Archive for March 2012
Yesterday around 12:15am I was walking home feeling a bit tired. At the intersection of Ton That Tung and Bui Thi Xuan, I saw a young man on an electric bike and asked if he could give me a lift. After a brief moment of hesitation he said yes (understandably so as Saigon by night is filled w/ unscrupulous characters, a subject for another post). I hopped on and he rode me to Bui Thi Xuan and Cong Quynh, where he had to turn left and I right. I hopped off and thanked him as he disappeared into the night.
In Vietnam, cars and trucks are pretty reckless. They don’t slow down or yield to bikers or pedestrians. Here is what you do:
1. You walk along the street or hem (alleyway) and see a taxi approaching
2. He doesn’t yield
3. You don’t want to yield but you don’t want to get hurt
4. You maintain your speed. When you are next to him, turn slightly and brush your shoulder against his side mirror, closing it up
5. Keep walking.
There is a man in front of my house selling coconut juice. His name is Anh 7.
1. gets discounted lunch from the restaurant across the street (20K vs 25K)
2. uses the neighbor’s house to store his stuff at night
3. uses the public restroom for free (or in exchange of coconuts)
4. receives calls for free with the security guard’s phone next door
5. pays no rent or tax
6. spends no money on marketing (There is no need when Saigon heat is nearly 40°C and the streets are teeming w/ scooters)
Vietnamese are entrepreneurial by nature. It is no surprise there are lots of tech startups. Most of whom cater towards the local market and do the following:
1. sell ads via news sites (kenh14.vn)
2. sell goods via e commerce sites (nhommua.com)
3. sell games (vng)
A few cater towards international market. However they tend to focus on:
2. software outsourcing (primarily php, ruby on rails and iphone apps)
The exception is alley labs. They are based in hanoi and have produced a couple of high quality mobile games. The founder however is an MIT graduate who decided to stick around after having such a good time wandering around the northern mountains of Vietnam.
Yesterday I googled ycombinator in Vietnam/Vietnamese and received 0 results. I googled paul graham and the result was also nil. There is no incubator in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh (except for vcombinator and 5desire but they are very new and have no proven track record). There is no coworking space in the whole of Vietnam. Nobody here has heard of Eric Ries or know what lean startup means. That is abysmal compared to neighboring countries such as Singapore, China or Taiwan where startup culture is thriving. I dont think the government will do much. A few individuals started action.vn ( a news site on tech entrepreneurship), vye (tech event organization) but they lack startup experience. My best hope is for someone who is a male Caucasian or Vietkieu (overseas Vietnamese. One classic example is Trung Dung, the CEO and founder of mobivi), has done startup in Silicon Valley, exited with tons of money and decided to move back to Vietnam to get a girlfriend or wife. Someone like Eduado Saverin Are you that someone?
Me: Why was yesterday’s price 10K per kilo but today’s 8K?
Mango guy: Mango was cheaper this morning at the wholesale market
Me: There are over 20 mango carts here on the street. Surely you all don’t go to the same market.
Him: No we don’t
Me: How do you make sure the guy up the street isn’t selling the mangos cheaper?
Him: We call each other
Him (smiling gleefully and poking me in the stomach): Yup. We have each other’s number and we change the price in sync!