As Vietcetera turned five, some of the original founding members got together to chat with the company’s first employees, investors and early backers who sensed that the startup was going places even in those early days when it was a scrappy English-only blog.
Among the guests were Tom “Boomerang” Le who keeps leaving and coming back; Minh Nguyen who went from intern to department head in under two years; Hillary Vu — an animator who was instrumental in setting up the video production team; The Lab’s Tuan Le who gave Vietcetera the gift of a name and a visual identity; and Shark Tank Vietnam’s Linh Thai, an early investor in Vietcetera.
Vietcetera’s founder and president Guy Truong kicked off the conversation by explaining how five years ago the digital publications that existed targeted either the expatriates or the locals, with nothing in between. Vietcetera was created to bridge the gap and to give Overseas Vietnamese as well as foreign investors a window into what’s happening in Vietnam. That mission never changed but was expanded to include Vietnamese language content.
The Airbnb way
Vietcetera is a classic coffee shop startup — Vietnam’s answer to America’s garage startups. From hot-desking at cafes to moving the 70-plus team to Centec Tower, there been many stops along the way, including the Big Break, the first (almost) paying client and inevitable setbacks.
Linh Thai, an angel investor and one Vietcetera’s first backers, compared Vietcetera to Airbnb in the early days — a hard to scale model paired with a DIY approach where the founders are also content creators. “Eventually you prove the model, get investment and scale from there and you build a thriving business.” For Linh Thai, the decision to invest came easy: she was attracted to the founders’ confidence in their ability to tell the stories of modern Vietnam from a new angle.
Closing the session was The Lab’s Tuan Le who finally answered the burning question on everybody’s mind — that of Vietcetera’s name. A fruitful relationship that started five years ago when Tuan helped design the logo is still going strong, as evidenced by the launch of Tuan’s M.A.D. Podcast series in collaboration with Vietcetera.