Vietnam’s digital economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, but the country is facing a growing shortage of IT workers. Many kids want to study coding, but school curriculums are limited, said Tung Nguyen, the co-founder of MindX, an online/offline education platform that focuses on preparing students for tech careers.
The company announced today that it has raised a $3 million Series A, led by Wavemaker Partners, Vietnamese investment bank Thien Viet Securities and an undisclosed United States-based investor. MindX also received debt funding from Beacon Fund, an investment firm that focuses on companies founded by women.
The funding will be used to expand MindX’s online platform, create more educational content and expand into Vietnamese Tier 2 and 3 cities and rural provinces. MindX plans to build its network of tech companies that offer jobs to students who complete its courses. The startup’s courses are focused on kids ranging from kindergarten to grade 12, and university students, too. It says alumni have gone on to work as software engineers at companies like Google, Amazon and Shopee.
For students who enter MindX with the goal of becoming tech professionals, the startup plans to began offering an income share agreement, where students only pay tuition after securing a job, eliminating the need for upfront payments.
“One concern for parents with low-income levels is that they want their kids to have a guaranteed job placement, but they don’t want to run out of money for tuition,” said Tung. “They asked for financing solutions and we plan to implement the income sharing model by the end of this year for our students.” One example will be a program geared toward students who already have one or two years of experience working at software companies in Vietnam. The course will prepare them to find a higher-paying job in Singapore and allow them to pay back tuition after they start working.
MindX was created as a non-profit in 2015 by Tung Nguyen and Ha Nguyen. At the time, both were working at tech companies, and taught part-time coding classes in between their jobs, supplying learning spaces and laptops for their students. After a year, demand increased to the point where the two decided to commit to MindX full time as a company.
MindX now has 13 offline locations in Vietnam, in addition to its online education platform, and claims it has been profitable for the last six years, even during COVID-19. In fact, MindX’s founders say that as of September 2021, MindX had seen a 1,000% year-on-year growth in online enrollment.
MindX partners with 200 tech companies in Vietnam, Singapore, Japan and other countries to help find jobs for its students after they complete training, and says its hiring rates for graduates is 100% in Vietnam and 55% in Singapore. Some of the companies also serve as educational partners. For example, they give MindX’s students chances to create tech products or live projects with them.
For both Tung Nguyen and Ha Nguyen, starting MindX was a personal mission. “We didn’t have opportunities to study technology early in our lives,” said Tung. “For example, I was born in a poor working family, in a remote province in Vietnam. Computers were very, very expensive, they cost a fortune for most Vietnamese families at that time, so of course my family could not afford one for me.”
Tung was the first person in his extended family to go to college, but dropped out after one year “because I didn’t find any passion in the university’s curriculum and didn’t see my future in it.” Instead, he spent two and a half years studying coding on his own. “I think the experience of learning software engineering and coding transformed my life, because it opened a lot of opportunities for me,” including a software engineering position at a tech company in Hamburg, Germany.
While there, Tung met many European colleagues who were about the same age as him, but had started coding much earlier, when they were in primary school. “I really realized that for myself, and other young students in Vietnam, if we had the same opportunity to study software engineering, we might have far better futures and far more opportunities to compete and participate in the global job market.”
MindX’s founders say that many STEM education centers in Vietnam only offer 3 to 4 month courses. On the other hand, MindX’s options range from one year to a decade, depending on students’ ages, levels and goals. Most parents and students initially chose shorter courses, but MindX has recently seen more students start with 2, 5 or 6 year programs, to prepare for a tech career. Students are organized into cohorts and work closely with teachers.
After they finish their courses, MindX’s career consultants help students build CVs and prepare for job interviews. Part of MindX’s new funding will be used to apply blockchain technology to keep track of the relationships between MindX alumni and the companies that hire them so the application and interviewing process can be automated.
In statement about investment, Wavemaker general partner Gavin Lee said, “We’re excited to back the MindX team with their vision to revolutionize Vietnam’s tech education landscape and unlock career opportunities for 20 million K-12 and university students. MindX is addressing a clear need, given the worsening shortage of software engineers in Vietnam.”