Vietnam, 28 April 2022 – Alpha JWC Ventures and January Capital today announced their co-led investment in Aemi, an online business-to-business (B2B) marketplace connecting social commerce entrepreneurs to major and niche Asian health and beauty brands. Aemi recently raised USD 2 million from the two firms with participation from Venturra Discovery, FEBE Ventures, and other angel investors.
Most people in Vietnam cannot be separated from social media platforms. The majority of the country are avid social media users, especially Facebook, where people not only post, chat, and share, but also trade. In fact, most small brand transactions in Vietnam are conducted through social media, with unorganized social commerce on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and local messaging Zalo representing more than 60% of online e-commerce gross merchandise value (GMV) in Vietnam.
With an estimated USD 14 billion of trade conducted through social commerce, the sector is not without operational challenges – and this is where Kim Vu and Hieu Nguyen, the co-founders of Aemi came up with a solution.
During their market survey, the founders found that Vietnam’s social commerce scene is primarily made up of individual micro-entrepreneurs with little experience or support in technology, capital, and business know-how. They have to go through multiple middlemen and service providers, which leads to challenges in product authenticity and supply chain. Besides low efficiency, as small individual buyers, they are unable to acquire goods at the best prices to maximize profits.
Aemi empowers every social seller with superior, authentic product assortment, and a toolbox of inventory and marketing tools to offer operational support for their customers. It brings in an all-in-one B2B commerce platform where sellers can procure products from various brands and get support to conduct their businesses. As Aemi works directly with brands, it can guarantee the authenticity of all products available on its platform. Aemi’s bulk order also provides the company and by extension its members, access to the best deals from brands and service providers. Aemi also provides business support services, like content marketing, to its members to help them scale.
Aemi’s platform was launched in April 2022. In three weeks, it has cultivated a community of around 1,000 social merchants and onboarded more than 20 brands, including La Roche-Posay, Paula’s Choice, and Skin1004. It looks to onboard fifty more brands in the coming months.
“For now, we are focusing on the health and beauty category, which has a big market opportunity, being poised to double by 2025. It also presents superior economics compared to other categories like FMCG, which would not only be beneficial for us but also for our members. Furthermore, with its unique consumer behavior, health and beauty is the perfect playground for micro-retailers and creators, and thus our business offerings,” says Co-Founder and CEO Kim Vu.
“Our platform works best with micro-influencers with 2,000 to 50,000 followers who leverage their personal branding to build close relationships with customers. Beyond sourcing authentic products at the best prices, our support in business strategy and even expansion planning prove to be valuable for them.”
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From Vietnam to Southeast Asia
With the two co-founders being Vietnamese with extensive experience in the local market, plus the consumer behavior in the country being very conducive for social commerce and its solutions, it is only natural that Aemi picks Vietnam as its starting point.
But Vietnam is only where it starts. Aemi sees a large potential to apply a similar approach across emerging Southeast Asian markets, where online social commerce still accounts for a large majority of the e-commerce transaction value.
“We are currently focusing on perfecting our platform and expanding our ecosystem. Once we’re ready and Vietnam is already in our hands, we will expand regionally, starting from Thailand and Philippines as they have quite similar behavior as Vietnam,” Co-Founder and CTO Hieu Nguyen says.
“We set out to build a comprehensive business ecosystem for small retailers, enabled by our B2B marketplace at the center with impactful support on both ends: sellers and brands. With regional expansion, we would be able to empower more retailers, work with more established and niche brands, and enable more efficient cross-border transactions.”
“Social commerce has proven to be effective in developing markets with closely-knitted societies like Indonesia and we believe Vietnam would also benefit from a similar model, with Aemi paving the way. Starting with health and beauty, Aemi is building a comprehensive trade ecosystem enabled by technology, providing excellent experiences for brands, sellers, and customers. With a great combination of its network, strong go-to-market strategy, and the founders’ experience suited for developing market, we are confident in Kim Vu & Hieu Nguyen’s journey to revolutionize the beauty industry in Vietnam and beyond,” says Christa Soesanto, Vice President of Investment at Alpha JWC Ventures.
“The Aemi team is building a mission-critical platform that allows social commerce merchants in Southeast Asia to monetize their audience more efficiently in two key ways: (1) providing a digital marketplace to procure a broad range of authentic health and beauty products with wholesale pricing, and (2) offering a set of targeted digital tools that drive increased revenue and engagement. For brands, Aemi offers a unique access point to the millions of social commerce merchants in Southeast Asia for the first time. We are thrilled to partner with Kim and Hieu as well as investors such as Alpha JWC as Aemi builds an important and enduring business,” says Benjamin Dunphy, Managing Partner at January Capital.