Vietnam’s startup potential lures international students, overseas Vietnamese

By Thanh Thu   January 22, 2019 | 11:37 pm PT
Vietnam’s startup potential lures international students, overseas Vietnamese
Vietnam’s startup potential lures international students. Photo by VnExpress
Founders of Wisepass, and WeFit are educated overseas, drawn back to Vietnam by its startup potential.

Lam Tran, 34, is a French overseas Vietnamese with over 10 years’ experience in marketing at Google Europe. 

He returned to Vietnam and founded Wisepass, a lifestyle app that connects users to a wide range of dining, leisure and entertainment services through paid membership packages.

In 2018, Lam made WisePass available in Thailand and the Phillipines. "I believe to succeed businesses must lead their home market first, before thinking of expanding overseas," said Lam.

Having set up the business in HCMC and then expanded to Hanoi, Lam regularly flew to the capital city to attend events and promote his products. After selling 10 memberships in a day, Lam was able to show employees the direction and potential of WisePass.

"Global expansion may sound intimidating, but after all, founders must start from the smallest things: talk to customers, selling products," Lam said. There is no need to wait for big events, he added, "all you need to do is show up and market your product at appropriate places."

WisePass currently operates in three countries, with 300 partners and over 1,000 monthly active users.

The founder of, Pham Kim Hung, is well-known  in Vietnamese math circles. He won Gold and Silver medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad and is the author of a math textbook published in four languages. Graduating in computer science from Stanford University, Hung did not stay on to work in Silicon Valley but decided to return to Vietnam.

In 2016, he launched, a business management software under the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, where software is leased under a subscription instead of installed. The app is built to unify corporate governance processes, from administration to human resources, task management, financial management to sales marketing. currently serves over 500 enterprises, including many large organisations like VIB, VPBank, ACB, The Coffee House, McDonald’s and VinCommerce. currently has the highest investment in all business-to-business startups in Vietnam.

"After Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, we believe that Vietnam can become the next major technology powerhouse in the region," Chandra Tjan, co-founder and partner of Indonesian fund Alpha JWC Venture said.

In addition to and WisePass, in the past few years, the Vietnamese startup community has received many other innovations: WeFit (fitness), Elsa (language learning), Logivan (van hiring), GotIt (gift delivery), and Uiza (video streaming). Most of these entrepreneurial efforts have been successful at carving their own niche in the Vietnamese startup ecosystem.

Experts have said that with over 100 million people, Vietnam has great potential for socio-economic development, and with a rapidly growing middle class combined with quick adaption of digital developments, the ground is fertile for new ventures, especially startups.

Apart from the economic potential, young people returning to Vietnam also have a sense of duty and obligation to their homeland, as also a realization that their efforts here can have greater positive impact on society as a whole, according to experts.

Investment in Vietnamese startups rose to $889 million in 2018, three times that of 2017, according to a report recently released by Topica Founder Institute (TFI), a startup accelerator program in Vietnam and Thailand run by Hanoi-headquartered multinational educational technology company Topica.

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