How a MBA student built a virtual escape room in Vietnam during COVID
COVID affected a ton of businesses globally, including Cong Le’s previous side hustle, a physical escape room. Undeterred, he built a super interesting virtual escape room experience that has been by consumers and companies all across the world.
In a world deprived of physical meet-ups and company retreats, Connescape looks to be solving an interesting problem, all the while being a side-hustle among friends!
Hello! What’s your background, and what are you working on?
Cong Le: Hello! I am currently an MBA student in London Business School, and I am also in charge of business development at Connescape, our side business.
Prior to my MBA, I worked at Garena, a digital entertainment company based in Singapore. In my first 4.5 years, I worked in product management roles, helping to launch and operate mobile games in South East Asian countries. In my last year, I relocated to Mexico City, where I helped set up Garena’s newly established Hispanic headquarters, which oversees our business operations in Latin America.
How did you get the idea for the business and how did you get started?
Cong Le: In 2015, I co-founded a physical escape game room business with two other friends in Da Nang, Vietnam. We later opened a new outlet in Hoi An in 2019. When Covid-19 hit, our business had to be closed temporarily as we depended on international tourists that completely vanished due to travel restrictions.
This was when my ex-colleague at Garena reached out to me with the idea of bringing the escape game room online and positioning it as a team-building product. I really liked the idea because there had been a big increase in demand for virtual team building activities since the start of the pandemic and I felt this product had the potential for scale. That is how we got started.
What’s your tech stack?
Cong Le:We use Babylon.js to render 3D models on the web and implement the game logic. For syncing user activities we are using websockets.
What are your goals for the business in the future?
Cong Le: We want to make Connescape a popular virtual team building choice for teams and corporations, providing fun and interactive bonding times for working people during this challenging time. In the long term, we hope to add new virtual team building products to our portfolio and expand to as many countries as possible.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and the obstacles you’ve overcome?
Cong Le: Our biggest challenge was developing a virtual team building product that was different from many existing ones out there. With my partner’s coding and product design skills, we managed to build a product that we are quite confident about its uniqueness. Three other challenges I can mention:
One challenge was getting well-established companies to try our products requires a lot of effort since we are a new company.
The second challenge was deciding what new feature additions and improvements to prioritize — there was a lot of great feedback from our test customers and deciding what to implement given our limited development resources can be challenging.
The third challenge was working across time zones since I am in London, and my co-founders are in Singapore and they all have a full-time job.
How have you found balancing work and your side hustle? What’s your schedule like?
Cong Le: Fortunately, doing an MBA at this time gave me flexibility in terms of deciding what I want to do and how I want to spend my time. I can really prioritize what is important for me, and that includes developing our side business.
Have you found any type of resources or mentors particularly helpful or advantageous?
Cong Le: I was able to get help from my ex-colleagues who are digital marketing specialists, video editors and graphic designers. They help me with producing promotion materials and optimizing our digital ads campaigns. In addition, I have been able to fine-tune my ideas on how to go about developing our business from my fellow business school friends who are extremely smart, many with prior experience in consulting or start-ups.
Connescape can support team-building for large teams — battle-tested with groups of over 100 people at the same time.
They are currently running a promotion where each session (1hour) is US$12 per pax with a minimum group size of 3 people.
If you wish to try out the game and see what the experience is like, head over to 👇👇
Connescape — Revolutionary virtual escape room for teambuilding
Play the world’s first multiplayer 3D virtual escape game. Connect with family, friends and teams whenever you are.
There’s currently an Egyptian-themed escape room. And there will be more coming in the future!
Are there any other interesting people or businesses we should feature? Hit us up!
What is Side Hustle Yield?
Side Hustle Yield is built by En Hui Ong and Chia Jeng Yang and meant to highlight the people and their creative Side Hustles business models that are generating side income — be it software, widgets, online e-commerce or offline retail business models.