APRIL 15, 2014 • Vietnam’s Appota Corp, the mobile content platform that launched during 2011, has sealed an undisclosed amount of Series B funding to increase its R&D to support off-shore expansion. Two funders, one in Singapore and one in Japan, provided the capital. Appota has already opened branch offices in Indonesia and Singapore after a year researching opportunities in Southeast Asia. The company has set its sights on South America and Africa as its next targets for 2015. With 15 million smartphone users, 90% of them in Vietnam, Appota reaches 350,000 daily active users sourcing content from 9,000 developers. In addition, 81% of its users in Vietnam access the platform from iOS devices. Appota is using game content as a major draw as it expands. Last September the start-up unveiled onClan, its mobile game social network for international markets on iOS and Android. To help push gamers to onClan, in March Appota launched Gamehub, a mobile game portal providing current news in video and text.
Impact: While China gets most of the press as the mobile content powerhouse in Asia, Vietnam has swiftly become a major player in the region, as well. Not only is the country becoming a major manufacturing center of smartphones, but also a growing game content hub. Four years ago Vietnam was barely a blip on our radar. Appreciating wages in China have made lower labor and distribution costs in Vietnam very attractive. According to the Japan External Trade Organization, the base monthly salary for a factory worker in Beijing was $466 in 2013, compared to $145 in Hanoi. In addition, the political friction that exists between Japan and China is absent in Vietnam. That is one reason Japan has been the largest investment source in Vietnam at $33 billion as of last November. What’s more, the Vietnamese are proving to be feisty, quality competitors. Targeting Indonesia, as Appota has done, is a very savvy move. Asia watchers are in agreement that Indonesia has the right mix of fast mobile carrier networks, income distribution, population size, local content and technology start-ups, plus domestic smartphone production necessary to make the country ripe to become the next major mobile market in Asia. Another smart move is Appota’s concentration on game content as a driver of new users. As elsewhere in Asia, a high percentage of new smartphone users are youth who will be drawn to games. This is an exciting time for the games industry as new markets are created around the globe by the expansion of smartphone ownership. Since it is still relatively cheap to create mobile content, new development and platform hubs in countries like Vietnam have had the opportunity to take root and prosper. There has to be a shakeout eventually, but for now it is a wild ride.