In a statement, the startup said it would be receiving investment from both backers, as well as joining VIISA’s accelerator program.
Saigoneer produces a range of English-language news, arts, and culture content covering Ho Chi Minh City, with sections on its site including “Old Saigon” – which examines local history – and regular features like “Hẻm Gems” – hẻm being the Vietnamese word for the small lane and alleyways which host the city’s multifarious dining and drinking establishments.
The platform publishes these in-house articles alongside sponsored content from brand owners and marketers.
In addition to branded pieces, Saigoneer generates revenue from banner ads, business listings, sponsored video, and by monetizing its newsletter. It also offers some offline products, including a street food map which it brand for local hotels, co-founder Brian Letwin tells Tech in Asia.
It is Saigoneer’s plans to further grow the marketing side of its business that have caught the eye of investors.
Brand owners have been steadily upping their digital ad spend year-on-year. A study by Google and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings last year suggests that Southeast Asia’s online ad market will grow sixfold to hit US$200 billion in value by 2025. By 2018, internet ad budgets in Vietnam are expected to grow to three-and-a-half times what they were in 2012:
But many publishers in Southeast Asia have not developed adequate products to take advantage of the opportunity, says Letwin.
“We see the way things are going in more developed markets and are focused on creating narrative-driven, branded content that is both editorial in style and clearly labeled as paid,” he says. “Other publishers still write in an overly ‘PR’ tone and often don’t mark paid content as such, resulting in weaker brand trust. That can impact perception of the publisher’s editorial voice and integrity.”
While there are a number of “expat”-focused publications in Ho Chi Minh City – such as AsiaLife, Oi, and The Word – Letwin explains that they represent only part of Saigoneer’s competition for ad budgets, with Vietnamese-language sites like VnExpress and Zing also angling for brand owners’ money.
Letwin says that the startup will use its seed funding to hire more hands, increase its IT resources – both for technical and HR purposes – and to enhance its abilities in producing mobile and video content.
It also has expansion to Hanoi and other Vietnamese cities – and perhaps even farther afield – in its plans, with a follow-up funding round slated within the next 12 months.
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