Circo, a co-working space in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, says it has raised its first round of VC funding today after bootstrapping for two years.
Co-founder and CEO Linh Hoang declined to share the invested amount. He says Circo has 500 paying members across its two locations in Ho Chi Minh City and that the majority of its tenants are young tech firms – both local and foreign. The space has been growing alongside Southeast Asia’s maturing digital economy. More startups and freelancers are in search of flexible office space not just in their home markets, but also abroad.
For example, Singaporean startups Honestbee, Shopback and Carousell have all used Circo as a launchpad to kickstart operations in Vietnam.
With a population of around 100 million people, Vietnam is seeing growing interest from global tech investors. Chinese e-retailer JD invested local ecommerce firm Tiki earlier this year.
Circo’s seed round comes from East Ventures, an early stage venture fund focused on Southeast Asia and Japan. The VC has been paying special attention to these types of businesses, first running its own co-working network, EV Hive, and then taking on US$20 million before spinning it out as a separate business unit.
East Ventures managing partner Willson Cuaca points out the many synergies between the startup ecosystem and co-working. As companies grow, so does their need for space and added services, such as community events or legal counselling.
Co-working, globally, has ballooned into a billion-dollar industry. Bloomberg reported that WeWork, one of the largest networks of co-working spaces from the US, is seeking a new round of funding at a mind-boggling US$35 billion valuation, even though it’s still racking up losses.
WeWork has made inroads in Southeast Asia through a number of acquisitions, for example of Singapore’s Spacemob. The same goes for Chinese co-working chain UCommune, which has been on a veritable acquisition spree, snatching up rivals at home and in other countries, like Indonesia’s Rework.
Vietnam is still untouched by the two global co-working giants. Can Circo see itself joining hands with either the quickly expanding WeWork or UCommune in the future? Or how would the company defend itself if well-funded and competitive outsiders dip their toes into its home market? Hoang says he can’t answer that just yet.
Editor: Ben Jiang