7 lessons for young Vietnamese entrepreneurs

You will face a lot of challenges as an entrepreneur; Here are some things that can help you overcome these

Having done many projects – some of which were failed ones while others made considerable progress – I have gained myself a few life lessons that I think would be valuable for young people.

1. Observation

Observation skills are the first thing we need to work on. I am talking about the observation where you learn by watching things happen around you, and you analyse them.

When attending a networking event, how can you tell who is important to approach?

Let us suppose that you want to open a restaurant. Now imagine yourself setting foot in a trashy Pho diner with dirty tables, and the rude staff – would you find yourself feeling annoyed? If not, then, do you think you could operate a good restaurant of your own?

When you observe, you can learn how a lot of things need to be done correctly for setting up a successful startup.

2. Self-discipline

As you launch your startup, there will be no one to supervise you. Hence, you need to plan your schedule carefully, be strict towards yourself to avoid days where you feel like not going to work and oversleeping because you are too tired or, just simply, unmotivated.

When you are the boss, not only do you work for yourself now but you also work directly with your business partners. Being the boss, you have to be an ideal model for your employees to look up to. Especially when you are the one to set up a startup, during its first period, you are expected to deal with and solve all of the unexpected problems. Without discipline, your system will most likely to not run smoothly.

Having a self-disciplined life guarantees you a physically healthy body and a flexible mind. In contrast, an ill body accompanied by a tired mind will prevent you from being productive. Spend at least 30 minutes per day on exercise to get in shape.

A self-disciplined lifestyle helps us have enough energy to face and cope with business challenges.

3. Getting used to rejection

Rejection could come and knock on your door at any time when you invest in a project or found a startup. Back to days when I first started my business, I was turned down at least 30 times before getting my very first client. You must accept the fact of being rejected and take that as a normal part of the process. What needs to be done here is that after every rejection, you figure out the reasons that lie behind it and prevent it from happening in your next attempt.

In order to become a businessman or a businesswoman, bear in mind that you will have to face a lot of bad news coming from many sources: your investors, your staff, customers, and so on. If you let the negative thoughts distract you, you shall waste a large amount of time, nothing will get done, and no lessons will be learnt.

4. Right attitude

There are some problems in younger generation: throwing rocks at people that are better than them; looking down on others’ talents and hard works, and spreading rumors about someone they know nothing about because of envy. You will never can be a better version of yourself if you do things like these.

When you face bad things in life with a positive attitude, you will gain life lessons, which seem to be small and not worth paying attention to but in fact are very valuable.

Humility is a good way to help your soul flourish. Humility helps us fight against greed, braggadocio and narcissism – all of which are cancerous to Vietnamese’s values.

5. Being fluent in at least one foreign language

The world is getting flatter and flatter, and if you do not know its lingua franca, which is considered to be English, then your job opportunities are very limited.

Learning a new language is like working out. In order to be muscular, we have to work out every day. Spend at least 5 minutes to practice your English skills, turn this language into a tool helping you step up in the career ladder.

People who speak English fluently tend to be more confident. According to a survey, a person who knows how to speak English earn 30 per cent more than those with the same job but do not speak English.

6. Daily reading

Vietnamese people read approximately one book a year, stated Mr. Hoang Le, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Publishers Association. Vietnamese people spend only VNĐ 40,000 (US$ 1.76) on books every year, meanwhile an average Chinese person spends VNĐ 200,000 (US$8.80) and people from developed countries spend around VNĐ 4 million (US$176).

Reading is a way for us to gain knowledge, learn skills and experience things for free. Reading could also provide us with a deeper understanding of our jobs, life, better thinking habits and therefore helps us grow. As a result, we are more equipped and become confident when holding conversations, have better control over the way we behave and improve our conflict solving skills.

7. Keeping promises

Young people have to get rid of the bad habit of being late. Try to arrive at least 15 minutes in advance for every kind of meeting.

Once you promise someone something, make sure to do your best to keep your word. I promised to help a Vietnamese French man recruit his team and sort out the red tape and bureaucracy during his first time coming to Vietnam to do business. I tried my hardest to assist him and expected nothing in return. Later on, thanks to him, I met a lot of now very big clients of mine.

So bear in mind the word “trust” and do not let anyone down once they have put their trust in you.

Why did I start my own company?

Thinking of starting a company? Need an extra push? These reasons are a reminder why we got in the startup game in the beginning

Star Wars FINAL

One point that makes us humans is curiosity. We want to know more and more about the lives of our friends and about their job.

That is why people always ask me the question, “Why did you start your own business?”.

There are so many reasons why one person starts a business. So many, in fact that think it’s useful share my own reasons as well.

To enjoy freedom

It was such a beautiful feeling when I realised the benefits of working for myself and enjoying the freedom I gain from designing my own prosperity. I have total power to choose  when I will work, with whom I will work and what I should focus on.

