Vietnamese startup CốcCốc (meaning: Knock Knock) is on a roll. Funds are kicking in from Hubert Burda Media, a German family-owned global media company. The amount invested has been disclosed as US$ 14million.
Before this investment, CốcCốc had received funding of US$ 20 million from the former partners of Digital Sky Technologies, Russia's biggest venture capital firm, who had earlier put US$125 million into Facebook.
In the region, the government keeps a close eye on web startups and is aiming to provide uninterrupted access to popular websites and social media networking channels under its infamous ‘bamboo firewall’. It intends to achieve this by improving its internet infrastructure system.
While the founders of the Vietnamese search engine are determined to make CốcCốc the most popular search engine in Vietnam. They hope this will help reduce the dependence on foreign technology and affirm the growth of Vietnamese IT.
CốcCốc was founded and developed by three Vietnamese programmers Nguyen Thanh Binh, Le Van Thanh, and Nguyen Duc Ngoc. They have been burning the midnight oil for over five years to get where they are today.
When asked about the funds, an enthusiastic Mr Le Van Thanh, said, “I think to convince investors successfully, a startup should prove that their project has all the interesting differences from other existing products in the market. You also have to point out why large enterprises in the market cannot copy your product easily.”
When compared to Google, CốcCốc takes the edge with its unique features. Namely, the ability to bypass blocked websites, like Facebook. These are blocked due to heavy load on the servers. CốcCốc also provides the ability to find and save streaming websites for offline viewing and listening, the reduction of download duration by up to eight times times for multiple download streams, the facility to continue broken link downloads, along with a fully integrated English-Vietnamese dictionary to make the usage simple and convenient.
In the local context, these features make a Vietnamese user’s web surfing much easier. For example, CốcCốc’s system can automatically add lingual tones to Vietnamese text, or it can automatically detect spelling mistakes with 98-99% accuracy. This helps to save 40-60% of typing time in Vietnamese.Thanks to these special features, CốcCốc is gaining prominence.
Anh Minh, a tech blogger for Tech in Asia says, “CốcCốc has an edge over Google with its browser. Google still remains the main search engine, but CốcCốc is very local, in terms of features, and has strong technology that is very localised. This allows it to have a strong edge on Google.”
The funding of US$14mn, which will be transferred over a period of 18 months, will help CốcCốc in developing its existing line of products, implementing sales strategies, and improving the overall UX and customer experience.
As of October 13, 2014, CốcCốc with its 13 million users has surpassed the number of Firefox numbers in Vietnam. And having its headquarters in the capital, Hanoi, has helped CốcCốc acquire strong talent from across the country.
Now equipped with 300+ staff, a daily credit of 90,000+ downloads and 4.2 million average daily visitors on its browser, CốcCốc is only a few numbers shy from dethroning Google as the #1 browser in Vietnam.
Vietnam, despite being called an ‘internet enemy’ by Reporters without Borders for its periodic lockdowns, taking action on dissidents and moderations on the internet, has 28 million Facebook users, and 40 million internet consumers topping its eCommerce transactions to US$ 2.97 billion.
Yet things did not happen overnight for CốcCốc. It started off on pure faith with a no brand name, no money and infrastructure. Mr Le Van Thanh recalls, “Initially, CốcCốc only got a small amount of investments, allowing us to focus on the development of some features and the implementation of [an] initial survey about [the] Vietnamese internet market. After the first few months, we were successful with handling linguistic features for Vietnamese. This impressed investors and strengthened their belief in the development team.”
The rise of innovative companies like Seedcom and CốcCốc proves that it is a great time for Vietnamese eCommerce, which has been traditionally dominated by giants like Vat Gia, Lazada, Tiki, Hotdeal, and Zalora.
When commenting on CốcCốc’s future strategies, Anh Minh says, “I believe CốcCốc will invest more in content and mobile services. It’s not clear how Google will handle it. Google also has to face the onslaught of Facebook, which is a more present danger. However, at the moment, CốcCốc is more affordable than Google for advertising. This is a key problem for Google.”
Despite the country’s struggle with the internet facility due to server lows, and moderations backed by a communist agenda, Mr Le Van Thanh is confident that with the right conditions and support, CốcCốc will be able to achieve its dream as the most used search engine in Vietnam.
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