Docosan, a Ho Chi Minh City health tech startup which is getting Vietnam’s digitally savvy masses to skip crowded waiting rooms by booking doctors on its mobile app, has raised over $1 million in one of Vietnam’s largest health tech seed rounds ever.
The oversubscribed round was led by top Taiwanese tech venture capital firm AppWorks, one of the most active early-stage investors in the region and whose prior investments include Lalamove, Carousell, ShopBack, and KKday. The round was joined by biotech entrepreneur David Ma and Singapore-based investors Huat Ventures.
“Docosan is bringing the digital revolution to healthcare in Vietnam thanks to its determined team and innovative platform,” said AppWorks partner Andy Tsai. “We noticed Docosan’s potential early on because of its participation in the AppWorks Accelerator. Docosan Founders demonstrated strong experience and dedication to the healthcare issues in the region. We are proud to be supporting Docosan’s vision of better healthcare access for all.“
In less than a year of operations, Docosan has helped over 50,000 patients discover and book appointments with hundreds of vetted doctors across 35 specialties. Docosan’s CEO and co-founder Beth Ann Lopez chalked up the rapid growth to vast untapped demand for a convenient and intuitive way to find the top healthcare options.
“It’s so easy to use your smartphone to order a banh mi or a motorbike taxi but finding the right doctor is still a frustrating experience for many. Many rely on word of mouth recommendations from family members and sit for hours in crowded waiting rooms hoping for an appointment instead of booking in advance,” Lopez said. “Docosan’s mobile platform, which includes transparent pricing information, verified customer reviews, and 24/7 booking, makes finding the right doctor as easy an opening our app.”
Docosan’s platform works by allowing patients to book and filter doctors based on price, location, specialty, reviews, and more. Key to the platform’s success has been quick adoption by the many healthcare providers who struggle to expand their customer base and manage appointments.
“Many clinics are frustrated after spending large amounts on social media marketing because these networks’ vast, opaque user bases are difficult to harness to reach new patients. Docosan gives providers a far better, more tailored user base to expand,” Lopez said. “Meanwhile, Docosan’s proprietary booking software provides doctors an easier way to manage bookings compared to the crowded waiting rooms, which people are increasingly wary of amid the pandemic.”
Docosan has already integrated e-payments and insurance into its platform, with future plans to add telehealth and pharmacy services. The startup’s ambitious vision has been featured in the British Medical Journal and NASDAQ.com.
“Southeast Asia has been transformed by mass smartphone adoption and the rise of tech platforms, but in many places healthcare has yet to catch up with this trend. We’re very excited to make this happen thanks to our investors,” Lopez said.
【If you are a founder working on a startup in SEA, or working with AI / IoT, Blockchain / NFT, apply to AppWorks Accelerator to join the largest founder community in Greater Southeast Asia.】
Jack is an Analyst covering AppWorks Accelerator. Before joining the team, he was a co-founder and early team member at two InsurTech startups, where he developed a passion in user experience and product development. Previous to his startup journey he worked as a commercial property underwriter at Chubb Insurance in New Zealand. Jack graduated with a Bachelor of Music from Waikato University where he studied classical piano. He loves to cook, read and is a practicing stoic.
Hi, I’m Jack, I joined AppWorks as an Analyst in April 2019, not long after I burnt through two startups, one I co-founded in 2017 and the other as a founding team member. My experience taught me that building a successful company is extremely difficult, and if I wanted to improve my odds, I needed to learn from people who have successfully built them.
Now at AppWorks, I get to work alongside 1,300 founders of all stages amongst a variety of startups, 395 active ones to be exact, across the most exciting region that is Greater Southeast Asia, giving me truly a grand scope of founders to learn from.
This year, the coronavirus disrupted the normal world order, taking millions of lives in the process and slowing down economies all around the world. Amongst the chaos, startups from all stages were affected. Besides the select few that prevailed, most startups either saw stagnant growth, or worst, shut down their business.
On my journey to become a better founder myself, behind this very unfortunate event was a learning opportunity of a lifetime. This is why I set out to write this piece, to document my learnings and improve my understanding. I got to see just how startups that overcome the pandemic reacted differently to those that didn’t.
Amongst our network of founders, I had the chance to closely observe Ming Ming Chen, the founder and CEO of KKday – a travel platform that provides local experiences and tours across Asia. I got to witness first hand how he coped with drastic changes that affected his business, how he made quality decisions that pushed KKday to prevail, and how he quickly mobilized the entire company to effectively weather the storm.
