Vietnamese startup Nano raises US$6.4 million to build a complete financial and flexible benefits platform for low-income workers, supporting them in the cost of living crisis

Vietnamese startup Nano raises US$6.4 million to build a complete financial and flexible benefits platform for low-income workers, supporting them in the cost of living crisis

August 1st, 2022

Nano, Vietnam’s leading Earned Wage Access (EWA) provider, has raised US$ 6.4M (~VND150 billion) in an oversubscribed pre-Series A round led by Openspace, the early backer of Gojek, Kumu and Finhay. New investors that participated include Partech Partners, Tekton Ventures, KVision, IT Farma and Sketchnote Partners. Existing backers Golden Gate Ventures, FEBE Ventures, FJLabs, Venturra, TO Ventures, ACE & Company and Goodwater Capital also joined.

Following the funding, Nano is seeking to offer a broader range of benefits solutions and become the first and most flexible go-to financial platform for low-income workers in the country. Nano is already working with some of the country’s most pioneering employers, enabling thousands of workers to access on-demand salary payments through its flagship app, Vui. The strategic expansion of services fits well with businesses' changing needs, as they seek ways to better engage their employees and protect their workforce in turbulent times. 

“Nano is already emerging as the leader in the EWA space in Vietnam, and we recognise the immense potential that exists in the country, as workers and employers both struggle with their own challenges. Those workers need more flexible access to their earnings in volatile financial times, and employers need an edge in attracting a shortfall of talent. Nano's recent developments have paved the way for continued growth as well as given it permission to stretch into new platform services. We have strong conviction in the future of the Vietnamese start-up ecosystem, and are excited to partner with Dzung and the impassioned Nano team as they take a significant step forward”, said Jessica Pouleur, Partner at Openspace. 

Nano lets employees choose when to get paid and helps employers build a more resilient workforce 

Founded in 2020, Nano is now expanding at a critical moment when both employers and employees are vulnerable. The business was founded with a clear mission to plug the payday gap and empower low-income workers to take control of their financial lives. This opportunity is significant given that millions of workers in Vietnam live paycheck-to-paycheck and struggle with cash flow constraints at the end of each month. Without viable options, millions are forced to resort to predatory financial products, like loan sharks and payday loans, which charge annualized interest rates between 300% to 500%. 

This issue is being further accentuated now because the pandemic and global macro crises are combining to increase the cost of living to the point that more underbanked families are edging closer to the brink of poverty and irreconcilable levels of debt. 

With no clear financial lifeline, hundreds of thousands are leaving the big cities and industrial parks to move back to their provincial hometowns. As a result, many employers, especially in the manufacturing sector, face an enormous labor shortage, contributing to the well-reported challenges in the global supply chain.  

Nano has now evolved its solution (Vui App) to address the challenges of both audiences. On the one hand, it allows workers to access their wages instantly when needed. On the other, it provides employers with a new cost-effective flexible benefits platform, which will keep their employees engaged and happy, giving them an edge in attracting prospective employees with a more differentiated offer. Harvard Kennedy School research in 2018 showed that employers who were early adopters of EWA benefited from an 18-25% improvement in retention and saved millions of dollars in HR costs. A 2019 Visa study also found that 84% of workers want access to earned wages between pay periods. 

Nano is leading the way in technologizing the traditional mid-month salary advance that several leading Vietnamese corporations in Vietnam had implemented for employees. This slow process has remained largely manual, paper-based, and typically only available for a day in the month – and so is ineffective in meeting the variable needs of the workers. The take-up of this benefit by local businesses has been severely limited as they need to use their own funds to advance the salaries, putting further strains on tight cash flows. Vui App is the first to offer a clear and innovative solution. By applying software and workflow automation it removes all the administrative, technical and financial burdens for employers. 

Building on impressive early growth with an expanded and flexible platform  

Nano’s growth has been impressive, with over 100.000 workers from leading corporations such as FPT Retail, Central Retail, GS25, Family Mart, Kangaroo, Truong Thanh Furniture already being granted access to their earnings through Vui App. On average, an employee uses Vui App 3.8 times a month to access earned wages, confirming the latent demand for flexible salary advance in the workforce, given the varied and often unpredictable moments of need.  

“With Vui App, we listen to employees better to provide the right benefit at the right time. It opens a new way of building the staff experience to keep our workforce engaged and happy. Vui App also connects all data from several HR systems in our corporation, driving the data standardization and transparency.”, said Mr Hieu Nguyen, CEO of Truong Thanh Furniture (a partner of Natuzzi) which has implemented Vui App since 2021. 

With its positive impact on low-income workers, the Earned Wage Access model pioneered by Vui App has also received attention from the Government. The Labor Relations Committee of  the Prime Minister’s Office has actively researched the model’s benefits, implementation, and outcomes in order to make policy recommendations for higher authorities. 

Going forward, Nano will hone in on large enterprises in the manufacturing sector, with a focus on garment, shoes, electronics and wood manufacturing. It has set an ambitious goal of helping 500,000 workers better manage the current cost of living crisis. The company will also look to expand its solutions to become a complete flexible benefits platform for low-income workers. Vui App will not only enable on-demand salary access for workers , but also give them the ability to use these in different ways, such as to pay bills and buy phone cards. 

"As Vietnam transforms into the global manufacturing hub, we are committed to supporting pioneer employers who put their people first, and help ensure all employees are empowered and no one is left behind. We are building a positive route for low and mid-income employees, giving them control over how they earn, how they get paid, and how they actively plan for the future they deserve.", said Dzung Dang, CEO and Co-Founder of Nano.

About Nano:

Nano (YC W21) is the category creator and the market leader of Earned Wage Access in Vietnam through its flagship product Vui App. With Vui App, employees can get paid anytime they choose with a tap on their phones instead of waiting till month end, while employers benefit from higher employee retention, engagement and satisfaction. Vui App now serves 100,000+ employees from top employers including FPT Retail, Central Retail, GS25, Family Mart, Kangaroo, Truong Thanh Furniture.

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