We meet with David Gomez Canon, a Colombian expat who arrived in Saigon two years ago. Since then, he’s launched his business and he’s now training for the upcoming IronMan. We sit down with him to learn about his daily routine and how he’s managed to kickstart his business in Vietnam.
When and why did you decide to live in Vietnam?
I arrived almost two years ago now. I was looking for a place where I can start something on my own. I was then thinking about Taiwan, Singapore, and Vietnam. I settled on Ho Chi Minh City, it’s affordable and growing. I believed it was the best place start a business. And as a business can take time to break even, you need to be able to ‘survive’ during this period. So Vietnam seemed to be the right place to be.
What have you done since?
First I worked for a worldwide organization called CISV from Vietnam. I was working within an international team, with members from Australia, England, Israel, Brazil. A rewarding experience, though also complicated. Most of my meetings were at 3am. So after a while I just decided to drop it and move onto something else.
After that I started an art studio. I rented a spot in District 3 and designed the place by myself, curated for artists. It worked pretty well. We had creatives coming full-time and others who came from time to time.
Why did you start to launch your own company?
After more than a year in Vietnam, I felt ready to launch my own business and start working for myself. I started Passport Saigon with a friend. The idea was to create “something for people to discover Ho Chi Minh City”. From this basic idea we brainstormed in order to find our product market fit.
So we came up with the idea of having a ‘passport’ where you can get free drinks in different bars. More than drinks, this is an opportunity to get around and discover Saigon.
We negotiated with different bars and many were open-minded and enthusiastic about the idea. So, we launched this passport-like book which mainly targets expats and Vietnamese who speak English, for the moment.
How is the business going? Where can we find Passport Saigon?
You can use the passport in more than 20 bars. We’ll soon introduce an online version too. One of the main reasons to go online is that bar turnover is huge. Since we printed our first edition of Passport Saigon, seven bars have closed. This is also a way to make the concept more interactive. We try to work in collaboration with local breweries, which helped us strike a deal with Te Te Beer. Thanks to these partnerships, people can discover new places and new brews.
Can you tell us how you balance your work with Passport Saigon and your IronMan training?
I’ve always been into sport. My main sport is climbing. I almost come every day at Vertical Academy to get my climbing fix. More than the sport I love the community behind it. No matter which country you are, climbers will always be great people and you’ll easily make good friends.
I also swim everyday and go cycling at least four times a week. For both, I keep a program to improve myself. I recently decided to participate in the IronMan 70.3 Vietnam which will take place in Danang. When I first discovered this competition years ago, I initially thought: ‘those guys are not human, that’s just too much’. Later, I told myself that I’d do it by the time I hit 30. That was my goal. I set a routine in order to train properly.
Is IronMan popular in Vietnam?
Yes! I met many people training for IronMan.
How much do you train? Do you follow any strict diet?
I swim one hour every day and cycle two hours. I climb for at least one hour too. Concerning food, I don’t follow any strict diet. I try to eat normally and avoid eating too many high-fat foods. I also don’t eat beef. Eating beef exposes you to more lactic acid, meaning that your muscles will take more time to recover. I don’t smoke and drink much alcohol, just one or two beers with friends from time to time.
How do you balance your entrepreneurial and sporting interests?
I start my day early. From 5am to 8am, I exercise (two hours cycling and one hour swimming). Then I start my working day from 8am to 6pm. One of the great things about doing sport in the morning is that after your session, you’re awake and ready to work. You don’t feel lazy at all. And after work, I go for climbing before heading back home. Working out is a great way to open my mind and inspire creativity. I get most of my ideas when I do sport.
Any advice for someone who would like to manage their week between sport and work?
You need to start early. Especially because of the heat and traffic in Saigon. I also like using apps to manage my training. It’s fun seeing how you rank compared to others. Most of all, these apps can help you meet people also interested in sport.