I believe the key lessons distilled here are applicable to early-stage founders all the way up to founders heading into series B, especially for those that want to learn how to lead a team through uncertainties. The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-generation crisis, pushing founders to the test in every single aspect possible, so the lessons observed here should be great additions to your arsenal.
First, plan for the worst to conquer yourself
Back in January when the pandemic first broke out, I hopped on a call with Ming Ming to check in on KKday’s pulse. I remember distinctly that he was very calm and collected. It was hard to tell from his demeanor that 90% of travel in this region was wiped out almost over night.
I asked him what’s going through his head. Ming Ming mentioned that in his 20+ years of entrepreneurship, a key principle he practiced was to always plan for the worst.
By always planning for the worst, KKday has been extremely disciplined in managing their cash flow and balance sheet. The key principle is to not sink short-term assets into long-term investments, optimizing for cash flow flexibility in return.
This played a major role in neutralizing the initial shock of the outbreak, allowing KKday to protect their brand and refund customers fully, despite a significant drop in revenue.
The other benefit of planning for the worst is better managed expectations. When bad situations don’t turn out as bad as you had anticipated, then your own morale and energy are left unperturbed.
This side effect may seem negligible at first, but being the captain of the ship that’s lost at sea, the crew’s attitude is an extension of it’s captain. Displaying the slightest frustration and anger does not instill confidence in your team, but only serves to discourage them. What seemed like a minuscule change in perspective can actually impact the entire company.
By simply planning for the worst situation possible, Ming Ming and KKday were able to soften the initial blow of the pandemic. But as the travel industry came to a near freeze, how can a founder turn around their startup’s fate from barely managing survival to proactively creating opportunity?
A decision framework against uncertainty
Having led 2 companies to IPO before starting KKday, Ming Ming draws from a wealth of knowledge and experience to overcome the pandemic. He explains that the result of any decision is amplified during troubled times, either directly adding more uncertainty to your team or reducing it.
Furthermore, the result also impacts the decision maker’s future credits to lead their team. Thus, increasing the decision quality across the company was a key lever to pushing KKday forward.
Ming Ming distilled his decision framework into for steps ”見-識-謀-斷” which can be translated to “seek-digest-strategize-decide”. Every decision made within KKday goes through this rigorous process.
The first step is to “seek” information and data that’d accurately represent the reality of the decision. The second step is to “digest” the information and to understand the scope and the stakes. The third step is to “strategize”, plan and test the hypothesis of your decision; it is important to stress test your thesis and evaluate whether or not it adequately stands up to reality by inviting other stakeholders into the discussion to either validate or invalidate your understanding.
The last step is to “decide”. The founder or the leader of the team needs to make the decision alone, as they need to carry the responsibility of the result. They need to decide on the tradeoffs of making the decision, and whether or not to proceed or revisit the preceding steps.
Throughout 2020, KKday has transitioned from selling tours for foreigners traveling in a new country to weekend getaways and other domestic excursions for people living in Taiwan, while also branching into products that extend far beyond their typical offering including protective masks and packets of mala hot pot.
In the process of venturing into the unknown, Ming Ming and his team carefully used this framework to test their hypothesis, efficiently and effectively pushing forward their progress without losing precious resources and energy.
And as the year draws to a close, we are seeing all of these initiatives not only making up for the missing revenue, but also enabling KKday to strengthen its brand and build goodwill among its customer base, while acquiring a slew of new users in the process.
But making better decisions is only part of the equation, what truly pushed KKday above the line was their execution upon these decisions. So just how did KKday, a company with hundreds of employees, with operations spanning across 6 countries adapt to the new normal so swiftly?
Using organization structure to drive your strategy
Much like a sports team that changes their lineup according to their game plan and the opposing team, a founder needs to structure their organization and teams relative to the environment and strategy, to maximize the organization’s output.
Once Ming Ming and his team decided to introduce new products and focus on domestic travel, the way the organization was previously structured needed to be reshaped, as it no longer yielded optimal efficiency in promoting the new strategy.
Rather than having the Taiwan HQ team approve all products for travelers on their platform, KKday adapted to procuring products locally, authorizing local teams to source products for their own markets allowing them to move much faster than before.
The teams also overhauled their KPIs to focus on improving new product sales and domestic travel sales. These new KPIs became the guidelines and instructions that empowered the new teams to directly facilitate the change in strategy, enabling the company to quickly transition from serving outbound travelers to domestic travelers.
