomena" like Zalo, along with the strong dominance of the traditional game business, helped VNG fulfill the crazy dream of "1441" on time. Even better, the dream is "adorned" with an impressive event: In 2014, the World Startup Report announced for the first time that VNG was valued at USD 1 billion, becoming the first and only Vietnamese technology unicorn at that time.


On the 15th birthday, VNG announced a new "2332" dream with the degree of insanity and craziness promoted to a new level. 2332 means that by 2023 the company sets tar-gets of a 320 million global userbase, 32 million users for new products like ZaloPay, VNG Cloud, AI; and 320,000 business customers, instead of just targeting individual users. What does VNG have today to pursue such a big dream? Zalo, their most popular product, currently has around 60 million users. Despite of being Vietnam's top messaging platform, it has to compete with three multi-national social networks "giant", namely Facebook, YouTube, and Facebook Messenger, right at home market. 

Although Adtima is currently Vietnam's No. 1 online advertising platform, it only accounts for about 20% of the market share, in a market where up to 70% of the pie is in the hands of two foreign giants, Facebook and Google. Zing MP3 digital music portal, despite of being the top domestic digital music service (with 90 million MVs and songs watched and heard every day), is still struggling to compete with cross-border services such as Spotify or more recently, Tiktok.

VNG: Three seemingly “crazy” dreams of a Vietnamese technology unicorn - Ảnh 2.

It can be easily seen that VNG has made great efforts to diversify its product ecosystem out of the traditional gaming business, but the Vietnamese Internet market is really "bony", where foreign competitors are too powerful and dominating in terms of potentiality as well as in exploiting the shortcomings of the legal framework. Five times more users in the next few years is a truly towering mountain. Certainly, the target of having 320 million users will force the unicorn to swim to the big sea and access international markets in search for opportunities.

Certainly, VNG will still have to continue investing heavily in Zalo, Zing MP3 or Adtima to protect it's home market, but at the same time, it is also investing heavily in two new trendy product categories, including: electronic payment (with ZaloPay being the current flagship product) and cloud services (the VNG CLOUD). In addition, with the strong position of a leading technology corporation in Vietnam, VNG is also betting heavily on artificial intelligence (AI), deeply integrating AI technologies developed by Vietnamese engineers into Zalo or automated user identity authentication (eKYC) solutions for the financial and banking markets.




Hehimselffranklyadmittedthathedoesnotyetknowhowtoachievethegoal.TheCovid-19pandemicmadetarget2332evenmoreuncertainandchallenging.But"daringtodreambigandpersistentlychasingdreamsisalwaystheDNA ofVNG people",justliketaking thechallengesseemstohavebeenaspiritembeddedintotheirblood.

"VNGwasstartedbydreamsandwillbefurtherdevelopedwithevenbiggerdreams,nowandinthefuture"-affirmed Mr. Le Hong Minh./.

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VNG: Three seemingly “crazy” dreams of a Vietnamese technology unicorn