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Vietnam Comedy Channel Hits Youtube ‘Milestone’ in The Country

The Vietnamese comedy channel FAP TV has become the first YouTube account to hit the 10 million subscribers mark in the Southeast Asian country

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Youtube, Vietnamese, Milestone, 10 million, Subscribers
YouTube promoted its brand in Ho Chi Minh City with a panel with Vietnamese users. VOA

The Vietnamese comedy channel FAP TV has become the first YouTube account to hit the 10 million subscribers mark in the Southeast Asian country of nearly 100 million people, according to an announcement on Thursday from the Asia Pacific office of Google, which owns YouTube.

Vietnam has been one of the fastest growing markets for the video site, especially after Google invested in computer servers in the country, which have sped up streaming and download times. YouTube has also invested heavily in Vietnamese language content and advertising.

But the process has come with growing pains, too, most notably in the realms of taxes and censorship. The site has blocked videos with content critical of the government. While these actions are taken following requests from the state, YouTube says it follows the same protocol around the world when it gets requests from governments to take down clips. Videos have been blocked in countries from Algeria to Germany, with reasons cited ranging from hate speech to terrorism.

In its transparency report for Vietnam Google notes that it received a request from the Vietnamese government to remove 28 YouTube videos inciting violent protests during the Vietnamese Independence Day period (Vietnam’s Independence Day is September 2).  Google says it removed 12 videos for violating YouTube Community Guidelines that prohibit publishing instructions to commit violent acts. It restricted access to 4 other videos in Vietnam. The company did not remove the remaining 12 videos.

Google also appears to be complying with a new cyber security law in Vietnam, which requires foreign companies to set up representative offices inside the country. Some have speculated that one of the factors motivating the law is to ensure that multinational companies do not evade taxes.

Vietnam has been trying to collect taxes from both Google and YouTube, as well as other foreign tech companies that make profits from Vietnamese customers while declaring their profits to tax authorities in other countries with lower tax rates like Singapore. In contrast to a bricks and mortar store that sells bicycles, which are simple to tax, foreign tech companies tend to sell intangible services, like advertising attached to YouTube videos, which are harder to tax.

Youtube, Vietnamese, Milestone, 10 million, Subscribers

YouTube passed out branded cupcakes at a promotional event in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. VOA

“Aside from the matter of studying amendments to laws and regulations of tax administration, cooperation is needed between state agencies and industry,” Luu Duc Huy, head of the policy department at the Vietnamese General Department of Tax, told the government TV station, V News. “Second, cooperation is needed between the Vietnamese tax agency and other countries’ tax agencies.”

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Google has said repeatedly that it follows all laws in the countries where it operates.

It is not just Vietnam. Most countries from Thailand to France are trying to figure out how to collect taxes on YouTube and other businesses that physically operate beyond their borders but make money from citizens within the borders. As Huy noted, the solution is likely to derive from these multiple tax authorities coming together, as is now being proposed by the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (VOA)

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Investors in Vietnam to be More Cautious While Investing in Tech Startups

Vietnamese Investors More Cautious with Tech Startups

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Investors and entrepreneurs in the communist nation are taking a more critical look at their businesses after seeing others get burned overseas. Pixabay

Vietnamese startups are heading into the new year looking to avoid the mistakes of such companies as Uber and WeWork, which disappointed investors in 2019 for failing to turn a profit after so much buildup.

Investors and entrepreneurs in the communist nation are taking a more critical look at their businesses after seeing others get burned overseas. WeWork, which rents out shared workspaces, was seen as a cautionary tale of a startup that did not live up to expectations and was not profitable.

For years, investors were willing to back losing businesses to gain market share. But now, there is more scrutiny of new investments.

ho-chi-minh Investors
Ho Chi Minh City is the business hub of Vietnam, where fast economic growth has attracted startup investors. VOA

Benchmarks set

The Vietnam Innovative Startup Accelerator (VIISA) requires its technology startups to meet a list of benchmarks throughout their time in the program.

“Apart from very intuitive selection criteria that all applying startups have to go through, the program has introduced a new development measurement method, which helps us to capture the progress of startups that are accepted into VIISA,” Hieu Vo, a board member and chief financial officer at VIISA, said. “I think this process will bring out the best in each person for the particular business they have founded and committed to.”

Vo said his colleagues sit down with startups when they join the accelerator to discuss key performance indicators, or KPI, that will be set as goals. VIISA also does training for the young businesses so they have quantifiable skills, such as how to structure a business deal, or how to set up their accounting system.

Having metrics and ratings, Vo said, supports “both business performance, as well as personal transformation of founders.”

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Uber was one among those companies that left investors disappointed in 2019. Wikimedia Commons

Founder scrutiny

The founder as an individual has become a point of scrutiny for investors, who used to be more forgiving of an eccentric or aggressive founder, seen as part of the package to have a tech genius head an innovative business. But there has been a backlash among those who think too much permissiveness can damage a business, from the sexual misconduct amid the workplace culture of Uber, to the conflicts of interest in business decisions at WeWork.

It helps to not just think short term and to have an outside perspective, according to Pham Manh Ha, founder and chief executive officer of Beekrowd, an investment platform in Ho Chi Minh City.

“As a first-time founder, it seems impossible for us to look beyond the first six months to a year of our business,” he said, adding that experienced third parties can help businesses take the long view. “They stand outside the trees that are blocking us from seeing the forest.”

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To see the forest, Vietnamese businesses like his are taking a more measured approach. Vietnam has seen an escalation of tech startups, as investors have rushed to put their money to work and take advantage of the economy’s fast growth.

They also remember the dot-com bubble in the United States, and the more recent global tech bubble, two reminders for caution. (VOA)