3 reasons why Vietnam is gonna kick ass

I was recently re-acquainted with Vietnam. The first two times I was there, I only had Phở and Bánh mì on the agenda.

This time around though, thanks to Lais (8 Spaces) and Warren (Designs.net), a contingent of us startup folks were taken on a whirlwind tour through the burgeoning tech ecosystems of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

People are the foundation of any seismic economic shifts. Here are 3 observations from my interactions on-the-ground that lead me to believe these guys are about to kick some serious ass over the next 10 years.

Self-belief

When you’re looking for rockstar talent, your biggest competition is usually a multi-national corporation offering a six figure salary and health insurance. In Vietnam, your biggest competition is the entrepreneurial spirit of the person you’re trying to hire.

Bobby Liu, the founder of Hub.IT, expressed it best (non-verbatim):

If they really are that good, they’d rather start their own company than work for you

And I respect that. Entrepreneurship in Vietnam is highly contagious. In Appota founder, Do Tuan Anh, Vietnam has an inspiring story of a former iPhone hacker who now runs a multi-million dollar company employing hundreds of young local Vietnamese. Many of whom I would expect to go on to start their own companies.

Learning > money

When we asked Lars Jankowfsky from 8 Bit Rockstars what young software developers are looking for in a job, his response was not ‘money’.

In a country where the average salary is only USD145 a month, the promise of a high salary is insufficient to lure talent. They want the opportunity to learn and develop their careers. They want to practice their English so that they will be more employable in the future.

This level of maturity, to invest in one’s personal development and not just seek out short term gains is refreshing.

Especially for startups who typically offer lower salaries but huge learning opportunities for driven individuals.

Optimism

I met Loi Tran in Hanoi. A 2nd generation Vietnamese-American whose parents emigrated to the US around the time of the war. He recently moved to Cambodia to be a software developer and shortly after found his way to Vietnam.

He re-counted his experiences growing up among immigrant Vietnamese families and how they would paint a bleak picture of Vietnam.

But what he saw with his own two eyes was a far cry from the image in his mind.

Opportunities are abundant. And there is a sense of optimism bringing Vietnamese educated abroad and 2nd generation Vietnamese from various countries back to Vietnam. Loi was not the only one I met. There were many others and they all had big plans in mind.

Pair all this with some impressive infrastructure. The minute you step off the plane in Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport, you’re greeted with state of the art facilities and free-wifi at a ridiculous 121.64Mbps download speed.

Umar our ServisHero engineer was pretty impressed

A short ride into the city, and you’ll find multiple co-working spaces, each with a vibe that’s just buzzing.

UP co-working space in Hanoi

Vietnam has their fair share of challenges that I won’t go into at this stage. But in my short time there, it certainly left a strong impression and I’m rooting for these guys to kick some serious ass over the next 10 years.

At the Appota HQ

Special thanks to Bobby, Quang, Lars, Anh, Hung and many others who showed us the true meaning of hospitality.

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