Vietnamese media reported on Oct. 30 that IDG has invested in local business social networking startup CyVee with an undisclosed amount. Now IDG has heated up the social networking play in Vietnam again, it might be tempting to see the scorecard of their portfolio.
CyWorld Vietnam is the first SNS that received IDG’s money. It hopes to duplicate the success story of itself in South Korea, where it is the biggest SN player with more than 20 million members. CyWorld Vietnam claimed they have recruited 100,000 subscribers since its inception early this year, and is looking at the 500,000 landmark by the end of this year. How successful is CyWorld Vietnam? So far the opinions are mixed. Many Vietnamese teens loves its Korean-style design and appearance. However, some more mature and practical teens complain CyWorld is too sweetie teeny, too “closed”, and costly as CyWorld sells their personas and other items (I guess Vietnamese teenagers might not be as wealthy as their Korean counterparts). Nearly one year after its debut, CyWorld Vietnam are still halfway checking if their fee-based business model and Korean anime style would drive Vietnamese teenagers crazy like Bi Rain. Otherwise, CyWorld Vietnam might find itself in a similar position like its US sister.
Yeuamnhac is the second player in IDG’s portfolio. It has been in a mysterious quiet atmosphere since receiving IDG’s money, except for a redesign of the website and the adding of video sharing functions. Yeuamnhac is in a heavy competition with very strong newcomers such as Zing MP3, 7Music/7Sac, Baamboo Music, Nhacvui, and a jungle of amateur music websites. While Baamboo or 7Sac’s business model has been proved in other part of the world, Yeuamnhac’s business model is uniquely Vietnam and that’s what makes them find difficult to go ahead. What Yeuamnhac should urgently do is to differentiate itself amid the mushrooming of online music services in Vietnam, or it would be ending as the weakest link among IDG’s connects.
Yobanbe is another IDG’s involvement. It is a service launched by VinaGame, which is touted to be “the most successful” invested company of IDGVV. Well equipped, but Yobanbe is losing steam in its battle with Yahoo 360. Now its parent, VinaGame, is launching a full throttle attack against Yahoo with its Zing franchise, Yobanbe might expect to receive less attention from its mum. One options is to let Yobanbe go wherever it takes before Zing can outchat Yahoo, or the Zing franchise would find itself behind its respective competitors in every war.
Clip.vn has been quite successful in drawing in viewers and boosting traffic. This YouTube clone is now trying to find the way to monetize its property. It has introduced both display ads and in video banner ads, but the results are still limited. Clip is burning more bucks than other social networking for its servers, so it would be more difficult for them to achieve break even. Though gaining some momentum, Clip will find it difficult to stay independent, just as original YouTube had. Therefore, an acquisition by a power player should be best for Clip’s investors.
Newcomer CyVee should be the most interesting to watch. With more than 11,000 members since its debut early this year, CyVee is doing quite well in a country where business users’ social networking habits is a novelty to most. The biggest challenge for CyVee is how to scale up and recruit a critical mass user base, otherwise it would be not easy to find decent display ads revenue. Even much heavier trafficked business online news website VnEconomy is finding out that online display ads revenues are so small compared with its stable of magazines and newspapers, then how CyVee scale its growth is a thorny subject. The Chinese clone of LinkedIn is thinking of a “cooperation” with the original LinkedIn, so can we expect a similar move for CyVee? Of course not, at least until LinkedIn goes IPO, which might be a far future. Maybe CyVee should wait until Vietnamworks IPO in 2009, and sell to them or IPO with them.
Scale. Monetize. Scale. These should be three biggest challenges to all Vietnamese social networking services. In the next few months, expect more Vietnamese SNS players to join the game just to see how they solve these three challenges.