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Awing is the ad platform developed by Vietnamese engineers (Photo: Trong Dat)

NTT e-Asia, a subsidiary of the Japanese NTT East (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corporation), has announced a strategic investment in Awing, a Vietnamese startup with an online ad platform on public wifi networks.

Awing was established in 2017. The ad platform developed by Awing offers free wifi to mobile users. In exchange, before connecting to the wifi network, the users have to interact with online ads by brands.

The target market is location-based advertising. The system is deployed based on a shared economy model. The developer only holds the platform, while the wifi infrastructure is invested in by partners which are shops and shopping malls.

In the newly released deal, NTT e-Asia will hold 32.5 percent of Awing. This is the first time the startup has called for capital.

After receiving investment from Japan, Awing will comprise 55.6 percent of founders’ shares.

NTT East is the fourth largest telecommunication and information technology in the world in terms of revenue. The group is pursuing an investment strategy in Southeast Asia, especially in the fields of smart city, digital transformation, and software development.

The NTT e-Asia investment has also triggered a new Japanese investment wave in Vietnam’s IT industry.

The startup confirmed that the capital will be used for it to ‘go global’. This is one of a number of fundamental business models developed by Vietnamese and used for export.

Awing president and CEO Nguyen Tien Dung said the ad industry makes up 1-2 percent of GDP. In Vietnam, the ad industry is worth $2 billion, just 0.5 percent of GDP, so there is still much space for development.

Regarding going global, Dung said in the immediate time, the startup will provide services in ASEAN countries, while preparing to bring its platform to the Japanese market.

The biggest challenges for the startup when going global are difficulties in capital mobilization, workforce, and confidence of clients and partners.

Dung said the investment from NTT East will bring capital and a guarantee in technology and brand.

Ebihara Takashi from NTT e-Asia said NTT invested in Awing because of its technology and special business model.

NTT owns major resources in many countries, and has relations with telecom carriers and device manufacturers. Thus, the investment will help Awing build an ecosystem.

Trong Dat