COVID-19 hit different countries with varying severity, creating non-linear recovery across all of KKday’s active markets. The organizational restructuring served as an effective way for local teams to rapidly respond to local conditions as needed, helping the travel company to pull off an incredibly successful year by all standard measures—no doubt exemplified by the US$ 75 million Series C they recently raised in the midst of a pandemic.
There is much more to learn
By always planning for the worst, Ming Ming was able to soften the initial impact for the pandemic, and by improving the decision quality across the board, KKday was able to create opportunities even when the odds were stacked against them. Most importantly, by efficiently managing the organization, KKday was able to execute quickly upon the opportunity they identified and improve their chance of survival at every corner and every turn.
These lessons observed here are not commonly found in public domains, and only really shared from one founder to another. As I tried to build my first startup at the age of 25, I mostly did it in isolation without knowing any other founders at all. Looking back, so many mistakes could have been avoided, and so much time could have been saved, if I had just learned from founders who were a few years more journeyed than me.
【So if you are like me, and you wish to become a better founder and build a successful company in the future, then I encourage you to join a community like AppWorks Accelerator, where you can interact with and learn from over 1,300 founders just like Ming Ming.】
AppWorks Ecosystem breaks a US$10B valuation, with aggregate turnover and funds raised both more than doubling in growth
AppWorks Funds outperforms the world’s top quartile of venture capital and private equity funds, generating 2.5x TVPI, 1x DPI, and 26.5% IRR
AppWorks School graduates 256 students, with a 92% placement rate
On February 2, 2021, AppWorks unveiled its key milestones over the past decade, while highlighting operational results from 2020 in the “10th anniversary and 2020 Year in Review” webpage. Despite the raging impact of the pandemic, the AppWorks Ecosystem displayed the utmost resiliency, with the funds and all encompassing companies producing healthy growth and profits.
AppWorks has just passed its 10 year anniversary in 2020, and with all pillars of its influence only continuing to grow, including AppWorks Accelerator, the AppWorks Ecosystem alumni, AppWorks Funds, and AppWorks School. AppWorks has achieved several key milestones, and made significant headway in establishing Taiwan as the technology epicenter of Greater Southeast Asia (ASEAN+TW). Looking forward into the next 10 years, AppWorks’ goal is to continue positioning Greater Southeast Asia at the forefront of an increasingly digital, automated, and decentralized 21st century.
Milestones in the AppWorks Ecosystem: Aggregate valuation, fundraising, and turnover each exhibited more than 2x growth, with the overall valuation exceeding US$10B
In 2020, AppWorks Accelerator announced its updated focus on “ABS” strategy, narrowing the recruitment of startups to only those focusing on AI, blockchain, and Southeast Asia. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, AppWorks Accelerator graduated 51 new startups across AW#20 and AW#21, of which 27 are working in AI/IoT and 13 in blockchain/crypto. More than 62% of the entrepreneurs hail from countries across Greater Southeast Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia. In response to the widespread lockdowns and travel restrictions, we also shifted our program to a hybrid online-offline model in order to facilitate a seamless experience for all of our founders despite physical limitations.
With the addition of AW#20 and AW#21, there are now a total of 395 active startups and 1,331 founders in the AppWorks Ecosystem (including accelerator alumni and portfolio companies). Collectively, all companies produce a turnover of US$ 8 billion, an annual increase of 162% compared to the same time last year, and foster 17,359 employees, 73% more than the year prior. Altogether, the Ecosystem raised a total of US$ 2.36 billion, an annual increase of 140%, with an aggregate valuation reaching US$ 11 billion, growing 160% YoY.
With COVID-19 effectively turbocharging the demand for digital technologies in 2020, the Ecosystem’s overall valuation, total funds raised, and annual turnover have each more than doubled in growth, notably exceeding the 29%, 36%, and 98% respectively experienced a year prior.
In the course of building this ecosystem and cultivating Taiwan and Southeast Asia’s innovative capabilities, AppWorks has helped generate sizable economic impact both in terms of value created and jobs produced. The combined annual turnover of US$ 8 billion is now equivalent to 0.7% of Indonesia’s GDP, and the more than 17,000 employment opportunities created are equivalent to 0.3% of Singapore’s working population.
Coincidentally, the year AppWorks exceeded a decacorn valuation is the very same year of our 10th anniversary. The increased adoption of digital technologies and outsized demand for innovative business models under COVID-19 was just enough to inch the Ecosystem into the ten billion dollar territory, not only marking a new milestone in AppWorks’ history but also representing the sheer impact that a community of digital innovators can bring. We see the scale and influence of our ecosystem only growing from here on out, into the next decade.
