Vietnamese note-taking app developer wins Apple's praise

By Khuong Nha   February 13, 2024 | 12:14 am PT
Vietnamese note-taking app developer wins Apple's praise
Nguyen Quoc Huy and his app CollaNote is featured on a note on the App Store. Photo by VnExpress/Khuong Nha
Vietnamese app developer Nguyen Quoc Huy has recently been featured on the App Store for creating a note-taking app that is attracting millions of users.

"With millions of users across the globe, Nguyen Quoc Huy’s note-taking app CollaNote has been a hit beyond expectations," Apple said in a note on Feb. 2.

Amid hundreds of note-taking app that are available out there, CollaNote has captured users’ attention with special offerings such as language learning using translations, audio recording synchronized with handwritten words, and enhanced writing features.

Huy, born in central Vietnam, became interested in gaming and coding since he was a young boy. "I started writing simple code in eighth grade to control my game characters."

As a teenager, Huy failed a university entrance exam and decided to apply for a scholarship in Germany.

Looking at other students’ programming works in Germany, he thought it would be "cool" to develop his own app on the smartphone and started learning Swift programming language to develop Apple apps.

When Covid-19 spread to Germany, most students had to take online classes while collaborating on projects. He then had the idea to develop an app on which everyone in a group could take notes and work together. "For two years, I only barely passed my classes because I spent the majority of my time on CollaNote."

The first version of CollaNote was completed within six months. Huy sent it to many of his friends and uploaded it online for feedback. "Many people said thanks and suggested more features. That gave me a lot of motivation and that is why I have never given up on CollaNote."

In January 2021, Huy managed to get his app on the Apple Store. "I skipped classes that day and stayed at home to see how many people were interested. I got 700 downloads in one hour."

After two weeks, the figure surged to 10,000 and became one of the most downloaded apps in Europe. It is now rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on the App Store. "Even now I still cannot understand why it was a huge success. Maybe because I spent time listening to users."

Nguyen Quoc Huy (R) speaks to his staff at the office of CollaNote in Da Nang City. Photo courtesy of CollaNote

Nguyen Quoc Huy (R) speaks to his staff at the office of CollaNote in Da Nang City. Photo courtesy of CollaNote

The later years of university were most challenging to Huy as he had to work on the app while finishing his curriculum at the same time. "When the project was big enough and started to record revenue, I thought about forming a team to achieve bigger goals."

He decided to selling subscriptions with advanced features such as sticker notes and pen styles. "I was unable to sleep when the first revenues started coming in. Within a day, I recorded $30,000 from subscriptions."

Huy’s company now has 10 employees, all Vietnamese, and the figure is set to double this year. CollaNote now has millions of users, with the biggest markets in terms of revenues being the U.S., China, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and South Korea.

Huy has set up an office in Da Nang City where he plans to continue expanding the company.

"The large number of foreign users shows that it is not difficult to reach global users from Vietnam," he said. "My employees are all talented people with good language skills and can integrate well globally."

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