The Southeast Asia Women’s Economic Empowerment Fund, backed by Danish pension fund Pӕdagogernes Pension, has invested in Teky Alpha JSC to support childhood education in Vietnam.
Singapore-based gender lens impact investing firm Sweef Capital has invested in Teky Alpha JSC (Teky), an education technology startup that is working to improve the digital literacy and technology skills of children and future generations in Vietnam.
The $5m investment is the first to be made through the Southeast Asia Women’s Economic Empowerment Fund (SWEEF) and will be used to support the development of Teky’s digital platform and integration of a science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM) curriculum in Vietnam’s public school system. It will also be used to support the opening of new STEAM centres covering after-school and holiday programmes for children.
The SWEEF fund, launched in 2021 with a fundraising target of $80m (€73m), has the backing of Pӕdagogernes Pension (PBU), the Danish pension fund for early childhood and youth educators, as well as the Emerging Markets Impact Investment Fund, a development finance fund of the Australian Government, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Jennifer Buckley, founder and managing director of Sweef Capital, said: “We see this investment contributing great foundational skills for children, some of whom currently have limited exposure to STEAM.”
Teky, which was founded by Dao Lan Huong, a serial Internet entrepreneur, in 2016, operates 16 STEAM centres in five cities in Vietnam and to date, has partnered with more than 45 schools across the country to deliver STEAM courses to more than 25,000 children. The company plans to expand beyond Vietnam to the wider Southeast Asia region over the medium term.
Buckley said that she and her team shared Dao’s vision “to help more girls see what’s possible, take up education and pursue professional careers in STEAM.”
Sune Schackenfedt, CEO of PBU, which has invested $15m (€13.7m) in the SWEEF fund, said many of the pension fund’s members were educators and that this first investment in Teky provided strong alignment with the issues affecting them: “Our partnership with Sweef Capital in these investments brings PBU’s commitment to empowering women and strengthening gender equality into our investment profile while also enabling delivery of our targeted return thresholds for the long-term retirement savings of our members.”
Gender lens investing in SE Asia
Sweef Capital applies a gender lens to investments in a range of sectors targeting unmet need for access to goods and services in line with one or more of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Speaking to Impact Investor, Buckley said that the aim of the SWEEF fund was to unlock the potential of women as entrepreneurs, business leaders, employees and consumers.
“We look for investment opportunities in women-led/women-owned companies whose workforces are primarily women, companies producing goods and services to meet the unmet needs of women and girls, and companies that are role models in promoting gender equality and diversity in their organisations,” said Buckley. “There are exciting investment opportunities in healthcare, education, sustainable food systems and consumer goods, and climate resilience, where we see women entrepreneurs providing the solutions and women in the workforce delivering solutions.”
Buckley said Teky was a great example that, as well as teaching children important STEAM skills to prepare them for the future, had the potential to demonstrate improved outcomes in diversity and gender equality as a women-led enterprise that provided opportunities to improve the livelihoods of women who made up the majority of Teky ’s workforce.
“We look forward to building on this partnership with Teky and working with them to demonstrate value creation opportunities linked with women’s economic empowerment,” Buckley added.
Building future-ready skills
Teky founder Dao highlighted research from the International Labour Organization, which estimates that 137 million workers, a fifth of the regional population in Southeast Asia, will lose their jobs because of automation, robots and artificial intelligence (AI) in the next two decades and pointed out that many workers would need to switch jobs and learn new skills, with a large number of new jobs being created by technology by 2030.
Against this backdrop, Dao said that education in Vietnam and elsewhere in the region would need to keep pace to meet future needs and secure employment opportunities for future generations.
“Vietnamese education must keep pace with these big shifts so that the future workforce can close the capacity gap at a regional and global level and seize the opportunities of the 4.0 era,” said Dao. “From a social and market perspective, the demand for technology education has been growing in many countries, and coding and technology is fast proving as popular as English, but there aren’t many solutions in Vietnam to fulfil that need. Teky was formed to solve these pain points and close the market gap.”