There is no more inappropriate orders from superiors who lack tact when delivering an order.

To have a story to tell

I really love this reason.

Whenever I meet people, and tell them I run my own business, they always want to know more about what what I do. They ask how I do it and how it’s going.

I am proud to tell them my own story’s chapters as I am the one who determines how the journey will end. (When working for a corporation, the feeling of working for others makes us spout only facts — making for a less exciting story.

With the right attitude, networking can be enriching. 

Life of an entrepreneur is full of exciting moments — and I especially enjoy the networking part.

We love to meet each other, share stories, and learn from each other’s experiences. The number of people I have met over the past two years working in the startup community increases significantly as many founders need others to lean on, to survive, and to talk about the challenges known only to them.

Lessons from others are never useless if you listen and learn from them carefully thanks during a networking event.

Obtain new skills

Do be successful, I must self-learn an enormous amount of new skills.

From sales, digital marketing to accounting…. I get motivated to learn everything I can reach. It is essential to boosting sales of my product, running the team, maintaining service and balancing myself personally.

Everyday to me is filled with new opportunities to challenge myself, be creative and learn something new.

The great thing about owning a small business is I rarely experience the same day twice. Work for a corporation is not conducive to this kind of learning, in which procedure is quite clear and workload is assigned according to the job.

Why was I was forced to learn new skills? Without them, I would not survive.  But, the positive side-effect is these skills will be invaluable assets for me throughout life.

Create jobs

There is nothing that can describe how happy I am knowing I am creating jobs for others and responsible for their success.

My ideas — used to be considered stupid — are now providing the youth with opportunities to earn a living and fulfill their own dreams.

Get Things Done – Faster. 

Most large companies are too big and bulky to be proactive. Employees have to wait the approval from many levels of management and can often make a small problem messy.

I would rather solve the problem myself and be held responsible for the consequences.

And last but not least, one of the biggest differences in owning your own company as opposed to working for someone else is the sense of pride you establish in building something of your own.

I truly feel this sense of satisfaction when I see my business running well.

Keep an eye out for the Vietnam startup ecosystem and its potential for growth

Vietnamese attitudes towards technology and its potential are very positive

Expansion beyond big cities

Vietnam has been the fastest-growing middle class in Southeast Asia in recent years. However, the development is noticeable: the number of startups has increased — four times from 400 in 2012 to 1,800 in 2015, and nearly 3,000 in 2017. And it is also expanding geographically, with new provincial pockets of affluence beyond the important and traditional centers of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi Capital.

One bright example apart from Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi is Danang where there have been many startups and events in 2017. DNES is an Danang – based incubator that helps startups from the early to growth stage and has accelerated over 30 founders in 4 batches since 2016.

On June 2017, the Law on Technology Transfer was revised to promote technological advances and the commercialization of technologies such as AI, IoT, Edtech, O2O, E-commerce, FinTech, and AgriTech.

On March 6th, 2018, a VIP luncheon meeting themed Blockchain & E-Governance: A Gathering at Intersection of Investment, Innovation and Policy was held by the co-operation between Infinity Blockchain Labs and Vietnam Blockchain Club, aiming to provide an open discussion about blockchain among top educators, entrepreneurs and investors.

Mr. Dung Ta VIET (Tạ Việt Dũng), Chief of the State Agency of Technology Innovation, gave a short opening remark on the main theme of the event — Blockchain & E-Governance. He stated that for the past few years, the Vietnamese Government has been strongly supportive of the adoption and application of new technologies in the manufacturing industry as well as other socio-economic fields. Specifically, this could be proven by the fact that the Vietnamese Government has been preparing a legal framework. Moreover, on July 1, 2018, the revised Law on Technology Transfer comes into effect, and this will create easier access to new foreign technology for Vietnamese corporations, because there will be greater assistance from the government in importing these technologies including blockchain. The method used to approach blockchain technology varies from one nation to another and among different fields.

Global Attention

Moreover, Vietnamese startups have many big opportunities to meet with global partners from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, US, Israel, Finland, Singapore and other countries to exchange knowledge on AI, IoT, Edtech, O2O, E-commerce, FinTech, and AgriTech. These are all areas of considerable opportunities for many industries.

Shinhan Bank Vietnam (Shinhan Bank) — one of the leading banks of South Korea, has officially taken over the retail banking segment of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group in Vietnam (ANZ Vietnam) to expand its payment services by utilising ANZ’s resources. Moreover, we also invested in Fintech application, Shinhan Future’s lab Vietnam to accelerate the startup in Vietnam and Korean.

Start Up Campus in Pangyo Techno Valley, Korea held the Asia Startup Network, a conference that provides a platform for connecting startup accelerators, startups, venture capitals, and young entrepreneurs to present and further discuss their findings on the startup ecosystems in Asia.