The strength and potential of the AppWorks Ecosystem is perhaps best represented through the many achievements over our alumni this past year:
AppWorks Ecosystem highlights: ShopBack successfully entered the Vietnamese market; Mighty Jaxx successfully sold 5 million collectibles
Medtech startup iWEECARE (AW#9) closed a US$2.4M pre-A financing, led by previous round investor TransLink Capital. The company’s ergonomic, child-friendly smart thermometer “Temp Pal” played a critical role in disease prevention and control in hospital systems across the world during this pandemic including Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, and Ireland. Online cashback platform ShopBack (AW#13) officially landed in Vietnam, attracting more than 800,000 users since launch and generating nearly US$200K in cashback rewards. The company now maintains a presence in 9 countries across GSEA, covering more than 20 million users.
CakeResume (AW#14), Taiwan’s leading technology job search platform, announced in 2020 that it completed a seed round of approximately US$900K. It plans to use the funds to expand into Japan and India, ultimately striving to become the largest talent platform in Asia.
Hong-Kong based Omnichat (AW#16) recently completely a seed round of US$800K in 2020. The company offers a chatbot-based marketing automation service that helps e-commerce clients enhance performance and improve checkout conversion rates by 3x – 7x. Building on its success in the Hong Kong and Taiwanese markets, Omnichat is planning on expanding its service to Southeast Asia in 2021.
Taiwan’s leading digital identity verification solution AuthMe (AW#18) helped identify a security flaw in the MyData platform, the National Development Council’s latest effort to promote personal data ownership and privacy protection. After stumbling upon the vulnerability, the AuthMe team worked together with digital minister Audrey Tang to quickly investigate the issue and install a security patch before re-launching the service 24 hours later.
MightyJaxx (AW#20), a technology-driven trading platform for art and toy collectibles, received US$3.2M in financing this past year. They’ve partnered with some of the world’s leading brands such as Warner Bros, Marvel, and Disney to design a variety of pop culture collectibles, shipping 5 million units to collectors in over 60 countries in 2020.
Cryptokitties developer Dapper Labs announced several partnerships with IP owners such as NBA and UFC, while launching a new public chain designed specifically for the entertainment ecosystem called Flow, which recently raised US$18M in a token sale.
Taiwan’s largest cloud POS provider iCHEF, completed a US$5M Series B round of financing, while accumulating more than 8,000 restaurant clients across Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. At the same time, it successfully integrated delivery services with platforms such as Uber Eats and foodpanda, while putting in place imminent plans for an IPO.
KKday, Asia’s leading e-commerce platform for travel experiences, successfully closed a US$75M Series C round of financing. With the support of strategic investors, the funds will be used to deepen its presence across all its international markets.
The good news and milestones also extended into the personal lives of our founders, with several newlyweds coming to light. In 2020, Kevin Wong of Origami Labs (AW#15), and Tina Lin of Flipweb (AW#15) became locked in holy matrimony; Just as well, in the same year, Matthew Lee of Codibook (AW#15) and Hanna Wu of Anno (AW#15), also found themselves entering the next stage of their lives together. This is the second and third AppWorks couple after Richard Zhu of WriteTime (AW#15) and Fiona Shi of Good Moon Mood (AW#15) became the first in 2019.
AppWorks Funds II has outstanding performance: TVPI reached 2.5x, DPI reached 1x, and IRR reached 26.5%, outperforming the world’s top quartile of venture capital and private equity funds.
After 10 years of hard work, AppWorks Funds is today one of the largest and most active early-stage venture capital funds in Greater Southeast Asia. It has three venture capital funds totaling US$176M AUM, with investments in 56 startups encompassing 4 IPOs, 1 decacorn (worth more than US$10B), 1 unicorn (worth more than US$1B), and 6 centaurs (worth more than US$100M).
In 2020, AppWorks Funds continues doubling down on three key areas AI, blockchain, and Southeast Asia, with a total of 9 new investments this past year, including WeMo Scooter, Taiwan’s leading shared electric scooter operator; Fabelio, a fast-fashion furniture retailer that provides OMO consumer experience in Indonesia; and Dcard, the most widely used social media platform among Taiwanese youth.
In addition, AppWorks Fund II, which was established in 2014, reached peak performance in 2020, reaching a TVPI multiple (Total Value to Paid-in-Capital) of 2.5x, a DPI multiple (Distribution to Paid-in Capital) of 1x, and an IRR (internal rate of return) of 26.5%, surpassing the top quartile of global venture capital and private equity funds with the same vintage, while creating superior financial returns for our investors.
