Day 5: Brands and Startups


Today was fascinating! We heard from  incredibly smart people; dividing the day into establishing and established brands, and then startups and new businesses later on.

In the morning we learned about energy in Vietnam. It is a priority for Vietnam like it isn’t in Cambodia, but at the moment the infrastructure is very similar. Our speaker discussed the market for back-up generators and the cost of energy here. I’m a little disappointed that coal and the technology from China is where the future of energy in Vietnam is going. There is hydropower, but very little solar or wind, and almost no investment in it. The speak sold Kohler diesel generators, and we also talked about who would buy the brand name versus the smaller competitors.

Then we heard from PNJ jewelry, and learned about their efforts at creating branded lines. It was so interesting to hear what worked, and what didn’t, and what the local sales and export market operate like.

Our final meeting of the morning was with Starbucks Vietnam, and we started with a coffee tasting! The steps are: 1 smell, 2 quick spray, where on tongue does it sit, and 3 what do you feel? Starbucks in Vietnam operates under a license, granted to a Hong Kong company, but the brand is still the same and global. We heard about the challenges and successes of operating the global brand in Vietnam.

For lunch, our Graduate Assistant and local guide, Genie, took us to get real pho. It was amazing and everything I was waiting for!

Our last meeting of the day was with Vietnamese start-up entrepreneurs. One spoke about the fintech (financial technology) space, and the other about startups around the world with the focus on Asia in general and the specifics of operating in Vietnam. The government and community support for startups and entrepreneurs in Vietnam is amazing, and there have been a number of success stories already. We’re all eagerly awaiting the first Vietnamese unicorn!