The journey is the reward
I met Duy at a Trung Nguyen coffee in Phạm Ngọc Thạch street sometime late December 2011. I had just finished a project for United Supermarket in Texas and was trying to introduce the concept of Online Weekly Ads to supermarkets in Viet Nam, to no avail. The process just involved too much drinking.
Duy had been looking for a management solution for his game shop but as many business owners in Viet Nam, he preferred building something himself, something that “fits his store special needs”. We talked for a few minutes, and I promised him I’d look into it but then I went home and promptly forgot about it.
As life would have it, few days later, another friend sent me a retail market research from EuroMonitor International. The report said among the $US 25B revenue of Viet Nam retailing market in 2011, only 13% of revenue came from brand name stores and 87% of revenue came from 1 big black box called Others. Since I had built many management applications for US supermarkets and groceries chains in the last 8 years, I was wondering what would happen if we could bring the tools of the big guys to these “other” small shops, what would happen if we could shed some light on that big black box. That would be so cool, wouldn’t it?
Few days later, I had another meeting with Duy and I told him that I would build a web-based the management solution for mom & pop shops, with enterprise level technologies, and I would give it to him for free. He just needed to agree to use the product as “customer zero”. Smelling a “too good to be true” deal, Duy pushed for more information and once he saw the rationale behind my decision, he asked that we do it together.
So that how we started S3. All based on an idea that it was the right time to disrupt traditional trade businesses in Viet Nam, and maybe, in the region.
We hung on to that idea, and pushed it with everything we had. And more. For years.
Three years later, it was a dream come true when two Vietnamese guys with no fancy education or experiences persuaded one of the biggest company on Earth to believe in our vision, took the risk and invested in us.
We had a wonderful team, and the opportunity became a lot bigger, but more realistic. We made a lot of friends, made a lot more mistakes, and got to see South East Asia at a completely different level.
For me, it was an amazing journey. We won, and we lost. We fought, and we laughed. We made friends for a lifetime. We achieved remarkable milestones and learnt invaluable lessons. We made mistakes, but we also did many things right, for us and for people who believed in us.
But it is time for me to move on. Starting from April 2017, I will no longer the Chief everything-and-anything-that-no-one-wants-to-do of S3. Until we can find a new CEO, S3 is in the good hands of Duy.
To be honest, I still believe in the market and the opportunity is still there.