In its inaugural year 2017, the conference focused on sharing trends and successful cases in Korea, China, Malaysia, India, Singapore, Philippines, and Vietnam. They were planning to hold conference annually to build the Asia international network and synergies together. I was honored to be there and tie the partnership to set up Asia Startup Network.

The Israel Embassy is actively partnering with many partners to bring Vietnamese startups to Israel to learn and grow as well as enabling Israeli startups to connect with and explore Vietnam market.

Lead the Change is a competition for young startup entrepreneurs from 18 to 25 to have a chance to challenge their ideas, learn skills, find right partner and get funded initiated by UEH Connected community.

Highlights of 2017

  • Many startup funds are established such as ESP Capital, Innovatube, VIISA and 500 Startups Vietnam.
  • SpeedUP 2017 is the fund which founded by Ho Chi Minh City Department of Science and Technology has 11.75 billion VND (520,525 USD) invested in 14 startups in Vietnam at a minimum of 350 million VND (15,505 USD) to a maximum of 1,282 billion VND (56,792 USD).
  • Tiki was founded in 2010 received 54.5 million USD (series C) from China’s JD.com and Korea’s STIC Investment.
  • The SEA Group (formerly Garena) from Singapore paid 64 million USD to acquire 82% Foody’s stakes.
  • Vntrip, a Vietnamese online travel agency has raised 10 million USD (Series B) from Hendale Capital.
  • KyberNetwork was co-founded by a Vietnamese and launched its ICO on September, 2017 taking in 200,000 Ethereum, which was valued nearly 56 million USD at that time.
  • The launch of reality television show named Shark Tank Vietnam

Why do we need to pay attention to Vietnam market?

Vietnam has 96 million people, 67% of which are Internet users, 57% are active social media users and 73% are individual mobile phone users. The annual growth rate in Vietnam is breathtaking –the percentage of Internet users increases by 28% (or 14 million people) and 20% for active social users, according to a Kepios report. This indicates great opportunities for new product ranges focusing on this consumer segment.

The success of innovations, unfortunately, depends on the go-to market stage rather than the product itself. It is also important to pay attention to the longer-term consumer needs, and catering to these needs will present economic, social and cultural opportunities and challenges for Vietnam notably not only in basic commodities or real estate but also in healthcare, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and financial services.

Moreover, Vietnamese attitudes towards technology is very positive and with great potential, 61% of Vietnamese people believe that new technologies offer more opportunities than risks and 63% prefer to complete task digitally whenever possible.

I was invited to be the speaker and judge at APEC SME O2O 2018 in Brunei and nominated one Vietnam startup tictag — One-tap-for-all NFC ecosystem to go with me to compete with 14 other startups in the APEC region. Finally, the Vietnamese startup went on to win the competition. Even more interestingly, one of my mentees edu2review.com in Vietnam received funding from an investor called Nest Tech from Singapore. This is also amazing and proved that Vietnam market is extremely potential and worth keeping an eye on.

Network building is one of the most important skills in today’s business environment

We are heading into “the Era of Connection”, “the Era 4.0”. If you want to become fully integrated into the global community, you should not take your network building skills slightly, as it is one of the top 5 most important skills in the future, according to “The Future of Jobs” report conducted by World Economic Forum in 2017.

The art of building strong relationships and how to expand your social circles have always been of concern to many of those in UEH Connected community (which has approximately 6,000 members from various backgrounds with different nationalities).

Coming from a poor countryside with low social status, no identity, no business relationship and not being able to study abroad nor at an international university, I have been fortunate to meet, to connect and work with numerous leaders and business people from all over the world. Moreover, I am trusted by foreign business communities in Vietnam such as the French, the American and the Australian.

Partners from Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and the Philippines usually get in touch with me when they want to participate in trade promotion programs or need an insight consultancy when they wish to expand their business in Vietnam via private channels.

There were many times I received questions, texts and emails asking me how I built my own network. To be honest, my secret is very simple – I have built it with my sincerity.

This is my very first sharing with our community about the topic “How to Build Your Network”, on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of YSEALI – Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, at which I am taking part in as a former member.

What is network?

These days, a majority of young people think of it as a list of Facebook friend list with many popular names in it, and they pride themselves on having lots of name cards that were taken from social and networking events.

For me, a network means that I have a person who:

  • Is ready to be there for me with just one call away.
  • Always have faith in me, even though the outside world has it back turn to me.
  • Think of me when they have any chance to.
  • And most importantly, think of me when they are at a dead-end in their own lives.

Put it simply, “building a network” is turning a complete stranger into an acquaintance, then a friend, then a close friend and we trust, think of each other when we feel like sharing ideas.

How to build your network when you are still an anonymous?

Many people only care about the relationships they have in the outside world, while forget about their family having a strong bond with other family members should be claimed as their top priority. If you cannot even get close with your family, how could you create a strong network with the strangers out there?