Exceeding a 1x DPI multiple not only means that we’re now at a point where we can generate substantial returns to our shareholders, but also that AppWorks Fund II has begun to produce carried interest, generating profits that effectively cover all the accumulated losses over the last 10 years.
Most of these bonuses have been distributed to all members of the AppWorks team. Thank you to all of our colleagues for their hard work in the past 10 years. With the addition of the bonuses, the average annual salary of AppWorks (excluding partners) colleagues has reached US$ 87,000 in 2020, operating on par with most internationally recognized VCs. In the next few years, as AppWorks Funds continue to realize profits, we plan to further increase the annual compensation packages to better attract and retain the best talents both domestically and from abroad.
Key figures of AppWorks School: 256 graduates, 92% successfully placed in software engineering roles
Needless to say, quality talents are the lifeblood of any startup, but they continue to be a scarce resource in this part of the world. In order to plug the increasing talent gap and truly help facilitate the region’s digital economy, AppWorks School was started in June 2016, offering intensive 4-month long coding programs spanning iOS, android, front-end, back-end, and data science which are free, practical, and efficient.
Since its establishment in 2016, AppWorks School has successfully graduated 256 students across 12 batches. 92% of the graduates have been successfully placed in prominent tech companies such as iCHEF, 91APP, KKBOX, LINE TV, WeMo Scooter, LineTaxi, PicCollage, Hahow, VoiceTube, Bonio, Omnichat, and Gogoro, with a median starting salary is US$25,060 (approximately NT$700,000).
Chairman & Partner Jamie Lin: AppWorks will help grow an early-stage VC ecosystem in Southeast Asia over the next 10 years
Looking back on the first 10 years since its establishment, AppWorks chairman and partner Jamie Lin said: “It was no miracle that helped us get to this point, only hard work and consistent effort. After a long and continuous 20-mile march, AppWorks’ flywheel has finally begun spinning at high velocity. Whether it’s the nearly 400 startups fostered, US$ 8 billion of economic value produced, or over 17,000 jobs created, AppWorks has helped spawn an entirely new digital ecosystem in Taiwan and across the region without consuming a single dollar of social capital. We’ve also helped solidify venture capital and the broader startup industry as a prominent asset class for potential investors and employees.”
He took a step deeper and pointed out: “A society that wants to accelerate digital transformation while empowering and providing opportunities for the younger generation to flourish requires more VCs like AppWorks — I think Taiwan and Southeast Asia can have at least 10 more AppWorks. Therefore, looking at the next 10 years, AppWorks will continue to operate accelerators, alumni communities, and venture capital funds based on the original ethos of “by founders, for founders”, that is assisting more startups and promoting win-win collaborations between them and corporates. To promote the development of the digital economy in Greater Southeast Asia, we will dedicate our resources to cultivating the “venture investment ecosystem”, with hopes of producing more high-quality venture capital firms, especially those focusing on early stages to seed the region’s future pipeline of innovators. On the other hand, the scale of AppWorks School will continue to expand, providing more interested tech talents an intensive environment to learn and hone their craft among like-minded peers. In other words, building on top of the current momentum, AppWorks hopes to further accelerate and amplify our contributions in the next 10 years, and we look forward to presenting an even more outsized impact during AppWorks’ 20th anniversary.”
At the end of the year, taking this opportunity to look back, Jamie also extends his gratitude to all the friends, partners, and stakeholders that have assisted AppWorks along the way: “I sincerely thank the 1,331 entrepreneurs who have given AppWorks the opportunity to serve you over the past 10 years. I also thank all AppWorks Mentors who have enthusiastically mentored these founders without asking for anything in return. I would also like to thank our platform partners, including AWS and GCP, investors in AppWorks Funds, and partners in government departments that have given us their continued support over the past 10 years. Of course, I also want to thank our media friends for their long-term interest in AppWorks and all the initiatives that we’ve undertaken in the past decade. In addition, I would like to especially thank all the present and former AppWorks colleagues who have participated in this journey, if it were not for your contribution, the company would not have been able to reach this point. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the angel investor who took a bet on me and generously lent the tens of millions of NT dollars that helped get AppWorks started — my mother, Dr. Lin Jeang-Yun, without you and your blind faith, all of this would not have been possible; Grandpa and grandma are proudly looking down from the heavens. Thank you, everyone, and please continue to lend us your support and guidance over the next 10 years.”
【If you are a founder working on a startup in SEA, or working with AI / IoT, Blockchain / DeFi, apply to AppWorks Accelerator to join the largest founder community in Greater Southeast Asia.】