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These Vietnamese entrepreneurs are leaving foreign careers behind to invest back home

Thursday, February 11, 2021, 14:25 GMT+7
These Vietnamese entrepreneurs are leaving foreign careers behind to invest back home
Le Trung Hieu sets up the Ewater filtration system with his associates at a factory in Vietnam. Photo: T.H. / Tuoi Tre

Hoping to transform Vietnam’s tech sector into a global leader in industry and trade, three successful Vietnamese engineers have returned home from lucrative jobs abroad to invest in the motherland. 

Their projects are just three out of dozens of innovations being developed at the high-tech business incubator of the Saigon Hi-Tech Park in Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City.

AI-powered toy: New friend for Vietnamese children

Tong Vu Than Dan’s AI children’s toy may look like an ordinary wooden playset at first glance, but the hi-tech car set actually provides the opportunity for kids to conquer various transportation scenarios using an AI-powered car.

Dan, 38, had been a mechanical engineer for several American companies, as well as a professional in Japan’s semiconductor industry, before returning to Vietnam to take up a position at Intel Products Vietnam. 

Despite his success at the international level, Dan felt he needed to give back to his home country. He left his secure corporate job behind and embarked on a mission to elevate Vietnam’s AI industry.

According to Dan, the idea to create an AI-powered toy was inspired by his child’s addition to smartphones. Dan felt that creating an intersection between toys and technology was an opportunity to engage children without the need for a screen. 

His invention, named Kodimo, is the result of that inspiration – a highly educational, modern update to typical wooden blocks that children can use to create roadways and other infrastructure designs.

After investing three years and billions of dong (VND1 billion = US$43,000) into Kodimo, Dan is finally beginning to see success, with two versions of the AI toy currently being trialed in the South Korean market. Each toy costs about VND5 million ($217) and can currently be found on various e-commerce sites. 

Instructions and language programming for the toy are in English. 

“The great thing about this toy is that it uses technology to promote imagination and creativity in a way that is very familiar to children. That is why I believe this project will be successful,” Dan explained.

Vietnamese product for Vietnamese market

Luong Vu Dang Quang presents laser devices to Nguyen Van Nen, secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee, at a startup product launching event in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: T. Trung / Tuoi Tre

Luong Vu Dang Quang (R) presents laser devices to Nguyen Van Nen (C), secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee, at a startup product launch event in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: T. Trung / Tuoi Tre

Luong Vu Dang Quang worked for a U.S. electronics company in Vietnam before serving as the head of R&D at a tech company in South Korea. 

But even with his success, the 41-year-old felt the need to use his talent in order to bring Vietnamese-made products to the Vietnamese market.

Since leaving South Korea, Quang has founded Amed, a startup focused on optics and laser technologies for medical equipment.

After seven years of producing laser equipment for medical and beauty applications meant for other countries, Quang figured he had the skills to start his own company in the field in order to reduce his country’s reliance on expensive, foreign-made products.

“I can absolutely make the same products here in Vietnam at a much cheaper price,” Quang explained.

Despite his experience in the sphere, Quang faced many risks by choosing to launch his company in Vietnam. In South Korea, unlike in Vietnam, materials like circuits and screws are quality-ensured.

It took nearly all of his savings, but Quang is currently earning revenues with the sale of his first product – a 'fractional carbon dioxide laser resurfacing device' currently in use at 108 Military Central Hospital in Hanoi. He also exports other devices to the U.S. and South Korea. 

Quang and his associates are currently conducting research on skin pigmentation treatment devices, hoping to create such products in Vietnam in order to reduce costs for customers in the country and other Southeast Asian markets.

An engineer on a mission

Le Trung Hieu sets up the Ewater filtration system with his associates at a factory in Vietnam. Photo: T.H.

Le Trung Hieu sets up the Ewater filtration system with his associates at a factory in Vietnam. Photo: T.H. / Tuoi Tre

Ahead of the North Korea–United States Hanoi Summit in 2019, engineer Le Trung Hieu was sent to Hanoi to carry out a special mission: installing a water filtration system he designed into Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel – the site of the historic meeting between the leaders of the two countries.

Ewater – Hieu’s device – was invented in 2016 as a means of treating water electromagnetic technology instead of chemicals. 

Hieu has since applied technology to several areas, including steam boiler treatment, industrial water treatment, and agricultural water treatment.

He has so far installed more than 3,000 products in Vietnam and around the world, including at the Da Nang City Hall and Landmark 81 skyscraper in Ho Chi Minh City.

“A lot of people call me crazy when I gave up my high-paying job to launch my startup, but luckily my products were beloved by the community," Hieu said.

"I’m really motivated to keep researching more porducts.”

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