Back to the main question, nothing can be successful without well preparation.

When sending a friend request on a social networking site, do you explain why you want to connect with that person?

Before attending a social event, do you look up to the people you want to get in touch with?

Before approaching a person, have you got any idea about who they are, what they like, what interests them, how about their profession and the field they specialize in?

Anyone of us wants to be cared about, to be remembered, and in order to be treated so, we should treat others like that first.

But in random cases, is there any formula that helps us to connect with others more easily?

Most expect to learn some tricks (or you can call them “tips”) to impress people in the under 30 seconds at the first meeting, or how to get to know many people in one occasion, or how to start an intriguing conversation with a stranger.

However, bear in mind that these tips may provide you with some unexpected side effects, making you appear boring to people. But why is that?

Everyone has their own unique personality, their own interests, and therefore if you approach all of them in the same way, you are creating a dead-end to yourself.

Your sincerity, combined with careful-preparation, good observation, sophistication and ingenuity in communication make a recipe for success in connecting with people.

How do you develop your network?

There are 5 key words you need to keep in mind:

1. Conversation

There is no relationship that can grow strong without conversations. These come as simply as a “how was your day?” phone call, hand-written cards on special occasions, or even the emails/texts you send one another telling about things in your lives.

2. Asking each other

Being human, we have the tendency to be listened and to be respected. If you want someone to like you, you should first respect them and be willing to listen to their ideas.

3. Support / help

Before “take”, learn how to “give”. Showing up and providing help at the right time mean so much more than thousands of words of cliché promises. Just enough attention and just enough subtleness make up the ingredients for this recipe.

I have a friend, who started his career as an employee at a quite well-known company. Back then, he saw that his boss was almost always late for work, yet would always leave early for home – which was strange and unusual compared to his calm and professional working manner. A while later, my friend figured out that the boss had two little kids and it was his job to take them to school every day. Being a kind person who adores kids, my friend offered to help his boss, taking over the duty. After 5 or 6 times turning down the offer, the boss finally accepted it.

As for my friend, he did great as a baby-sitter and was never late for work, despite having to wake up an hour earlier and traveling a few extra kilometers every morning. However, thanks to doing that, he got closer to his boss, and therefore learn more from him, such as how to organize his life better. Moreover, the boss sometimes gave my friend books about how to improve his professional skills.

After a few months, his company carried out a big project. Having considered carefully, the boss decided to let my friend take the lead in the project. Although my friend’s ability might not be as good as other colleagues’, he earned himself a big plus in terms of observation skills, problem solving skills, and his ability to work with people.

As you can see, if you build your network with sincerity, you will always get back what you deserve – love and trust from people around you.

4. Create value

Why do you want to connect with someone? Because of benefits! Whether it is tangible or not, it is certain that once a relationship is formed, it is because the parties involved see their benefits in it. Identifying your and other people’s value help you understand who should stay inside your “network circle”, and do not forget to added create value to your relationships.

After 75 years of research and four continuous generations of scientists, those at Harvard University have finally found out the most important thing that brings about happiness in one’s life.

“It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters,” said Robert Waldinger, an American psychiatrist and a Professor at Harvard Medical School.

5. Keep promises

Keeping promises is an important factor in building your own personal brand. Keeping promises helps creating trust – the thing that people in the modern society usually lack of, and might hesitate to give one another for the fear that people will betray them. In some worse cases, people take promises with their family members lightly, thinking that “they will understand”.

Five years ago, when my network was yet to be strong, I did not have as many global relationships as well as trade promotion projects as I do today. But thanks to keeping one promise, my career path has changed completely.

There was a Vietnamese French coming back to Vietnam with the hope to help build bridges and schools in the poor countryside of Southwest of Vietnam. The man wanted to find someone who could assist him in sorting out the paper work in order to establish a non-profit organization in Vietnam. At that time, I was studying law, and was confident with my ability to get the work done easily and therefore I made a promise to help him. I was happy that I was doing something helpful for villagers in the region as well. Nonetheless, things did not go as I expected, as it turned out it would take me approximately tenfold the amount of money I had anticipated, and almost a year to get all of the necessary paper work done.

I had to face two hard choices: (1) Keeping my word, using my own money to get things done or (2) Breaking my promise.

I went with the former. I stayed at the Department of Planning and Investment for around a week, asking from one to another for a less costly way. And it worked. I did find out a way that was much cheaper and faster to get all the work done.

After 6 months, I eventually finished my task, and it was also the time when the name “Cong-Thang HUYNH” became valued in the French community. 8 out of every 10 French people coming to Vietnam get in touch and agree to do business with me.

After a long time, I have gained myself a lesson “Planting too many seeds yet spending no time on taking good care of them is like ending their lives”

My article on e27 tech magazine: https://goo.gl/5UM5aL